6 Steps to Successful Sprouting
Crisp, juicy, and very nutritious, sprouts should be a more frequent addition to our salads and sandwiches.
Sprouting may seem like an easy culinary venture, perhaps you've even started the process by accident, as I did. My first sprouting experience I soaked chick peas overnight, decided I didn't want to cook them after all, drained them, then forgot them on the counter. The next day little white shoots were already breaking through, looking for soil!
Sprouts at the grocery store can be quite expensive, whereas dried beans, peas and seeds are cheap, quick (it's around a three day process), and it takes a small amount of dried seeds to make a large volume of sprouts. So sprouting at home is an excellent, low effort, low cost option for adding huge nutrition to your meals!
However, it's surprisingly easy to get the process wrong and wind up with a jar of moldy, half sprouted peas. Here are the main procedures to follow to avoid such disappointment:
1) Don't start out with too much seed, you'll overcrowd the sprouts.
2) Big beans and peas should be soaked overnight first. Smaller seeds such as alfalfa can be soaked for just a few minutes before draining.
3) After soaking, rinse and drain twice a day. Make sure the water is clear when rinsed.
4) Use a breathable cheesecloth or a special cover with small holes.
5) Let the sprouts container rest at an angle, for continuous drainage.
6) Keep your seeds/beans in a dark environment, allowing some light the second day of sprouting.
1) Don't Overcrowd the Sprouts
They're so tiny I know, but they'll grow before your eyes, so it's important not to add too many seeds/beans to your jar. Overcrowded sprouts don't grow as well and are more likely to become contaminated with bacterial/fungal growth.
Here are some volume guidelines.
- 1/2 Cup Seeds: Wheat, All Beans, Rye, Oats, Rice, Sunflower, Lentil, Hulled Buckwheat, and Garbanzo Beans.
- 2 Tablespoons: Alfalfa, radish, clover, cabbage.
If they do look like they're getting overcrowded as they're growing, you can always save the situation by dividing your sprouts into two jars.
- 3 cups sprouted garbanzo beans
- 7 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup raw tahini
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- In a large food processor, combine the sprouted garbanzo beans, garlic, and salt.
- Pulse to coarsely chop the mixture.
- Add in the remaining ingredients, and process until a thick, slightly chunky paste is formed. You may adjust the consistency with more olive oil or a splash of water, if desired.
- Check seasoning and adjust, to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour, to allow the flavors to marry.
- Serve the raw hummus in a medium bowl, making a divot at the top.
- Drizzle a generous spot of olive oil into the crater, and shake a few sprinkles of cumin over the hummus.
- Serve alongside pita bread, flax crackers, sprouted grain tortillas, or vegetable crudité.
2) Soak Big Beans and Peas Overnight
If you skip this stage with the bigger seeds like chick peas or mung beans, the seed may not be soaked enough to spark the sprouting process. Instead you'll wind up with slimy, moldy beans.
Make your hummus even more nutritious by sprouting the chickpeas first. (Sprouted legumes have a higher nutritional content because the germinating process makes the plant increase its vitamin and antioxidant content.) This also allows you to skip boiling the chick peas, thus maintaing the higher nutritional content of raw food.
3) Rinse and Drain Twice a Day
If you forget to rinse, you may just delay the sprouting process. If you don't drain properly you will wind up with fungal growth on your sprouts. Make sure the water when you drain it is clear, not cloudy. Cloudy indicates that there is bad growth in there with your sprouts and you should rinse it until the water runs clear.
4) Cover container with a cheese cloth or lid with small holes
Sprouting is really all about maintaing that perfect balance of moisture. You don't want to cover the container with an impermeable lid, as it won't allow the sprouts to breathe. You can leave the jar without any sort of covering, but I've found that my sprouts dry out faster that way.
It's also extremely useful to have a proper lid, because during the draining process you want something the seeds won't stick to and get washed away. This is less of a problem for the larger beans and seeds of course.
5) Let the container rest at an angle
This is to keep the sprouts from sitting in any undrained water. Again, it's a precaution to keep the sprouts from getting moldy.
The photo above is of alfalfa sprouts. They came from the same batch, but the ones on the left I kept in the dark and the ones on the right I put in the sun for a few hours. Notice how much greener the cotyledons (leaves) are on the right. Good science experiment!
6) Keep it in a dark environment at first, allow some light later
Sprouts that come in contact with light later in the process are noticeably greener, because they have started to photosynthesize. Some people feel that this improves the taste.
Anatomy of a Sprout
What's happening exactly when you're sprouting seeds?
A seed can lie dormant in dry conditions for quite a long time (it ranges from years to centuries!). When you soak it in water, it awakens the seed, sparking a stage called "germination" when the seed starts growing into a plant. The white shoot you see is the seeds first root, called the "radicle." The two tiny leaves unfurling out the other end of the "testa" are called the "cotyledon," or "seed leaves." (In some plants called monocots, these leaves remain in the seed during germination and thus are not visible. Corn, for example, is a monocot.) These embryonic leaves will be the plants' first photosynthesizers.
When grass, bean, and vegetable seeds are sprouted, the nutritional content available for our digestion multiplies. This is because the seed is getting ready to use that nutrition itself, and is breaking complex proteins into individual amino acids, starches into simpler carbohydrates, and multiplying its vitamin and mineral content. Be sure to leave sprouts in the fridge after you feel they're done so as to preserve their high nutritional content.
Here are the nutritional perks of some common sprouts:
Clover sprouts: very high in isoflavones, which is an anti-carcinogen.
Lentil sprouts: very high in protein
Radish sprouts: these spicy tasting sprouts are high in Vitamin C (more than a pineapple), Vitamin A, and calcium.
Alfalfa sprouts: very high in antioxidants, up there with garlic, kale, brussels sprouts and spinach. The easiest thing to sprout is alfalfa. It requires little water, produces long juicy radicles and has a mild but refreshing taste. I would recommend that beginning sprout-ers start with alfalfa for a rewarding first experience.
Mung bean sprouts: often found in asian dishes, these are high in protein and Vitamin C.