I am a member of the Garden Club of America and the current Horticulture Committee chair for my local CGA club, Country Garden Club. As such, it is my job to arrange for garden related workshops for my committee, which is quite a challenge in the dead of winter in Ohio! Recently I presented the following workshop on sprouting seeds to grow on your windowsill and wanted to share it here as well.
In this post you will find some of the nutritional information I discovered, a detailed step-by-step process for growing your own sprouts and keeping them fresh, a handful of sprout recipes and tips for adding more sprouts to your diet, and a list of places to get the supplies and seeds needed to begin your own sprouting adventure! Hang in there, it is a long post, but I wanted to give you all the tips I discovered for myself so you can have a great experience with sprouting.
I did not know much at all about sprouting, so this adventure started with a lot of research and reading to find out all I could before jumping in head first. I had a vague idea that sprouts are healthy and a strong conviction that anything I grow myself must be healthier than store-bought where you cannot be certain of additives, pesticides, freshness, and so on.
I was thrilled to find out just how nutritious sprouts really are and I am pleased to report that this whole adventure has led to a daily consumption of sprouts on my part. I now always have a ripe batch in my fridge and 1-3 jars growing on my windowsill.
So let’s get right into it! Why sprout seeds and legumes? Well, the best reason is because of the nutritional benefits. One calorie of mung sprouts compared to raw beans contains 60% more protein, 4560% more vitamin K, 70% more iron, 3650% more vitamin C, 525% more riboflavin and 33% more fiber. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Folate, vitamin E, thiamin, potassium, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium, and phosphorus all show much higher levels in mung bean sprouts as compared to the same amount of calories of non-sprouted beans. Additionally, sprouting produces chlorophyll. Since sprouting produces a green leaf, you’ll get a bonus dose of the blood-cleansing nutrient chlorophyll.
On top of that, sprouted legumes are much more easily digested than cooked ones. In a nutshell, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid found in the bean that binds to vital minerals like magnesium and iron. Neutralizing the phytic acid makes the minerals available to the body to absorb. Sprouting beans also breaks down the complex sugars that make you experience intestinal gas. So even if you cannot enjoy unsprouted legumes, you may find that you can really begin to enjoy them sprouted instead.
Additional benefits of sprouting seeds for food is the cost: Dr. Greger, from NutritionFacts.org, states that broccoli sprouts have the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. For about 25 cents, you can have a cup of nutritious, freshly grown broccoli sprouts. Only one tablespoon of seeds yields two cups of broccoli sprouts which is nutritionally equivalent to 50 cups of broccoli!
Bean Sprouting Tips:
I keep sprouted, then steam-cooked beans laying flat in freezer bags on a shelf in the deep freezer. They make very simple add-ins to a stir fry or soup, or with just a quick pulse in the blender, make for a great for bean dip anytime. My favorites are navy beans, pintos and black beans for this type of preparation. I steam them in my rice cooker, but if you do not have one of those, you can also place a vegetable steaming basket in the bottom of a regular pot and achieve the same results. Steam until the sprouted beans are fork tender. Cool completely and then bag and freeze.
- My goal when sprouting beans for freezing is to do large quantities at the same time so I don’t have to do it very often.
- 1 ½ cups of cooked, sprouted beans equals 1 can of beans, so I bag them in this quantity in a quart size freezer bag. Substitute them for canned beans in any recipe you have!
- Opt for organic bean seeds when possible. Your local health food store likely carries bulk beans in just about every variety.
Following is a list of the nutritional benefits, and some suggested uses, of various types of sprouts:
Alfalfa, one of the most popular sprouts, is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K and is rich in many minerals, as well as many enzymes needed for digestion. They contain significant dietary sources of phytoestrogens—known to have a preventive effect on cancer, heart diseases, menopausal symptoms, and osteoporosis. There are some sources however that caution against over consumption of alfalfa sprouts because they contain canavanine which is an amino acid that can suppress proper immune functions and cause inflammation. In Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon mentions this point and it may be an important consideration. I only sprout alfalfa when it is contained in a sprouting seed blend, thereby reducing the amount of this type of seed I ingest, as a precautionary measure. There are so many other interesting, nutritious and tasty seeds to try that this is not a problem for me.
Brassica sprouts: Cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnip, and mustard are all brassicas. There is considerable interest in the use of broccoli and other brassica sprouts for health benefits. They contain sulforaphane, and this compound acts as an anti-cancer agent by encouraging the body to attack dangerous chemicals that can cause malignancy. Although this substance had been identified in brassica vegetables themselves, it has now been shown to be 50% more concentrated in the sprouts. Why are broccoli sprouts so good for you? Well, they contain high levels of glucorahanin. After we eat these sprouts the glucorahanin goes through a series of chemical transformations inside our bodies where it eventually becomes sulforaphane. This substance has been shown to have antimicrobial and anticancer properties in many studies. What do broccoli sprouts taste like? Quite a lot like raw broccoli, with a little spicy radish kick.
Buckwheat sprouts are high in vitamins A, B, C and D.
Chia seed sprouts are a great way to incorporate this superfood into your diet. Sprouting chia seeds reduces their phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient that binds to the minerals in chia seeds, reducing their absorption. Sprouting also increases the availability of the huge array of nutrients nutrients found in chia seeds, including good fats, antioxidants, fiber, protein, vitamin A, the B’s, C, D, E, K, and a whole slew of minerals, including boron, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Clover sprouts are known as an anti-cancer herb and they are a significant source of isoflavones.
Green pea sprouts are rich in many of the B vitamins and vitamin C. Green pea sprouts make a rich and fun addition to any green salad.
Lentil sprouts are very rich in protein, containing 26% as well as vitamin C and the B vitamins. They have a mild ground pepper flavor and are delicious either raw or cooked. Lentils help cleanse and stimulate the kidneys and adrenal system, strengthen the heart and circulation and increase energy and vitality. When lentils are sprouted, their nutrients become more easily digestible, and after just 3-4 days of sprouting, their soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and regulate insulin levels, increases 300 percent!
Mung bean sprouts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamin C, A, and E, along with many vital minerals. Plus they are low in calories.
Onion sprouts contain about 20% protein and are a very good source of vitamin A, C, and D.
Radish sprouts are high in vitamin C and potassium and have a spicy, peppery bite that adds rich flavor. They have four times more vitamin A and 29 times more vitamin C than milk, 10 times more calcium than potatoes and more vitamin C than pineapple. Radish sprouts are the most popular sprout variety among Japanese families.
Soybean sprouts are an extremely rich source of protein, folate and the vitamins A, B, C and E. Soybeans are also rich in minerals and lecithin.
Sunflower sprouts are rich in vitamins B, D, and E, lecithin, many minerals, and linoleic acid which has the power to break down fatty acids and promote easier digestion. As well being an excellent source of amino acids, sunflower sprouts are rich in folic acid, selenium, zinc and are an excellent source of chlorophyll. They make a nutritious addition to salads, green smoothies, and juices. Plus they’re good to snack on any time of the day. Fresh, crunchy, and slightly nutty in flavor, they can be sprouted and grown indoors all year round, providing lovely fresh greens in the depths of winter.
Wheat sprouts are high in Vitamins B, C, and E and have three times the vitamin E of dry wheat. Wheat also has many beneficial minerals.
What Should You NOT Sprout?
Do not eat sprouts from the Solanaceae family: tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant—and rhubarb too! At certain points in their growth these plants are poisonous so eating them is simply too risky.
Step by Step Sprouting Instructions:
Before you get started you will need seeds, a wide mouth quart size mason jar and sprouting lid(s) or cheesecloth for draining. See end of this post for buying resources for the products I love.
- Remember, sprouts will expand to up to eight times their original size, so typically you should only sprout 1-3 T of seeds in a quart mason jar. Start with just 1 T the first time and see how that amount works for you. Trust me on this! Be sure to sanitize your jars by running through your dishwasher. Add your seeds to bottom of jar. I always measure so that I know how much works best for me of a particular type of seed or seed mix next time I want to use them.
- Add initial soak water to seeds in an approximate ratio of four parts water to one part seeds. Initial soak water temperature should be warm, not hot. Soak seeds for approximately 8 hours. I usually just start my initial soaks before I go to bed and then drain and rinse first thing in the morning. Helps me to remember better doing it this way. I then top with a sprouting jar lid sized appropriately for the seeds I have chosen. You can also use a piece of cheesecloth or window screening over the mouth of a canning jar held in place with the standard lid ring. Remember, soaking seeds for longer than the recommended soak time can cause your seeds to go bad, become mushy or lose their germination power.
- After initial soak, daily rinse water should be just lukewarm. Each day after initial soak, you should fill jar 3/4 full with lukewarm rinse water, swish water around to loosen sprouts from one another and give them space, and then thoroughly drain off rinse water. Save the drained off soak water from your sprouts for your indoor plants – it is full of nutrients that will make them happy. Or make soup with it, it is good for humans too!
- During sprouting, the jar should be kept at a place which prohibits exposure to chill, hot winds and direct sunlight. Because I use the sprouting lids, I set my jar upside down on the lid, which is then elevated slightly from my countertop by the design of the lids, and allow all excess water to drain onto my granite window ledge. You can also store it upside down in a small saucer or even tipped slightly in a bowl to ensure good drainage. Ensure that the mouth of the jar is not completely covered so as to allow air in to circulate. The optimum sprouting room temperature is 65 -75 F.
- The seeds should be rinsed and water drained off three times, every day, until they are ready to eat. Generally, seeds will germinate and become sprouts in 2-4 days from start of soaking, depending on temperature and humidity. There are detailed soaking and sprouting charts available online, but I like to keep things simple so I just follow the initial soak and then keep an eye on the sprouts to decide when I think they are ready for me to enjoy! Care should always be taken to ensure that sprouts do not lie in water. They should be kept well drained to prevent mold and souring.
- Sprouts are at their optimum level of flavor and tenderness when tiny green leaves appear at the tips. Their nutritional value is also optimum at this time. You can green sprouts up more quickly by placing them in partial sunlight when you see the very first tiny green leaves;the rest of the jar should then green up within 1-2 days.
- To retain their freshness and nutritional value, completed sprouts should be placed in a refrigerator after their final rinse, if they cannot be consumed immediately. Sprouts can be kept for several days in this way. Give them a final rinse again in cold water and drain well just prior to use. I store my completed sprouts in a plastic container or ziplock bag and place a damp paper towel over the sprouts to maintain crispness. Store them in the vegetable/greens section of your fridge.
- Run mason jars through the dishwasher between batches of sprouts to sanitize. The plastic draining lids are top rack dishwasher safe.
Finally, What Do I Do With My Sprouts?
1. The obvious use is to use them in place of or in addition to other greens in your salads. Pea shoots are a lovely addition to any salad. Radish shoots can add a slightly peppery bite to an otherwise boring salad.
2. Add them to sandwiches. My easy favorite is avocado toast with sprouts! Add a drizzle of a luscious flavored olive oil and a grind of fresh cracked pepper and you have a delicious, nutrient rich snack or small meal.
3. Mix them into Asian-inspired lettuce rolls or stuff them into a wrap.
4. Fold them into omelets or serve over eggs with salsa at breakfast time.
5. Add them at the end of cooking to your next stir fry meal. If you add them at the very end, they will retain their nutrition best.
6. Fold them into cheesy quesadillas or burritos.
7. Top your soups with a sprout mix.
8. Make cole slaw by adding your favorite chopped vegetables to raw sprouted lentils and toss with a tasty homemade vinaigrette (or a ranch type dressing would also be delicious). I add shaved cabbage, grated sweet onion, and grated carrot to sprouted lentils and tossed together with my favorite vinaigrette, also delicious with Garlic Expressions if you do not make your own vinaigrette.
9. Make Guacamole: Just purée avocado with lentil sprouts and then stir in lime juice, red onion, salt, pepper, finely diced jalapeño, and a small bit of finely diced tomato.
10. Make a Messy Katie Sandwich:
On a toasted bagel, spread cream cheese and pile generously with your choice of sprouts. On the other side of the bagel spread honey mustard. Then layer on sliced turkey, bacon, thinly sliced tomato, avocado slices and Colby cheese. Smash together, hold with toothpicks and warm slightly in microwave before you dig in!
(This sandwich was a favorite of the Toledo St. Francis swimmers, modeled after its namesake sandwich at a local Miami University of Ohio bagel shop. My son Nick added the bacon to the mix- because everything is better with bacon!)
11. Make Sprouted Hummus:
Blend the following together in a blender until smooth:
2 cups sprouted chickpeas, steamed until soft and tender, then well drained
2 T sesame tahini
1 T Fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped
1⁄2 cup EVOO
1 to 1 1⁄2 t Kosher salt (to taste)
Sources for seeds and supplies:
Most of my sprouting seeds were bought on Amazon and are from The Sprout House at www.sprouthouse.com. They have tons of delicious mixes. I am still trying out new varieties!
Some seeds were purchased from www.toddsseeds.com. Their website has sprouting seed mixes available, with some unusual kinds not found on Amazon.
Sprout-Ease Jar Seed Sprouting lids were made by www.texasbestunlimited.com and also bought on Amazon. I love this lid set as you can use them with your own wide mouth mason jars, they allow the sprouts to drain well, and they are easily cleaned.