How to grow sprouts at home

| 8th June 2010
Sprouts are a 'living food' bursting with nutritional value. Here is a simple guide to sprouting seeds at home

Sprouts are ingredients that contribute to living nutrition. Introducing sprouts, grass juices, algae, oilseeds and fresh, raw, organically grown fruit and vegetables to your diet is one of the best ways of bringing the body an excellent source of energy.

Rich in amino acids, as well as vitamins, sprouts are also recognized for their high levels of fibre and enzymes and for being antioxidants and alkaline.

Unlike cooked food, eating living food is something you 'feel'. Smaller quantities generally satisfy the appetite because of the high nutritional value of sprouted seeds.

Sprouts and health

Germination transforms the seed and triggers a series of positive changes: the enzymes start to pre-digest, the starch is broken down into components that are simpler to digest and the level of vitamins goes up. After sprouting, the nutritional value of the seeds increases tenfold and brings the body vitamins and minerals that can be considered as bio-available.

What do we find in sprouted seeds?

  • Vegetable protein
    In green soya (mung beans), sunflower, sesame, alfalfa and broccoli sprouts, for example.
  • More iron
    Especially in fenugreek, lentils, cress, spinach, fennel, sesame, red lentils, broccoli and quinoa, etc.
  • Magnesium
    In wheat, lentils, flax, spinach, buckwheat, sunflower and sesame, etc.
  • Calcium
    In red lentils, adzuki, cress, spinach, quinoa, sesame, etc.
  • B-group vitamins
    In wheat, spinach, rice, lentils, etc.
  • Essential fatty acids
    In sunflower and sesame seed sprouts, etc.
  • Phosphorus, potassium, copper
    Present particularly in broccoli, carrots, cabbage, fennel, fenugreek, leeks, spinach and wheat.
  • Antioxidants
    Especially in alfalfa, broccoli and wheat.
  • Rich in vitamin C
    In all sprouts and particularly in alfalfa, broccoli, cress, lentils, red cabbage, and rocket.

Sprouts also have a highly alkalising effect. Eating sprouted grains and legumes can help maintain or re-establish an acid-alkaline balance.

Sprouting seeds at home

If you are passionate about the flavour of sprouted seeds, you will have no trouble taking the next step and starting to grow them yourself. The process can be enjoyed by young and old. Alfalfa seeds are good for beginners because they grow very easily, as do sunflower seeds and lentils.

• Buy seeds for sprouting that are guaranteed organic, and to begin as simply as possible, use a glass jam jar. Make sure the jar is big enough, as the seeds will bulk out once they start to germinate. In general, 2 or 3 level tablespoons of seeds in a jar is ample. Prepare several jars of seeds for sprouting one jar per day to stagger your harvests.

• Throw away any seeds you think are damaged, place those you have selected in the glass jar and cover with plenty of water. Put a piece of very fine cotton muslin (gauze or tulle, for instance) over the jar and secure with an elastic band. If the seeds are small, this will be very useful for easy rinsing and draining. If the seeds are bigger (sunflower, chickpea, etc), a sieve is just as good. Use filtered or bottled spring water for soaking and watering the little seeds.

• Leave over night.

The overnight soaking time varies according to the size of the seeds. Alfalfa, radish and some other seeds only need three to four hours, whereas chickpea, mung bean and soya seeds, for example, will need more than 10 hours.

When growing varieties of seeds of differing size, you should germinate them separately, as they will take different times to sprout.

- Healthy, organic seeds with no blemishes
- Soak in spring or purified water
- Rinse carefully
- Germinate in a moist environment
- Room temperature of 18° to 22°C.
- A little light but not direct sunlight

• The next day, rinse carefully through the muslin several times using spring or filtered water.

• Drain the seeds and leave them in their jar with just a film of water. Their environment needs only to be moist. Place the jar at a slight angle to stop the water stagnating and allow the air to circulate.

• Rinse the seeds at least twice a day, morning and evening, and more often if it is hot and you think the jar is drying out. The seeds should always be kept moist without being saturated. It is also important to keep them in a protected environment, hence the muslin or a lid pierced with little holes.

• For big seeds, like sunflower, pumpkin or lentil, for example, it is better to spread them out on a plate after soaking, placing a glass lid over them to keep them moist but let in the light. The seeds will then have more room to grow, the ideal being to use a 'radish' plate (a plate with holes in it with on a flat plate underneath).

• Germination time varies depending on how hard the seed is: between the appearance of the small sprout and the first tiny leaves of the shoots, there can be two to six days. The ideal temperature is about 20°C. It is not necessary to put the seedlings in the light for germination to start, but once they reach the stage of small shoots, you should place the jars in a well-lit spot away from direct sunlight for the sprouts to develop chlorophyll.

• Sprouted seeds should be eaten quickly. You can stop them growing by putting them in the fridge, making sure they are not in a damp, unventilated environment where they will stagnate.

• When you change the water keeping them moist, rinse them to remove the seeds' husks (alfalfa, lentils, sunflower, etc) which tend to go black. The process is straightforward but you need to take care when rinsing that you don't damage the shoots.

How to keep seeds that you want to germinate

Seal the bags or put them in jars and keep them in the dark. I usually keep seeds in the fridge, so that when I take them out and bring them into contact with a moist atmosphere, they are quick to revive. Organic seeds are untreated, so if you keep them in a cupboard, watch out for mites in summer!

Ideally, for small seeds, you should, of course, aim to produce them at staggered intervals in limited quantities (don't grow too many at once). This way, you will always have a fresh supply to hand.

Can the seeds be kept once they have sprouted?

Once the sprouts are ready to be consumed, you can stop them growing by putting them in the fridge. Leave them in a slightly moist and ventilated jar (a lid with holes in it) and continue to rinse them in spring water every other day. I noticed that they kept better if they were well drained and I had dried them off a bit by putting them in a salad spinner (for less delicate shoots!). In this way they can be kept for an average of 5 days depending on the varieties.

If you decide to buy ready sprouted seeds in a packet from the chilled aisle, trust your instinct as far as keeping them goes. The shoots should sparkle with ‘vitality', they must look inviting, tempting and smell fresh.

Extracted from Sprouts & Sprouting: The Complete Guide with Seventy Healthy and Creative Recipes by Valerie Cupillard (£12.99) kindly reproduced by permission of Grub Street. The book is available from Grub Street.

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