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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sprouts, A Living Food

Mung Beans
 "What a rich book might be made about buds and, perhaps, sprouts!"
Author: Henry David Thoreau

Food in its natural form can be a fascinating thing. They often say the shape of some foods resembles the very bodily system it is known to be good for. Sprouts are life, they are living food. They are high in vitality to give you the energy you need. 

Many of us have concerns about the possible lack of freshness and nutritional quality of grocery store produce. Especially in the off-season, we aren't sure how far the food has traveled and what has been done to it to give it a fresh appearance. A wonderful plus for sprouting your own seed is that you can have fresh greens all year round, as well as not having to worry about molds and toxins.

Beans need a warm, humid environment to sprout. Unfortunately, bacteria also thrive under the same conditions, so sprouts carry a higher risk of bacterial contamination from salmonella and E. coli. Fresh sprouts are only good for a few days, therefore store bought sprouts should be cooked before eating to lessen the risk of consuming a raw food with contamination. Grow your own and you'll have much more confidence eating them raw in salads and sandwiches. 

Any type of bean or legume can be sprouted, but mung bean sprouts are the most common type used in cooking. Bean sprouts give you an easy way to boost the nutrients in your diet. Sprouting increases the ability for the body to absorb less digestible nutrients that are bound by phytic acid. Vegetarians should know that though bean sprouts are a good source of plant protein, it is an incomplete source of all the amino acids needed by the body. Therefore, a wide variety of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and grains should be part of the diet.

High in vitamins and minerals, sprouts are an especially good source for the B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron. If you cook and eat the whole bean, you'll only get a trace of vitamin C. When the beans are sprouted, they become good sources because the amount of vitamin C increases as the seed germinates. Pregnant women take note: Folate helps your body produce DNA, amino acids and red blood cells, making it essential for the prevention of anemia and birth defects. Sprouts, especially soybean sprouts, are an excellent source of this B vitamin.

Purchase only high quality untreated organic seeds, grains or legumes which have already been tested for germination. Health food stores and co-ops are places to find seed. Sprouters can be found at such stores but they are also easily found online. 
 The one pictured below is The Easy Sprout Sprouter.

You can use an ordinary mason jar as your sprouter if you desire. You'll need to buy screened lids or punch holes in the typical canning lid for draining. You may need cheesecloth as well for tinier seeds. The drawback is that you'll have to be careful the seeds don't lay in too much moisture collected at the bottom of the jar.

The first step is to rinse your seed. You'll only need about 1 - 2 tablespoons of seed at a time. You'll be surprised at the volume of sprouts you'll end up with and being they don't last that long it is best to just start fresh every few days if you want a continuous supply.

Next is the soak. Add about three times as much water to cover your seeds. Seed the size of mung beans need to soak eight hours or overnight. Smaller seeds require only about four hours of soaking, while some require none.
Don't soak chia, alfalfa, cress, oat or mustard seeds. Gelatinous seeds such as flax, guar and chia won't do well if using a glass jar as the sprouter.

After the soak, drain the seeds. You will need to rinse and drain the seeds twice a day so they do not dry out. If they dry out, the process is ruined. Take care to turn the jar over carefully so as not to shift the seeds and break the tender shoots.
Don't throw out the soak water. This water is nutritious and can be added to your soup or water your plants. 

Keep the sprouter out of the sun until ready to "green." Sprouts do better in the dark while germinating. Once the sprouts do reach their full height, place them on a window sill in direct sunlight to develop the chlorophyll. This will happen in a day, from which you can then place the container in the refrigerator.

The Easy Sprout Sprouter.
The Easy Sprout Sprouter is wonderful. The unit consists of the main container, an insert container with drain holes and positioned so as to keep it elevated and free of any gathered water on the bottom, a topper with drain holes and a lid for storage when ready to store in the fridge. There is even a tiny drainer for the smaller seeds to keep them from going through the holes.

Sprouts can be added fresh to salads (if you sprout your own) or easily sauteed as a vegetable or added to casseroles and stir-fry.
To saute:
Place a small amount of oil in a pan
Add sprouts and a small amount of water or tamari sauce.
Cover and cook 10 minutes at the most.
Minced onion, mushroom, shredded carrots, celery or cabbage all make good additions. 

Favorites:
Sunflower seed needs about 2 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1/2 inch
Mung Beans need 4 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 2 - 3 inches
Green Peas need  4 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1/2 - 1 inch
Lentils need 4 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1 inch
Adzuki Beans need 6 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1 inch
Soybeans need 5 days, rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1/2 - 3/4 inch
Alfalfa needs 4 days (don't pre-soak), rinse twice a day, and the length of the sprout will be 1 - 2 inch


Note to those with Lupus:
Alfalfa sprouts are an herb with a variety of medicinal purposes; but when converted to a tablet, which is manufactured with all parts of the plant except for the leaves, it has been associated with causing symptoms similar to those of lupus. Lupus Now Magazine reports this reaction comes from amino acids in alfalfa seeds and sprouts. Avoiding alfalfa products is beneficial for anyone with lupus or a family history of the disease. The LFA says to beware of food products that can contain alfalfa, such as vitamins and herbal teas.

Mung Beans