Sprouting – The Mini Greenhouse Effect

By Judith Reid - Naturopathic Nutritionist -

From Seed to Sprout: a short journey

Modern day eating and “foraging” in supermarkets has cultivated a massive disconnect with our food. How often when munching on, say, a handful of sunflower seeds do you appreciate where they actually came from? Answer – a sunflower!! Seeds are a plant’s offspring; they fall to the earth, and when conditions are right, they start to grow, first sprouting, then slowly maturing from a baby plant into a fully grown one and, in the case of our sunflower seeds, into a very tall gorgeously sunny flower that can’t but help make us smile. 🙂 🙂

A seed, be it a sunflower seed or a mung bean, is a tiny storage capsule packed with nutrients and enzymes designed to lie dormant until conditions are such that the plant has the best chance of survival.

Watering the seeds starts what is known as “germination”. It wakes up the seed and tells it that it’s time to start its long journey to adulthood. Once started, the enzymes become activated and convert the inactive nutrients into a nutritional super food for the baby plant – a bit like mother’s milk.

So how can we kick-start this process? SPROUTING!

Sprouting is simple, fun, and an easy way of providing you and your family with nutrient-dense food. It’s a fantastic way to introduce children to growing healthy stuff. Even at my age (non-disclosed – ha ha!) I still get a thrill when I see the first shoots appear and, a few days later, a jar full of delicious nutritious sprouts. And, what’s more, a bag of dry beans / seeds does not cost the earth and can generate lots of sprouts, thus benefiting your purse as well as your health. 

We start off this simple process by soaking the seeds to activate germination. This is then followed by repeated rinsing and draining over a period of a few days. Sprouting effectively pre-digests the seeds’ nutrients making them more available for digestion by us. Sprouts are mini-powerhouses of nutrition, and contain high levels of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, zinc, vitamins A and C.

I find it easiest to use a special sprouting jar, which is quite inexpensive and available from good health food shops. It is basically a large jam jar with a lid which is a combined grid and ledge, designed to allow correct drainage after soaking. It’s like a mini greenhouse!! Different seeds/pulses need different sprouting times. You can find sprouting charts on the internet, but I recommend Edward Cairney’s “Sprouters Handbook” which is a superb introduction into the world of sprouting, giving sprouting times, a troubleshooting guide, and recipes.

An easy “starter pack” for a beginner is a mung bean.

Place a handful of mung beans in your jar and leave to soak in filtered water for 24 hours. After this time drain the water off, and refresh with more water. Screw the lid back on and shake as much water as possible out of the jar. This is the rinsing stage.

Now turn the jar upside down and drain at 45 degrees (this is where the ledge comes into its own). Leave in a warmish place, but avoid direct sunlight. A kitchen worktop is ideal. Rinse and drain twice a day (morning and evening) for the next 2 – 5 days.

After a while you should start to see a shoot appearing, and this should grow to be about 0.5 – 2 cm long. At this point, I usually give them one last rinse and stand them for a few hours in the sun (when there is some), then store them in the fridge.

The volume of sprouted beans at least doubles, so be careful not to put too many dry beans into your jar at the start.

Other good seeds / pulses to try are aduki beans, sunflower/pumpkin seeds and chickpeas, but check for individual soaking/draining times as well as the length of shoot expected.

During winter it is a good idea to heat the sprouts a little, perhaps lightly steaming them or throwing them into soups just before serving. If you are of a weaker constitution and have health problems, this is usually the best way to eat them at all times.

Happy sprouting!


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