For a lot of people, the word “sprouts” begins and ends with a grocery store, and that’s about it. If you consider yourself a healthy eater, you may associate them as a garnish at the salad bar. But for a growing number of people, sprouting is a whole movement of creating their own super-nutrient food on their kitchen counters. In fact, if you get really into it, you may not need the grocery store at all.
Sprouting describes the process in which seeds and legumes are soaked and germinated and the outer layer opens, causing a young shoot to blossom. Before the shoot grows into a mature plant, the sprouted seed is prepared and eaten. You may have heard of it in terms of sprouted cereal or bread. But you can sprout way more than grains. Legumes, beans, nuts, broccoli, kale, onions, peas, alfalfa, sunflower, mustard…you can sprout it all. And here’s the kicker: Doing so actually makes the food more nutrient-rich. Consider it gardening’s easy-going cousin.
One of the sprouting experts leading the movement is Doug Evans, former CEO of Juicero and Organic Avenue. A few years ago, Evans moved to the California desert in an effort to live off the grid and connect more to nature. His initial hope was to grow all his food by gardening, but the task proved daunting—and not exactly ideal in the desert climate. So, he decided to give sprouting a whirl, even though it was something he’d never tried before. It proved to be less high-maintenance. “Within a month, 50 percent of my total calories came from food I was sprouting in my kitchen,” Evans says.
Now, he’s sharing his intel with the world with his new aptly named book, The Sprout Book ($13.47). Here, Evans explains the benefits of sprouting and how to get started.
What are the benefits of sprouting?
One major benefit to sprouting is that it can slash your grocery bill drastically. Evans says he used to spend $100 a week on produce at the farmers’ market. But when he started spouting, that Ben Franklin was replaced with just $10 a week to cover the cost of seeds. Besides seeds, all you need are mason jars ($12.30 for a four pack)—one for each type of food you’re sprouting—and cheesecloths ($13.95). In fact, sprouting food is so easy and cost effective that Evans sees it as a viable solution to solving food deserts, aka places where people don’t have easy access to healthy foods.
Another benefit to sprouting food is that they are extremely nutrient rich. Sprouted foods have more available nutrients than when they are mature. This is because the germinating process breaks down some of the starch, which makes the percentage of nutrients higher. (Sprouted foods contain the same nutrients as their mature counterparts, but in higher quantities.)
Besides being more nutrient-rich, sprouted foods are also easier on the digestive system since they contain higher amounts of living enzymes, which help break down food. If you tend to feel bloated after eating grains, sprouted grains may be the way to go because they have less starch and are easier on the gut.
Now that you’re schooled on the benefits, here’s how to start sprouting at home.
How to sprout seeds
As mentioned, sprouting doesn’t require a lot of special equipment. While technically any seeds work, Evans suggests buying sprouting seeds, which are tested for harmful bacterias, including E.coli and salmonella. You’ll also need mason jars or another type of container to hold and grow your sprouted seeds. (There are also lots of DIY sprout starting kits if you want to spend a bit more money for some more ease and guidance.)
Star by filling the jar with the seeds and water in a 1:3 ratio. “Some seeds double in size while other seeds grow 10 times as big,” Evans says, as to how much food you can expect your seeds to yield. Either way, that extra room in the jar is definitely needed. Then, cover your jar with a cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber hand or hair tie. Then, just leave it on the counter to work its magic.
Evans says you’ll want to drain the water through the cheesecloth twice a day (roughly every 12 hours) and refill the container with clean water each time. This prevents mold from forming. Within three to seven days, your sprouts will be ready to eat. Once they’re ready, just remove them from the mason jar and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat. They should last several days. No need to rinse them before storing; doing so actually increases the risk of mold developing.
While sprouting is a pretty simple process, there are a few factors to consider in order to make sure you’re doing it safely. One is the importance of rinsing your seeds while they’re sprouting twice a day. Otherwise, you’re at risk for having them become a breeding ground for bacteria. Evans says it’s also best to keep the jars out of direct sunlight. And last, you’ll want to eat your sprouted food within a week of it being ready. If it’s starting to smell bad, chances are it’s no longer safe to eat.
Now the big question: how can you eat your sprouts? The Sprout Book has a whole recipe section and Evans says he often makes entire meals from his sprouted foods. “I often use them as a lettuce substitute in salads,” he says, citing of one way he enjoys his sprouts on a regular basis. “I love mixing several types of sprouts together in a bowl and adding tahini, avocado, and some seasonings,” he says. Some other common foods you can make using your sprouts: oatmeal, soups, hummus, pesto, and sprouted quinoa tabbouleh. Keep reading for five recipes to try with your newly sprouted foods.
5 recipes using sprouted foods
This dish has enough protein and fiber to work as a main course. Besides the lentils, this recipe also calls for corn, cumin, chili powder, and curry powder—so you know it comes with a spicy kick.
You mastered sourdough week two of quarantine, so you’re ready for sprouted bread. This recipe incorporates both sprouted wheat and rye, for a more layered, complex flavor profile that also provides a wider range of nutrients.
Bookmark this recipe if you’re sprouting beans and lentils at home—it makes delicious use of both. Here, they’re mixed with bold ingredients including cilantro, jalapeno, curry leaves, and red chilis, which are toned down by mixing them with fresh coconut.
Another recipe starring sprouted lentils, this recipe pairs them with cooked quinoa, veggies, and a homemade peanut dressing. Because sprouted lentils are so protein-rich, you don’t even need to add tofu or chicken—unless you want to.
You can make hummus out of sprouted chickpeas just like you would when buying the legumes canned. Follow this recipe for a version that also gets in a serving of greens, courtesy of blended kale.
Incorporating sprouted foods into your meals is just as easy as using fully matured foods—and you’re actually making your meals more nutritious and easier to digest in the process. Give it a shot and your gardening hobby just might get some new competition. Consider the seed for healthy rivalry, planted.
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