Most people have heard of growing various sprouts at home, usually in mason jars or in seed trays. A fairly simple and cheap thing to grow, sprouts make a great addition to spring salads, sandwiches, wraps and even stir-frys. I was recently given some alfalfa seeds to use in my garden and I thought why not show you how to sprout seeds at home! The same method works for beans, nuts, and other grains and pulses as well. While sprouts grown from most legumes and grains are not considered paleo, you can easily incorporate vegetable sprouts such as broccoli, radish, or celery sprouts into a paleo diet.
Health Benefits of Sprouting Seed
Incorporating sprouted seeds, and other nuts and grains into your diet is a great way of getting an extra health boost. Sprouted seeds are a great natural source of various vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamin C , vitamin K , and Calcium among others, they provide a great way of adding extra nutrients to your diet which you may not be getting otherwise. Sprouted seeds also have a very high amount of fibre and are packed with anti-oxidants and enzymes to help your digestion.
While sprouts do contain various health benefits there are also a few precautions that must be taken to prevent getting sick from them. Because sprouted seeds, nuts, and grains usually produce a thick tangle of moist roots and shoots, they provide a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria and other non-beneficial microorganisms. Some of these can be harmful to you such as Salmonella and E.Coli. Most seeds meant for sprouting and that are sold for that purpose will receive extra cleaning and disinfect by the producer to ensure a lower risk of infection by the pathogens. A few simple steps can be followed to help reduce your chances of getting sick at home. Cooking the sprouts, (bean sprouts for example) are a great addition to stir-frys and the high heat used in the cooking process will kill off any bacteria. Properly rinsing the sprouts every day and letting the water drain out to remove too much liquid will also reduce the chances of infection. Mixing your sprouts with anti-microbial elements such as vinegar, garlic, and salt (for example in vinaigrettes and salads) can also help reduce the chance of bacteria in the consumed sprouts. Finally, always make sure to wash and rinse any sprouts you are about to eat really well!
How to sprout seeds
Sprouting seeds at home is very simple and is no harder than starting seeds indoors for your vegetable garden. The only real difference is that the seeds sprouted for use as “sprouts” won’t be sown into the soil and are not allowed to grow past their “infant” stage. In other words, you only grow them until they fully develop their first two leaves. Seeds meant for sprouting are usually marked for this purpose and can include broccoli, alfalfa, beans, and chia seeds. Virtually any edible bean, grain, even pulses such as lentils can be sprouted at home! Redawna over at Nutmeg Disrupted uses lentil sprouts on her sandwiches and burgers!
These all generally sprout very quickly within a day or two, unlike most vegetable seeds which take a week to two weeks to germinate. In this guide, I’ll be using Alfalfa seeds.
To start, soak your seeds in a jar of fresh water for 2 to 4 hours. The longer the better. This helps loosen any dirt and bacteria that may be mixed in with the seeds. It also allows the seeds to absorb some water, which they will use to germinate. The water in the jar will most likely turn a yellowish, brown colour. After soaking the seeds, drain this water off and make sure to rinse the seeds really well. As we had talked about above this helps wash off any bacteria and dirt left behind. The easiest way to initially strain the water from the seeds is to just dump the jar with the water and seeds into a mesh strainer and then run fresh water over the seeds.
Return the seeds to the glass jar and using some cheesecloth and a rubber band or string cover the top of the jar. The cheesecloth allows air into the jar which the seeds need to grow and sprout while keeping out dust and other bits of dirt. Set the jar with moist seeds in a back corner of your kitchen counter, and forget about them for a day.
Once a day, come back and fill the jar with fresh water to rinse the seeds. You can strain the water off through the cheesecloth or use a mesh strainer as you did the first time. Withing a day or two you will see the seeds start to sprout roots. Kids love watching this process, so it’s a great idea to get them involved! You can even turn rinsing the seeds daily into a “job” for them which will keep them involved and teach them something about how seeds grow. Just make sure to keep the seeds moist and then to drain off all the water in the jar. For a cool visual effect, you can take some of the moistened seeds and spread them flat on a seed tray or a plastic lid with holes in it. A clamshell lid from store bought salad mixes works well for this! If you keep the seeds moist and rinse them every day, they will sprout just like in the jar and grow a small forest of greens straight up!
After 3 or 4 days you will see the seeds have developed quite a tangle of roots and may even start to see some green as the first few sprouts start to develop leaves. Keep rinsing the sprouts once a day and to encourage green colour and faster growth, you can now set the jar on a windowsill to enjoy a little sunshine. The sprouts are now ready to eat! Again, just make sure to rinse them really well before eating to ensure freshness! If you grew the sprouts in a tray you can give them a haircut and get perfect sized “mini greens” for use in garnishes on or in salads and other dishes!
Using Sprouted Seeds Everyday
There are pretty much endless options for using sprouts, and you can eat them three meals a day! Try them on a burger, flatbread, or sandwich. I added them to this German-inspired Sandwich for lunch!
Sprouts are even perfect when used as garnishes and can add that extra pop of colour and texture. This Roasted Garlic & Butternut Squash Soup from Eye Candy Popper really looks fantastic with some Cilantro sprouts as a garnish.
However, you decide to use sprouts and other sprouted beans, grains, or seeds they are a simple way of packing your diet full of nutrition! Make sure you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for weekly cooking tips, tricks, new recipes and to stay up to date with everything going on here at Earth, Food, and Fire!
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