Sprouted beans and seeds have long since lost their hippy image and are back with a cool new twist. It’s not just clever celebs in the know who are going for green!
Increasingly, more people want to detox, purify and generally get that energised feeling – and you can’t get any fresher than home-grown sprouts. They are a great way of upping your vitamin intake and particularly good in winter when salad is both expensive and also uses lots of air miles to be flown in.
You can buy sprouts, or grow ‘em yourself very easily and cheaply.
Ready-grown Some fresh sprouts are available from supermarkets (mainly long Chinese bean sprouts, grown from mung beans). Others can be bought from good health stores and greengrocers.
Alfalfa is nice in salads and sandwiches, as are the beautiful purple radish sprouts. You can buy mixed sprouts in all sizes. These are good in salads too, or try: adding some at the end of a stir-fry; blending in a soup just before serving; or adding some to a sarnie.
However you eat them, keep as raw as possible for optimum goodness.
Try adding sprouts to some of our recipes, eg:
• Warm Beetroot & Quinoa Tabbouleh – sprinkle a handful of your favourite sprouts on top as garnish
• Baby Broad Bean, Tomato & Fresh Herb Salad with Creamy Dressing – add some purple radish sprouts for a bit of extra colour! Or try lentil sprouts…
• Potato & Watercress Soup – add a handful of lentil or chick pea sprouts to the soup when you blend it.
Grow your own Home-sprouting is very easy, cheap and a brilliant way to get vital nutrients into your diet. Growing your own also means that you get organic food on the cheap. Just make sure the produce you buy isn’t past its sell-by date so the little darlings germinate and grow!
• Time for sprouts varies according to the size of the seed/pulse, but is usually just a few days. Grow in small batches that you can use quickly while fresh. One teaspoon of seeds makes astonishing quantities! With pulses, try a tablespoon of mung beans, chick peas or mixed batch first to get an idea of quantities.
• Don’t mix seeds with pulses because they germinate at different times due to size differences. Once you get the hang of it, you can rotate sprouts so you always have a small but fresh supply growing and another batch ready to eat. The ‘Wednesday and Sunday’ rule is useful: soak the first batch on a Sunday, rinse and drain the next day and continue until sprouted. They’ll be ready by about Wednesday – then start the process again.
What to grow?
• Seeds: alfalfa, clover, radish or fenugreek are all good.
• Pulses: whole lentils, aduki beans, mung beans or chick peas – obviously, the larger the bean, the longer it takes to sprout.
• Mixed packs of pulses or seeds are a great way of getting variety; particularly if you are sprouting for one or two people.
AVOID AT ALL COSTS Kidney beans - poisonous if not boiled for at least 15 minutes. In fact, most large beans are a bit indigestible when sprouted - the exception being chickpeas. Stick to small beans or whole lentils!
Budget sprouts You will need:
• Clean, wide-mouthed glass jars – quite large, as you want pulses/seeds to have plenty of room to expand
• Elastic bands
• Some circles of cheesecloth – bigger than the circumference of the jars
• Small quantities of whole pulses or seeds, as above.
When you’ve washed the seeds/pulses of your choice, place each type in a separate jar, put the cheesecloth over the top, pull it tight across and secure on the neck of the jar with an elastic band. (I’ve also had success with piercing the lid of a jar in several places with a sharp knife and draining the sprouts that way. However, with that method, the lid is likely to go rusty after a few uses.)
Alternatively, sprouting jars, trays and seeds are sold quite inexpensively at good health stores. Biosnacky sprouting jars and seeds are also available on the web.
Whichever option you choose, here is the basic method.
Rinsing and draining is something you can organise almost instantly first thing, while the kettle is boiling for your morning cuppa!
• Soak the beans or seeds overnight, preferably in filtered water.
• Drain and rinse with fresh water – again, use filtered water if possible.
• If using the jar method, tip upside down so that any excess water drains out of the cheesecloth top or slotted lid.
• Rinse and drain at least once a day (more in hot weather) until the sprouts start to appear. Keep the jar upside down – dish-drying racks are good for keeping jars tilted but stable. If you are using a tray sprouter, just remember to empty the bottom tray so the drained water doesn’t overflow. (NB This water is good for watering houseplants and suchlike.)
• When watering, shake gently so the seeds don’t get stuck on the sides of the jar, but be careful not to damage the delicate new sprouts.
• Keep the jars on a reasonably warm work surface or draining board but away from direct sunlight.
• As a rule of thumb, seeds take just a day or two, while beans take a little longer.
• If sprouts start to go mouldy, throw them away. This may happen occasionally if the seeds/pulses are diseased or old or if the temperature has become too hot and they haven’t been rinsed sufficiently.
• Once they are sprouted, rinse them and keep in the fridge.
• Eat as quickly as possible.
• The Sprouter’s Handbook by Edward Cairney, £4.99 (or cheaper on Amazon). A handy little book that is easy to read and contains accessible information including a time chart for all types of sprouts.
• The Sprouting Book by Ann Wigmore
• Sprouts – The Miracle Food: The Complete Guide to Sprouting by Steve Meyerowitz
• Bio-snacky jars come with a free sprouting info chart.
• Internet sites, eg: www.ukjuicers.co.uk, www.primalseeds.org/sprouting.htm, www.sprout.net.au/Sprouts_growing.htm
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