Sprouting little beauties – how to start germinating seeds and beans.

From issue 58.

It took me a long time to like sprouts. Although I eat them voluntarily as an adult, I can’t help but wonder if I was brainwashed when I was a child – every time I see sprouts, I hear my mother’s voice urging me to eat them. I do the same to my kids these days, of course, but they are far too free-thinking.

Sprouting seeds or beans involves soaking them long enough for germination to occur. This process allows all the beneficial enzymes, vitamins and amino acids to become more readily available, in concentrated quantities. When you eat a sprout, you are essentially consuming the entire plant and getting all the benefits of that plant. It is estimated there are up to 100 times more beneficial enzymes in sprouts than in raw vegetables. As if this wasn’t enough, eating sprouts with your meal also allows your body to extract more nutrients from the other foods you’re eating.

Like many superfoods, sprouts have been consumed for their health benefits for thousands of years. Early accounts of sprouting were recorded in books of the Bible, and they were even prescribed curatively by Chinese physicians more than 5000 years ago.

The beauty of sprouts is they can be grown quickly and easily in any climate, and don’t rely on soil or sun – meaning you can have fresh food all year round. As well as being among the least expensive foods you can grow, they also require very few resources and create no waste. There’s really no excuse not to start sprouting.

Some of the sprouting greats

Alfalfa Good source of B, C and K vitamins. They also contain saponins, which are beneficial for balancing cholesterol and supporting the immune system.

Red clover Rich in isoflavones, which can reduce the risk of cancer. They also act as a blood purifier.

Mung bean High in protein, fibre, and vitamins A and C. These also contain anti-ageing components for the skin.

Radish Contain vitamin C and potassium. Can aid in weight loss as they give a sense of fullness after eating, helping you to eat less.

Lentil Excellent source of protein, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E, which are important to overall health.

Mustard Contain essential minerals such as potassium, calcium and phosphorous. Also contain quercetin, an important free-radical fighter.

Pea Contain folate and vitamin A as well as chlorophyll and protein. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Broccoli High in sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting compound. Broccoli sprouts have up to 100 times more sulforaphane than adult broccoli plants.

Sunflower Full of fibre, protein, phytosterols, essential fatty acids.

Fenugreek Can provide relief from cold and flu symptoms such as congestion. Also acts as a lymphatic cleanser.

To note

· Make sure the seeds you purchase are specifically for sprouting; they will be labelled as such.

· Some beans, such as kidney beans, are dangerous and should never be eaten sprouted. 

· Take care to avoid bacterial growth in sprouts.

How to sprout:

You will need

· A wide-mouthed jar, cleaned and sterilised 

· A mesh-sprouting lid, or a cheesecloth and rubber band 

· Seeds/beans

· Filtered water

· A bowl or dish rack

Step by step

1 After rinsing your seeds/beans, place 1–2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar and cover with a few inches of water. 

2 Secure the mesh lid or cheesecloth and rubber band on top. Let soak for 8–12 hours at room temperature.

3 Drain the seeds and rinse them, then drain again.

4 Find an area out of direct sunlight and place the jar upside down but at an angle; you can put the jar in a large bowl to do this, or even use a dish rack. This allows excess water to drain out and for air to circulate through the mesh. 

5 Rinse and drain the seeds 2–3 times a day. Your sprouts will be ready somewhere between 2 and 7 days, depending on what you’re sprouting. It’s best to harvest them when they’re still on the relatively small side.

6 Give them one last rinse and let them drain well before storing in an airtight container in the fridge. Use within a week. 

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