Sprouting—growing bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, for example—provides an excellent source of nutrition. Sprouts will give you the enzymes (see sidebar for more about enzymes) and nutrients that you would normally get by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s because sprouts not only retain their enzymes but after sprouting, their vitamins and minerals increase by at least 75 percent. I believe that sprouting seeds are almost as vital to food storage as water and that they probably should be among your first long-term storage investments.
These seeds are different from the ones you use to plant your garden. The following seeds and legumes are available specifically for sprouting: alfalfa, broccoli, lentils, radish, red clover, salad blends, sprouting peas, sunflower, wheat, and legumes such as adzuki, garbanzo, kidney, mung, pinto, red, and soybeans. The seeds should be untreated and should not be sealed in airtight or nitrogen-packed containers. They need to breathe air to keep them alive. If you plan to sprout wheat to make wheatgrass, label the bucket so you know that it is wheat for sprouting rather than for baking. These sprouting seeds will die and won’t sprout if they are nitrogen-packed or sealed with an oxygen packet.
Sprouts are best when eaten raw—in salads, on sandwiches, or added to stir-frys after cooking. Cooking the sprouts kills the enzymes, which are vital to our health.
The Importance of EnzymesEnzymes are found in fresh foods that have not been heated or cooked in any way.
The enzymes aid the body in digestion of food, including protein floating around
in the blood. Enzymes are essential to our health and are plentiful in fresh fruits
and vegetables. When fresh foods are not readily available, sprouts are a great
alternative to garden-fresh produce. Because it takes relatively little space and
light to grow sprouts, you can consider your sprouting area an effective indoor
How to Sprout
You do need to learn how to grow sprouts properly. First, you need to have quart jars and sprouting trays, which are available commercially (see Resource Guide). To grow sprouts successfully, follow these steps:
Step One: Clean. Sort through beans or seeds to make sure they are clean and free of dirt clots and broken pieces.
Step Two: Rinse. Rinse the beans or seeds by placing them in a wide-mouth quart jar with a plastic lid with holes for drainage. (Instead of a plastic lid, you can use fabric, nylon netting, or plastic screen material secured with an elastic band around the mouth of the jar.) Fill the jar with water and then pour the rinse water out.
Step Three: Soak. Fill the jar with water again and soak for the number of hours specified in table 5. Lukewarm purified drinking water is the best—or distilled water from the grocery store. You want to avoid chlorinated or salt-softened water.
Step Four: Drain. Drain all the soaking water from the jar. The water should not be foamy; if it is, the beans (or seeds) have started to ferment.
Step Five: Grow. Beans and seeds can be sprouted in the jars in which they are soaked or in sprouting trays (trays work best for beans, sunflower seeds, and buckwheat). If you are using a sprouting tray, pour the beans or seeds evenly onto the bottom of the tray. Cover with a lid or dishcloth. Place the tray or jar in a warm place; sprouts do best at a temperature of 65 to 80 degrees F. Rinse twice a day and drain off all excess water. It generally takes between three to five days to grow sprouts.
Step Six: Expose to Sunlight. As the sprouts mature, they can be moved to a window sill for a few hours or in direct sunlight to develop the green color of chlorophyll. Step Seven: Harvest and Eat. Bean sprouts are best eaten when the sprout is popping its head out of the seed. Other seeds are best when doubled in size. When sprouts are ready, put them in a container of water to rinse off the hulls or leftover seeds. You can keep them in your refrigerator in airtight plastic bags for a few days. If sprouts are kept more than a week in the refrigerator, however, they may go sour. Eat them up quickly!
Step Eight: Freeze for Stir-Fry Dishes. Sprouts can be frozen and used in stir-fry dishes later. Place them in plastic bags and seal them airtight before freezing.