Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to sprout a seed.
I know many folks are getting into their gardening groove already, but that’s not exactly what a mean. I mean sprouting a seed, like a wheat berry, pinto bean, or lentil, then cooking and eating it.
Level of Commitment: Baby Steps
There is a good body of research that shows that sprouting a seed before consuming it increases the nutrients and makes the whole experience a healthier one, and there’s generally less controversy (but not a lack of it) there than with the soaking grains research.
How to Sprout a Seed or Legume
You can purchase sprouting kits, but I’m all about the free options.
- Glass canning jar
- Canning ring lid or rubber band
- Tulle or similar netting, washed (mine was from a candy wedding reception favor)
- Net bag from onions or citrus (washed well in hot water)
- OR colander for legumes or large grains
- Seeds or legumes
UPDATE: Here’s a better photo tutorial of how to sprout seeds and my free DIY sprouting kit idea.
I’ve sprouted sunflower seeds:
and little seeds like broccoli and radish, but I forgot to take a picture.
For smaller seeds or grains:
- Soak seeds or beans in water overnight or for about 12 hours. I do this right in the glass jar – just don’t fill it more than half full of legumes, because they’ll expand. It takes about 20 minutes to get packed-in pintos out of a half-gallon jar. Just an estimate. :p Only use 1 Tbs or less of seeds if you want sandwich sprouts, like from radish or broccoli seeds.
- Put tulle or net bag from onions or citrus over the open mouth of the jar, and attach it with the canning lid (or rubber band, but the lid is optimal). Choose whatever has smaller holes than what you’re sprouting. When I do little seeds, I start with the tulle, then move to the onion bag after they start getting long sprouts.
- Drain the water out.
- Rinse with clear water.
- Set the jar partly upside down in a bowl. This will allow the water to continue to drain out through the mesh, but the seeds/legumes will stay in.
- Every 12 hours or so, rinse the seeds right through the mesh with clear water and pour the water off. Set up again in the bowl to drain.
- If you’re going for sandwich sprouts, allow them to grow until they’re about an inch long. Sunlight will increase the nutrients further by adding chlorophyll to the mix.
- For grains or legumes, a tiny sprout will do just fine.
For legumes or larger grains:
- Soak in a bowl of water for at least 12 hours. Be sure to cover the legumes with twice the amount of water as they will expand.
- Pour out into a colander.
- Now you can just leave your legumes in the colander, preferably with a plate underneath to catch the water.
- Approximately every 12 hours (breakfast and dinner works great), rinse with clear water and set up to keep sprouting.
- You’ll want some air circulation, and don’t try to do too many at once to the point where the beans are so cramped that they get moldy.
- In 24-72 hours, you should see sprouts! You can choose to cook them as soon as they sprout or when the sprout is 1/4” long or so.
- For these lentils, I chose to partially clear out the seed coat or outer hull by swishing them in water until the hull rose to the top. What does this do to the nutrition? I wasn’t sure, but the coating should be the hardest to digest, and Ma Ingalls took all the coating off her corn in Little House in the Big Woods, so I thought I’d try it!
I froze the extras of this huge batch after cooking them. I like to do as much as my colander can hold without molding at a time to save energy – both mine and the stove’s. One pound of lentils yielded about 16 cups after sprouting and cooking.
UPDATE: I just read this: “Soy and kidney bean sprouts are toxic and should be avoided. Sprouted lentils, black eyed beans, partridge peas, peanuts and vetch retain phytates which cause poor digestion and gas,” here, and although the author doesn’t source his post, he’s right about many of his facts. Besides that, these sprouted lentils DID give me awful gas! (Bet you wanted to know that, right?)
- Here is an excellent sprouting guide, with what temp water to use, how long to soak and how long to sprout. It’s what I needed when I was just fumbling around making things up as I went!
How do Sprouted Seeds Taste?
Weird. Or no different at all, depending who you ask.
Because you’re using up some of the starch in the sprouting process, things like lentils and rice taste a little sweeter. They’re more like plants than seeds now, so that makes sense.
I really don’t notice it (much) in something like pintos once they’re all made into refried beans. I’m guessing the longer the sprout, the more the taste will change, and I haven’t seen any research that shows that the nutrition will be increased more the longer the sprout. For legumes, I would stop after the sprout appears. I’m guessing that you don’t actually want the tiny plant to use up too much of its stored energy; save that for yourself!
Don’t try to sprout brown rice for five days. Take my word on that one. I kept waiting for longer sprouts, but clearly something was happening, because it tasted so sweet it was almost unpalatable. Not a fun stir fry night! You only need to soak brown rice in warm water for 22 hours to make it germinate, says ABC Science.
See how the tip of the rice is accented after a basic overnight soak? That’s all you need to see to know you’re dealing with living food!
How do you Cook Sprouted Grains/Legumes?
Just cook as you normally would. You’ll probably find that the legumes cook much faster than soaked dry beans, but don’t count on it! I used a normal amount of water for the rice and had to cook it longer to absorb it all, because the soaked rice already had absorbed some water overnight that I hadn’t accounted for. If you drain the soak water off, you can get away with using less water to cook, or just have fluffier/more moist rice.
You can use the cooked, sprouted beans or grains in any recipe. You can also dehydrate the grains and grind them into flour, which can be used in recipes that don’t adapt well to soaking (like cookies!).
Small sprouted seeds go well on salads or in sandwiches, or as a run-through-the-kitchen snack. Be sure to refrigerate sprouted seeds if you’re not cooking them, and store things like sprouted sunflower seeds in the freezer for longer term (dehydrate in a low temp oven or dehydrator first). Remember that you just got rid of their enzyme inhibitors and turned them from seeds (stored energy) into plants (growing energy) – they’ll now decay faster!
Added Bonus: Sprouting increases the mass of your seeds and legumes. It’s like getting 25% more free! How often can real food cooks make use of that advertising gimmick? 😉
You may have noticed this is a baby steps challenge. It is soooo easy! To sprout dry beans, just plan ahead a few extra days, and you don’t even need any fancy equipment. You can do this immediately. After the sourdough starter, you’re welcome for an easy one! 😉
Look for a Food for Thought later this week on exactly how sprouting changes the nutrition of your seeds and legumes.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the very last Real Food Face-Off! I guess I’ll have to answer the questions, because someone has to line up against my favorite real food author…drum roll, please! Nina Planck!
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