When it comes to having healthy, organic, year-round greens at your fingertips, there are few foods that can compete with the ease of growing sprouts in your kitchen. Sprouts provide numerous health benefits ranging from improving the immune system to being a great source of active antioxidants.
Sprouts like alfalfa, radish, broccoli, clover and soybean contain concentrated amounts of phytochemicals (plant compounds) that can protect us against disease. Studies on canavanine, an amino acid analog in alfalfa, has demonstrated benefit for pancreatic, colon and leukemia cancers. (1)
There are many kinds of seeds that you can sprout. I like to grow alfalfa sprouts for salads, sandwiches or just plain snacking. There is something delightfully herbivorish about having a mouth full of greenery to chomp on. My vegan child finds them fun to eat, too. Here are some photos to show you how to go about growing alfalfa sprouts in your kitchen.
First, you will need a container for growing the sprouts. There are several different kinds available that you can purchase on line or in health food stores. I have found that stackable sprouting trays works the best for me. Having tried a few designs, I prefer trays that are made with clear or opaque plastic that allow some light in to help the sprouts to green. Once you decide on a sprouting system, you will need to purchase some seeds.
Sprout seeds are often displayed on a rack like in this photo from a Whole Foods store. You can also sometimes find them in a jar on the bulk aisle that you can scoop yourself. That’s a nice option if you are experimenting with different kinds of sprouts and want to try a small portion before buying a whole package.
One thing you will want to keep in mind is that ready-to-eat sprouts (already grown sprouts sold in plastic packages) are recalled periodically due to poor growing practices. To avoid any potential health risks, I always buy organic sprout seeds. You can order them on line or find them at most local health food stores. (You may want to call first.)
Once you are ready to begin, put a tablespoon or two (depending on the size of your sprouting tray) of seeds in some warm water. I think the warm water helps the sprouts to grow faster but it could be my imagination. Let them sit overnight.
After approximately 24 hours, you pour the sprouts into the tray. (There is a black bowl in this photo because I like to save the “sprout water” that they soaked in. I then give it to a houseplant as it has healthy plant nutrients from the sprouts having soaked in the water). Then you lightly rinse the sprouts in the tray with slightly warm water – or cold, but never hot.
It should look something like this. Do your best to have the seeds spread out instead of clumped in one area. Cover the tray and set it aside in a dark location. For the next day or two (depending on which sprouts you are growing), you will uncover and lightly rinse these at least three times a day. If this sounds like a lot, it’s really not that hard to manage. I tend to rinse them before leaving the house in the morning, once around dinner time and then before I go to bed. If you are in a hotter climate, you may need to adjust your rinsing schedule. I like to set the tray by the sink as I’m more likely to notice it there.
They should look something like this after 2 or 3 days. Once they start to sprout, rinse only with cold water. If you have transparent trays, your seeds will naturally pick up some light. If you have solid trays like the one pictured, you will want to remove the lid for a few hours during the day or place a clear cover on top so that they can get some daylight without drying out. Do not put them in direct sunlight for any length of time. Doing so would be like leaving them in the car on a warm day.
You will find that the seeds need very little sunlight to grow. I have successfully grown sprouts through the long, dark winters of Seattle. Keep rinsing regularly with cold water until they are long enough to eat.
After 4 or 5 days, you will have a healthy tray of delicious sprouts to enjoy. Remember, sprouts are not just raw food; they are living foods that are extremely good for you! Enjoy as you wish.
One of my favorites: baked tofu, avocado, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and a light shmear of miso on a sesame seed bagel. It’s so easy to be a healthy, feelin’ good vegan.
© Jill Powers and The Feel Good Vegan 2011