How to grow your own healthy live food

By Nathan Mandigo, ABT, Amma Bodywork Therapist at Pulse Holistic Health

It’s spring! That wonderful time of year when the grass greens up, trees leaf out, flowers bloom, and many people plan their summer gardens. But what if you live in an apartment or don’t have a green thumb? How do you enjoy the benefits of growing your own food? Answer: sprouting.

Why sprout?
Seeds contain all of the materiel necessary to create a new plant. They are high in proteins and carbohydrates as well as containing many of the essential vitamins and nutrients necessary to sustain life. Because the plant sprout is relying completely on the materiel in the seed for its initial growth, all of the nutrients that are locked up inside the seed are transferred into the sprout, making it much easier for us to extract those nutrients.

Sprouting seeds is easy and rewarding.

Sprouting seeds carried by the Boise Co-op

The easiest seeds to start with are alfalfa, clover, or radish. Alfalfa and clover are the most commonly encountered sprouts and are used by many restaurants on sandwiches. Radish sprouts are a little spicier and some people find them a little bitter, but they make excellent additions to salads and soups. Any grain, seed, or legume can be sprouted, some require a different technique than this article is covering but a quick search on Google turned up many fantastic resources for how to sprout anything.

To get started with sprouting you will need only a few basic items: a quart mason jar, a sprouting lid (a specialized plastic lid that has many small holes in it) or a clean nylon and a rubber band, a towel to wrap the jar in and the seeds you wish to sprout.

To begin we need to activate the seeds for sprouting which is accomplished by soaking the seeds. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of seeds in the mason jar and completely cover the seeds with water (don’t worry about too much water at this point) and allow the seeds to soak undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours.

Once the seeds have soaked, we need to rinse them. This is where the sprouting lid or clean nylon and rubber band come into play. Place whichever covering you have on the jar and drain out the soaking water. Pour more water through the covering and gently shake the seeds and again pour off this water. A common mistake that Sprouters make is to leave the seeds sitting in water, this can cause the sprouts to mold, so we want to drain off as much water as we can.

Now that the seeds are soaked and have had their initial rinse, shake the seeds into the long side of the jar, and with the jar on its side, cover the jar with the towel. Seeds sprout best in the dark and warm, the towel serves both to keep out light and keep the temperature constant.

For the next 3 to 5 days, at least twice a day, repeat the rinsing process, making sure to continue to keep the jar covered between rinsing. This ensures that the fledgling plants have enough water and also minimizes the chance of mold or insect growth. During this time you should see the sprouts develop in the jar with pretty dramatic changes from day to day.

Once the sprouts are about an inch long and have 2 tiny little pale leaves at one end, it is time to expose them to the sun. Place the jar in a sunny spot for an afternoon and your sprouts will rapidly change from pale green to a vibrant dark green. Even during this phase, continue to rinse the sprouts as they can quickly dry out and wither in the sun’s heat. Also, keep in mind that the longer the sprouts are exposed to the sun, the stronger the flavor they develop.

The next step, and this one is optional, is to rinse off the seed hulls. This can be done in a salad spinner lined with a paper towel, or in a large bowl of water where the seed hulls will either float to the top where they can be skimmed off or fall to the bottom.

Whether you choose to rinse the seed hulls off or not, pat the excess moisture off the sprouts and store in the refrigerator. They will keep for 3 to 5 days.

What do I do with all these sprouts?!?
Spouts have many uses in cooking. As mentioned above, they are excellent on sandwiches, in salads, or thrown into a hot bowl of soup. They can also be cooked into many casseroles, used on tacos or in other Mexican dishes, or added at the last minute to stir fry. Or, my personal favorite, pinching a handful out of the fridge for a nutrient dense and satisfying snack. The biggest thing is experiment and enjoy!

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