Many of us enjoy eating sprouts. I’ve been keen on them ever since I first tried them in the 1980s. They were all the rage and I’m fairly certain that nearly everyone back then ate them at one point or another. Eating an avocado sandwich with alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread (or in a pita) was a kind of revelation for many of us. Who knew vegetarian food could taste so good!?! Luckily sprouts are still with us, and we now have many additional options aside from alfalfa.
What Should You Sprout?
There are sprouted grains (or cereals), sprouted legumes, and last but not least, small sprouted seeds. While each of these has their own unique nutritional attributes, many of them are quite similar in taste—especially when it comes to sprouted seeds. In my opinion, they come in three distinct flavors: spicy, bitter, and mellow.
For this post I sprouted radish, amaranth, kohlrabi, broccoli and sandwich mix sprouts. (All of them are pictured above.) Radish sprouts are the largest and by far the spiciest. The pretty red-stemmed sprouts are amaranth. These are very mellow and plain. The kohlrabi sprouts are purple stemmed and bitter. The mix to the left of the radish sprouts is the sandwich mix and it was very mellow with a slight kick from the radishes in the mix. (This mix consists of alfalfa, red clover, and Daikon radish.) The sprouts on the right are broccoli sprouts. These are by far the most nutritious and have a slightly bitter to mellow taste.
Why are broccoli sprouts so good for you? Well, they contain high levels of glucorahanin. After we eat these sprouts the glucorahanin goes through a series of chemical transformations inside our bodies where it eventually becomes sulforaphane. This substance has shown antimicrobial and anticancer properties in many studies, and it’s for this reason that organic broccoli sprouting seeds are currently quite popular.
Other Easy Sprout Options
Allium: green onion, leek, onion
Cereals: barley, kamut, maize, oat, rice, rye, wheat (This group includes amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa even though they are not technically cereals.)
Oilseeds: almond, flax, hazelnut, linseed, sesame, sunflower, peanut
Umbelliferous: (most often used as microgreens) carrot, celery, fennel, parsley
What Should You NOT Sprout?
Alfalfa sprouts are widely available today but it’s the one seed many health experts no longer recommend for sprout consumption. That’s because alfalfa sprouts contain canavanine which is an amino acid that can suppress proper immune function and cause inflammation. In Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon mentions this and it’s an important point.
Do not eat sprouts from the Solanaceae family: tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant—and rhubarb too! At certain points in their growth these plants are poisonous so eating them is simply too risky.
What’s the Difference Between Sprouts and Microgreens?
There are a few ways to tell the difference. First off, sprouts have small root systems when they’re harvested and microgreens have more root development. Secondly, sprouts are harvested in 3-20 days and microgreens are usually harvested in about 30 days.
Sprouts don’t need soil to grow and can flourish in closed surroundings. They’re harvested before their secondary leaves appear and are eaten whole—roots and all.
Microgreens are adolescent versions of adult greens. They’re grown in soil and are harvested just as adult leaves begin to show.
Growing mediums can vary with microgreens. Garden soil works but so too will organic sponges and fabrics. Popular microgreens include: cauliflower, peas, cabbage, arugula, radishes, beets, clover, mustard and alfalfa.
How Do I Sprout My Sprouts?
This is where things get much less complicated. You simply pick the DIY method that’s best for you, your budget, your lifestyle, and the seeds you want to sprout and you’re done! Just remember that the most important thing when you sprout is to keep everything clean, sanitary, and to rinse, rinse, rinse!
- Mason jar with sprouting screen. (This is easy and economical. Works well with small seeds.)
- Tray sprouter. (Slightly more expensive but you can sprout more sprouts at the same time in a contained environment.)
- Sprouting bag or nut-milk bag. (Absolutely the best method for larger sprouts. Easy to use too.)
- Fine mesh strainer or colander. (This is good for larger sprouts as well but I prefer the sprouting bags. They control humidity better.)
- Foam sprouting mat or grow pads. (Great option for tiny seeds. These often get caught in other systems. These can be used for microgreens too.)
- Automatic sprouter. (This is the most expensive option but you can leave it and forget it. These systems will spray the sprouts for you!)
What Do I Do With My Sprouts?
1. Add them to sandwiches.
2. Mix them into your Asian-inspired salad rolls or stuff them into a paleo wrap.
3. Fold them into omelets.
4. Add them at the end to your stir fry.
5. Fold them into quesadillas or burritos.
6. Top your soups with a sprout mix.
This is just the beginning though! Let us all know how you like to use them!
Tips for Sprouting your Own Seeds
- Always buy certified organic sprouting seeds.
- Be sure to keep your sprouting sanitary. Soak seeds with a 2% bleach solution to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. Since you heavily rinse the seeds afterwards, the bleach is always washed away afterwards.
- Rinse, rinse, rinse and then rinse again! Keep the sprouts clean and fresh is very important. My system requires rinses twice a day but I chose to rinse three times.
- Whichever system you choose, be sure to follow its directions.
Sprouted Small Seeds
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- Seeds (chia, onion, cress, radish, fenugreek or poppy)
- sprouting jar with a screen insert (or one of the other sprouting method options)
- Rinse several times per day. Sprouts are ready in 3-4 days when they are 1-inch to 2-inches long.