In search of a nutrient-rich alternative to expensive, ethically raised meat, author Eden Canon researches sprouts and all of their wonderful culinary applications.
To answer questions on safe sprouting practices, recipe suggestions and more, we turned to Sproutpeople co-owner, Gil, who has 20 years of experience in the sprouting business.
After doing extensive research about how animal products, including milk and eggs, come to our table, I decided to get serious about what I was eating and really overhaul my diet. Prior to this, I would make better choices about food if it was convenient, but once I really understood the implications of factory farmed animal products (for my health, for animal welfare, and for the planet) I decided to only eat them from trusted sources that produced them in humane and sustainable ways.
One of the first things I was challenged with was how steep my grocery bill became. Ethically produced meat and animal products are expensive, and I decided to have quality over quantity and cut back my consumption. In order to even out my grocery budget and cut down on my meat intake, I searched for alternative, nutrient-rich foods and found a wonderful addition to just about all of my foods: sprouts.
If you were like me and thought that seeds, nuts and beans were a good source of protein—think again. Unless you sprout them, they are full of antinutrients that can bind important vitamins and minerals so that your body can’t absorb them. The act of sprouting seeds, beans, grains and nuts not only unlocks nutrients that were unavailable to you in their dormant state but it also removes or neutralizes these antinutrients.
Now, if you’ve ever compared the prices of foods such as sprouted grain breads or sprouted flour, you may be skeptical when I endorse sprouts as an economically viable food. They are pretty costly. But like many things, they become really inexpensive when you sprout them yourself. When you consider the nutrient content vs the cost, sprouts you make at home are one of the most cost effective foods.
Growing sprouts is exceptionally easy, requiring very little labor or space, making it a great DIY crop for urbanites. Sprouting grains, nuts, seeds and the like is even simpler—all you have to do is buy a sprouter and keep your ingredients moist and clean for a few days until little sprout tails break through the outer shell. Furthermore, dried seeds and beans have an extensive shelf life and their compact size makes them an excellent staple to have in your pantry against emergencies.
Most people think of sprouts as something you add to a salad or a sandwich but there are hundreds of recipes that use sprouts in breakfast foods, desserts, breads, soups, dips, blended drinks, and a variety of other dishes.
Meet Gil and Lori—the Sproutpeople
In 1993, Gil and Lori started Sproutpeople, in Madison, Wisconsin. After 20 years in the business, the couple’s online store now sells over 100 varieties of sprouting seeds and special mixes, sourced from organic seed farmers, along with kits to help you sprout at home. Their comprehensive website offers pages of advice, video tutorials, and many of their favorite recipes.
To answer a few questions I had about safe sprouting practices as well as suggestions for less familiar seed varieties and recipes, I turned to Gil and his wealth of knowledge on the subject.
Why should people consider sprouting?
Sprouting is easy and produces a very nutritious crop in a matter of days. It also teaches people about seeds, and in some cases, plants. We have found that growing one’s own food can be a particularly liberating experience.
In the past, outbreaks of E. Coli and Salmonella linked to sprouts has driven the FDA, as well as many consumers, to consider raw sprouts to be a food worth approaching with caution. What seeds are the safest seeds to sprout and are there any ways to reduce the possibility of bacterial growth?
Living food, such as sprouts, are nutritionally exceptional in part because they contain beneficial bacteria which all human beings need. The conditions in which sprouts grow and produce their beneficial bacteria can result in the growth of pathogenic bacteria as well, if contaminated seed is used. For that reason, it is essential that the seeds used to grow sprouts be purchased from trusted sources whose seed has been tested and found free of pathogenic bacteria.
The FDA recommends that all commercially grown sprouts be sanitized with 20,000 ppm chlorine and that alone, in our opinion, makes them unacceptable as food since the beneficial bacteria are being killed off and bleach is a carcinogen which we do not wish to consume.
We think that it is always safer, as well as tastier and more nutritious, to grow your own sprouts (or any other food for that matter). We suggest that you procure seeds from a trusted source and keep your sprouter clean. Beyond that all you need to do is use common sense in the kitchen.
Raw and living foods are the best things a person can eat. The beneficial bacteria they provide is essential for our survival and the health of our immune system. In addition they help our digestive system protect us against pathogens.
Though we are not so inclined, some people may wish to take the added precaution of adding 1/4 cup of white vinegar per quart of water or a few drops of grapefruit seed extract to their seeds’ soak water. These two sanitizers will clean the seed’s outer coat.
Do stay away from garden seeds which are ‘treated’ (usually with a fungicide) and from seeds which are inedible (tomato and peppers for example).
All this stuff about sprouts being dangerous is just sad. Sprouts are truly a marvel. We need raw and living foods. Sterile food just makes us weaker and renders our system less able to fight off disease the more we consume them.
When people think of sprouting, the usual suspects come to mind, such as alfalfa and sunflowers. What are some lesser known seeds that make delicious sprouts?
That happens to be our specialty. There’s arugula – which has all the flavor of full grown arugula as a micro-green or sprout (though it cannot be sprouted alone as it forms a gel sack when it’s soaked), cress, garlic chives, onion, and oriental mustard.
Of course there’s broccoli – with its great antioxidant properties, and cabbage like flavor. Other should-be staples are buckwheat groats (hulled buckwheat) which is an extremely fast sprout and which makes a great breakfast food. Hulled sunflowers, peanuts, and almonds are great alone, together, or added to those breakfasty buckwheat groats.
What is your favorite sprout recipe at the moment?
Today, I’d go with Spicy San Francisco Sprout Snack
Depending on your taste this amount will cover 1 – 5 pounds of sprouts.
1 Tbs. each:
1 tsp. each:
For each pound of sprouts add:
1 tsp. olive oil
Mix all ingredients together. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Mix, serve and eat.
You can mix the spices up and store for later use. If you use fresh spices/herbs store the mix in the refrigerator.
Any last words to share with our readers about sprouting?
All that really matters when it comes right down to it is this: You should grow your own sprouts. Buy seed from a source you trust (hopefully us – it’s very difficult to keep such a niche little business going in these trying times) and spend 30 – 60 seconds rinsing and draining them twice a day. You’ll produce life, amazing nutrition, awesome flavors, and there is no better way to take in nutrition than to masticate (chew) your food. Happy Sprouting!
Recipe courtesy of Sproutpeople.org