From wispy strands of alfalfa to the substantial crunch of sunflower, sprouts pack a hefty nutritional punch.
Amazingly, half of a cup of most sprouts contains more vitamin C than five glasses of orange juice! Their incredible vitamin C supply is a major reason for the introduction of sprouts into the Western diet: In the late 1700s, Captain James Cook put his sailors on an anti-scurvy regimen that included lemons, limes, and freshly-grown sprouts. Since they're so easy to cultivate, Cook's crew produced sprouts continuously throughout their voyages, thus sparing the lives of many men who might otherwise have been stricken with scurvy.
Big Nutrition in Little Sprouts
Perhaps more relevant to today's health-conscious cook is the news sprouts are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and menopausal symptoms.
- Alfalfa, clover, soybean, and flax seed sprouts have been shown to be most effective in this capacity.
- Sprouts are a good source of protein (particularly soybean and wheat sprouts) and B-complex vitamins. They are also very easy to digest.
To grow your own sprouts, all you need is a mason-type jar, a piece of cheesecloth or other breathable fabric, and the seeds, beans, grains, or nuts you wish to sprout. If you don't have a mason jar, any other jar will do; just make sure it's clean first. Also, without a mason jar lid, you'll need a rubber band to hold the cheesecloth tight over the jar. Seeds used for sprouting can be found at either a grocery or health food store, or through one of the many sprouting seed retailers online.
Ready, Set, Grow
Pour a thin layer your choice of sprout-able into the jar, and cover with several inches of warm water. Cover the mouth of the jar with the cheesecloth and screw the ring from the lid over the fabric. If you're using something other than a mason jar, use the rubber band to seal the cloth over the opening of the jar. Let the seeds soak overnight (or up to 24 hours for large beans, garbanzos, and nuts).
In the morning, turn the jar over the sink, letting all of the water drain off. Then fill the jar with fresh water and immediately re-strain, giving the jar a good shake to get as much water out as possible. Repeat the adding water/straining process each morning and evening for the next 4-6 days, or until the sprouts have reached the stage at which you'd like to eat them (generally 1/2 to 3 inches). Then rinse them one last time, shake out as much water as possible, and enjoy!
- Care Tip: If you start batches of sprouts in three-day intervals, you'll have a continuous supply of fresh, crunchy sprouts on hand.
- Storage: Store the sprouts in their jar in the refrigerator, and bear in mind that sprouts are quite perishable and need to be eaten within a week. (Which shouldn't be too hard.)
- Note: Eating sprouts--possibly even home-grown ones--has been associated with outbreaks of Salmonella and E. coli. We recommend that children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems do not eat sprouts.
Recipes for Your Sprouts
More Sprout Tips
They're delicious eaten plain, but sprouted large beans and nuts (garbanzos and almonds are great) can be pureed and used as a base for sandwich spreads and dips. Try mixing a sprout puree with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, or classic hummus.