A Live Adventure!
by Paulette Millis
History and Folklore
Did you know sprouts were first used as a medicine? In East Asia and Europe specific illnesses were treated with sprouts. Dr. David McBride, the first European to publish an opinion on the medical properties of sprouted seeds, was influenced by the frantic search for a cure for the dreaded sea-scurvy. As we now know, lack of vitamin C causes scurvy: initially, swollen bleeding gums, tendency to bruise, sore joints; eventually, tooth loss, internal hemorrhages, extreme joint pain, and death. Over half of the early sea-going crews died of scurvy. A miraculous achievement by Captain James Cook was to keep ALL of his crew alive for three years! He used "wort"-a malt made from barley or mixed grains that had been sprouted, dried, and heated to inactivate the enzymes and then ground and stored. On ship, one measure of malt and three measures of boiling water were mixed, let stand for three hours, covered, and strained. The steeping rather than boiling preserved the vitamins B and C. As an alternative Captain Cook also carried lemon juice that had been boiled to two-thirds volume for easier storage. Of course, this destroyed the vitamin C and it would have contained no B vitamins at all.
A 1774 writing tells of attempts to grow sprouts at sea-growing watercress in the hold of a ship by scattering the seeds over wet cotton or on blankets soaked in rain water. By 1796 most attempts were abandoned in favour of juice from lemons, then called limes, hence "limeys" as we know them!
Navajo and Zuni Indians sprouted corn for an alcoholic beverage, and the Spaniards sprouted wheat for pudding and flat wheat corn bread.
In 1917 a British army doctor, Major H. J. Wiltshire, experimented with two groups of scurvy patients. One group consumed four ounces of fresh lemon juice and the other four ounces of germinated haricot beans that had been boiled for 10 minutes. After four weeks 53.4% of the lemon juice group and 70.4% of the sprout group recovered. Obviously sprouts pack a wallop!
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
These little gems of nutrition are available year round and are inexpensive. Seeds contain amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and become more nutritious when germinated. Total protein content rises during sprouting and stored proteins are broken down into their component amino acids, thus increasing the availability of protein.
Sprouted seeds are also more easily digested than plain seeds, therefore we absorb more protein from them. Because they are partly digested they are also less gas-forming. Digestibility doubles with sprouting.
Heating improves the value of legume seeds, as trypsin, present in all raw beans and peas, inhibits utilization of protein, and cooking for a few minutes destroys 95% of trypsin. The cooked germinated legumes rate higher in protein content than raw seeds, raw sprouts, or cooked seeds. Heating improves availability of the amino acid methionine, lacking in legumes, and important in the breakdown of fats and in digestion. It also acts as a powerful anti-oxidant. It is not as important to cook grain sprouts before eating as they do not contain the trypsin inhibitor.
Sprouts are a real benefit for dieters because as the seed sprouts and loses dry weight it loses caloric content, therefore exchanging high calorie fats and carbs for vitamins and protein. Elaborate chemical changes take place during germination: as mentioned, storage protein is broken down into its component amino acids, many vitamins, especially the water soluble B-complex and C are synthesized, and fats and carbs are turned into simple sugars, reducing calories.
The more active the growth of plant tissues, the higher the concentration of B and C vitamins, so essential in the formation of certain enzymes, and therefore vital in cell metabolism. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, para-aminobenzoic acid, B6, choline, inositol, biotin, orotic acid, and B12 increase markedly upon germination. Tocopherol (vitamin E) content increases during germination, as does carotene and vitamin K. For example, when sprouting wheat, the amount of vitamin E triples.
Consider the difference in vitamin content in fresh grown organic sprouts that are continuing production of vitamins until eaten as opposed to a supermarket vegetable. These may have been picked one day, packed the next, shipped long distances, wrapped in the store, sat in the veggie department until purchased, and waited further to be cooked and eaten at home. Valuable vitamins, especially the unstable vitamin C is continually being broken down throughout this process.
Chlorophyll is abundant in sprouts, providing the body with oxygen and increasing the normal blood flow.
Sprouts contain live enzymes-cooked food is lacking in enzymes, one contributing factor to people suffering from many illnesses and other degenerative diseases.
Dry beans (legumes) and sprouted dry beans (legumes) may cause some difficulty initially for those unused to regular consumption. To add these to your diet, start with small amounts periodically and increase use gradually. Digestive issues CAN be dealt with through lifestyle changes, diet changes, and/or natural supplements, with the help of a qualified practitioner. According to Gabriel Cousins (Conscious Eating, p.70, 372, 490) one needs to minimize sprouted legumes due to the production of flatulence (gas) and the difficulty of digesting, although if you can handle them, the protein quality is very good. Ann Wigmore (Rebuild Your Health, p.73) states that flatulence gas is toxic and is harmful to your entire system. Ayurveda medicine suggests eating turmeric or ginger with legume sprouts to serve as a digestive aid. Mung and adzuki beans are considered the easiest legumes to digest.
Alfalfa sprouts have been suggested to be harmful to some people with health issues, therefore it would be wise to check the following references and decide for yourself on their usefulness. (Conscious Eating, p.372; Nutritional and Toxicological Aspects of Food Safety, p. 253-268).
Growing Your Own Sprouts
Begin by buying untreated and preferably organic seeds, as commercial seeds sold for planting are often coated with toxic chemicals to prevent molding. See the list below for the more common kinds of seeds that can be sprouted. Do not sprout tomato or potato as the sprouts are poisonous. Store seeds in sealed glass containers, away from extreme heat or cold.
Steps to Sprouting:
Wash and pick out any dirty or damaged seeds. Measure the amount to be used. Rinse seeds in a strainer with pure water.
Place in a wide mouth jar, cover top with cheese cloth and a rubber band or ring lid (or use sprouting lids or kits).
Soak in room-temperature water for 8-12 hours so seeds may take up water into their tissues-the first step in germination and wherein enzymes in the seeds are activated. Use this water in cooking as it contains some dissolved minerals, free amino acids, and sugars.
Drain and place jar at a 45 degree angle in a dark, ventilated place e.g. cupboard, or cover loosely. Do keep out of direct sunlight. The best temperature is 25-35°C (77-95°F). Lower temperatures slow rate of growth.
Gently rinse sprouts with warm water twice a day and rinse legume sprouts every 3-4 hours to prevent their spoiling. Ensure sprouts are sufficiently and continuously drained to prevent rotting.
Leafy sprouts like alfalfa require sunlight to allow chlorophyl to develop, so expose the drained jar to indirect sunlight for several hours after leaves appear, usually after 3 to 4 days.
Generally sprouts are ready when they are the length of the seed but see the chart below for specifics. Ideally, sprouts, a wonderful live food, are best eaten as they become ready to consume. If it is necessary to store sprouts, refrigerate them to prevent the growth of mold, an allergy for many people.
Rinse before using.
If desired, purchase commercial sprouters, sprouting bags, or trays. I find the jar method works very well.
The rinsing of sprouts is important, as you do not want to consume any that have become even slightly moldy. Another way to avoid mold is to rinse the sprout with a solution of .3% hydrogen peroxide, that is about one ounce of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide mixed in one gallon of water.
Raw legume sprouts are best steamed or cooked three minutes or more because of the trypsin factor. "Panning" or stir frying (1 tbsp of olive and a bit of water) is a favourite cooking method, and is recommended to preserve maximum nutrients. Sprouts will still be crisp. Add to any salad, including jellied.
Sandwiches, salads, pitas, stir fries, whole or ground in breads, cereals, soups, casseroles, meat loaves, veggie burgers, shakes, pancakes (add on top of batter in pan), and added to nut milks are ways to get more sprouts into the diet.
For a different taste, try dehydrating sprouts for a few hours in a low-temp dehydrator, or on non-bleached paper towels. Add a bit of Celtic sea salt for a taste treat. Dehydrated sprouts keep longer in the fridge.
If you are new to sprouting, start with sunflower, almonds, mung beans, lentils, and wheat.
Following is a list of some grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes and their approximate time of sprouting. Experiment with what works best for you.
Buckwheat: soak 15-20 minutes only, as they spoil easily; sprout for 1 to 1-1/2 days. Use hulled "raw" buckwheat grouts.
Millet: soak 8-14 hours, sprout for 1 to 1-1/2 days. Hulled millet-most seeds will sprout, but some ferment, producing a very sharp taste.
Oats: soak 8-14 hours, sprout for 1-1/2 days. Must use unhulled oats as "whole oats" or oat groats won't sprout. They have a mild flavour similar to milk (see recipe below).
Quinoa: soak 2-4 hours, sprout for 12 hours. Very fast sprouter. Must rinse seeds multiple times to get off soapy-tasting saponin in seed coat. Strong flavour.
Rice: soak 12-18 hours and sprout for 1 or more days. Only brown unprocessed rice will sprout: short, medium grain brown rice, and brown basmati. Rice sprouts are quite bitter.
Wheat, Kamut, and Spelt: soak 8-14 hours and sprout for 1 to 1-1/2 days. Hard winter wheat is better than soft spring wheat. Wheat can get very sweet after more than two days of sprouting.
Rye: soak 8-14 hours, and sprout for 1 to 1-1/2 days. It is a nice sprout with good flavour. Discard sprouts if it becomes moldy (ergot mold possible.)
Almonds: soak 10-14 hours and sprout for 1 day. Use only unblanched almonds. Sprout and storage time should not exceed 2 days or sprouts may turn rancid. Best to peel sprouts before eating. These peeled sprouts have incredible flavour. To save time, blanch under hot tap water for 15-30 seconds and then peel.
Cabbage and Kale: soak 6-14 hours and sprout for 1 day or more. Very strong flavour, best used as flavouring in mixtures.
Radish: soak 8-14 hours, and sprout for 1 day or more. Very hot flavour. Use in mixtures.
Sesame: soak 8-14 hours, and sprout for 1 to 1-1/2 days. Must use unhulled sesame seeds for sprouting. Try a small bowl of sesame sprouts with a bit of raw honey on them.
Sunflower: soak 8-14 hours and sprout for 18 hours. Use hulled sunflower. Skim off the seed skins at the end of the soak period, when rinsing. If you leave them in, they will spoil and your sprouts will spoil quickly. Tasty sprout.
Alfalfa and Clover: for greens, soak 4-6 hours and sprout 6 to 8 days. For using when short, soak 4-14 hours and sprout 1 to 1-1/2 days. Most commonly grown as greens.
Garbanzos: soak 12-18 hours and sprout for 1-1/2 days.
Lentils, brown, green, and red: soak 8-14 hours and sprout 1 day. The brown and green lentils come in a variety of sizes, and the smallest sizes generally sprout faster than the larger. Red lentils are usually sold in split "dahl" form. For sprouting you MUST buy whole red lentils; red inside and brown outside. Lentil sprouts have a spicy flavour.
Mung beans: soak 8-14 hours and sprout 1 day.
Adzuki beans: soak 8-14 hours and sprout 1 day.
Field Peas: soak 12-14 hours and sprout for 1-1/2 days. Be sure to buy whole peas, not split peas as these won't sprout. Yellow peas are slower to sprout and have a stronger flavour than green peas.
Large beans such as black, fava, kidney, lima, navy, pinto: the raw flavour is not good, plus there is a danger of toxicity and allergy reactions. They are very difficult to digest as well, and must be cooked, therefore not of interest if raw food is desired. (Reference: www.living-foods.com)
Soaking Instead of Sprouting
Soaking seeds and nuts improves their digestability, and they are very tasty. I always keep a jar of soaked pumpkin and sunflower seeds in my fridge for salads and just for snacking. The taste is delicious. Soaked almonds or other nuts make great milks and are wonderful added to smoothies. Be sure to rinse before using and use up quickly. Try walnuts, pecans, and filberts soaked overnight in the fridge and added to cereal in the morning.
1 cup sprouted lentils
1 cup garbanzo beans or chick peas, cooked
1 cup radish sprouts
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt (optional)
Chop the sprouts into a bowl and mix with the remainder of the ingredients. Serves 2-3.
(From Eating Without Heating)
Stir Fried Sprouts
Lentil sprouts or other legume sprouts of choice
Olive oil or coconut oil
Herb flavourings of choice, e.g. Celtic sea salt, cayenne, basil, oregano, parsley
Stir fry the sprouts in the olive oil on low to medium heat for about 3 minutes, sprinkling with herbs and combining. Serve.
Roti Flat Bread
1 cup buckwheat sprouted and pulse chopped
2 medium carrots
1 medium zucchini
1-1/2 cups golden flax seed ground in a coffee grinder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp Celtic salt
Blend thoroughly in a food processor and spread dough in Roti circles the best you can to approximately 1/4 inch thickness on dehydrator Teflex sheets. Dehydrate for 2-3 hours at 115¡F or until Rotis are solid enough to turn over. Remove the Teflex sheets. Continue to dehydrate at 105¡F for another 1-2 hours or until Rotis are soft and pliable. Make sure Rotis do not get too dry or they will not wrap up. If they do get too dry you can take a spray bottle of water and wet Rotis slightly and place back in dehydrator, monitoring closely. Remove from mesh screen and wrap with your favourite fillings.
1-1/2 cups alfalfa sprouts
1 mint sprig (optional)
Juice pineapple. Blend juice with other ingredients at high speed and serve chilled.
Blend the following ingredients in
1 cup pure water
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup dates or raisins
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup dehydrated mushrooms
1 cup chopped celery
Celtic sea salt or Bragg's Vegetable Seasoning to taste
1-2 tbsp spaghetti seasoning
1-2 tbsp juice of lime or lemon
hot peppers to taste
2-5 cloves garlic
1 bunch basil
Add 1 pound of bean, pea, or lentil sprouts. Don't blend! Sprinkle with dry parsley flakes before serving. To maintain the nutrition of raw, do not blend until it becomes hot. Serves 5-7.
(From Eating Without Heating)
Rice and Bean Sprouts
1 cup raw brown rice
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup lentil sprouts
1 green onion
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp tamari
1 tsp olive oil
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low and steam until rice is tender. Do not remove lid or stir while cooking.
(Adapted from Add a Few Sprouts)
Oat Sprout Milk
(Makes 3 cups of oat/almond milk)
1/4 cup (heaped) sprouting oats
1/8 cup sprouting brown rice
Soak 12 hours, and then sprout for
Separately, soak about 20 almonds for 12 hours, then sprout for 1 day. Should be ready about the same time as oat sprouts.
Rinse oat and rice sprouts and put in blender with 1 cup pure water. Blend on medium for 30 seconds or so, then add another cup of water and blend on high for 30-45 seconds. Strain the blended liquid through a steel mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Discard hull pulp, rinse the blender clean, and put the milk base back in the blender.
Peel the sprouted almonds (first blanch with hot water), rinse, put almonds in blender. Add 1 tbsp raw honey or agave to blender. May now add flavouring, if desired; 1/2 inch of vanilla bean, or 1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom, or 1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon. Run blender on medium speed for a few seconds to combine, then turn to low speed and run for five or more minutes to homogenize. Retain the almond pulp in the milk for full flavour and nutrition.
(Adapted from www.living-foods.com)
References: Eating Without Heating, Sergei and Valya Boutenko; Add a Few Sprouts, Martha H. Oliver; Alive Magazine #173; www.living-foods.com.
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis is a speaker, author, and nutritional consultant. To contract her for speaking engagements call (306) 244-8890 in Saskatoon, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.healingwithnutrition.ca. Her books, Eat Away Illness and Cook Your Way to Health, are available at health food stores and at McNally Robinson Booksellers.