Harvesting my very own sprouts has been an extremely rewarding experience with near instant gratification. There isn’t much down time where I sat around hemming and hawing over how much I wish my beans would sprout before they actually did (they only gave me one night of wishful longing before I got results!) The tiny little pods reared their thin little legs after only the first 24 hours!
You may be inclined to wonder… why sprout? I’m glad you’re curious. There are many supposed health benefits to sprouting- in fact, they are packed with even more nutrients than their un-sprouted counterparts and have been used by ancient civilizations throughout time. Commercial sprouters, Sprout People, have a very informative site in which the pros of the sprouting world are explored. They note that:
“Research shows that sprouts are a veritable fountain of youth. Sprouts abound with antioxidants, they are full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Broccoli sprouts have been found to contain 50 times as much of the antioxidant sulfurophane as mature broccoli. Wheat Grass juice is the closest substance to hemoglobin, and is therefore a phenomenal blood purifier and liver de-toxifier. Sprouts contain enzymes, giving your body a much needed rest as they digest themselves – invigorating you while requiring no help from your body to process them. New research indicates that peanut sprouts reduce harmful cholesterol and that sunflower, buckwheat and grain sprouts dramatically improve the quality of life for diabetics. The list goes on and on.”
But do an internet search on sprouting and (just as almost every other thing on the internet) you will find sources saying that there are trace amounts of toxins present in some legumes and seeds. Luckily, Warren Peary and William Peavey, Ph.D. ‘s Natural Toxins In Sprouted Seeds: Separating Myth From Reality works to debunk some of the myths which are scary when you read short blurbs on the internet or search through confusing blogger comments. It is admittedly an old study but sadly there hasn’t been much research conducted on these little guys:
“Just remember that most substances can show some kind of toxic effect at a high enough dose. Vitamin A, selenium, copper, zinc, and iron will all kill you at a high enough dose. So don’t stop eating alfalfa sprouts any more than you would any other food because of some minute toxin that may be present. They are a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, and other protective compounds.”
But why eat the sprouts over the cooked bean you ask? What’s the point and why put all this energy into growing something when you can just eat it and get that sweet sweet satisfaction of a tasty bean in your belly? Well, the good doctors go on to say that:
“Around the world, studies have been and are being conducted on the use of germinated seeds as a low-cost, highly nutritive source of human food. It is well-established that when legumes are properly soaked and germinated, their nutritive value increases greatly, usually to levels equal to or exceeding those of the cooked bean. (Nutritive value is the ability of food to provide a usable form of nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals). This has been shown for mung bean, lentil, chickpea (garbanzo bean), cowpea (blackeye pea), pigeon pea, fava bean, fenugreek seeds (a member of the pea family), green & black gram, kidney bean, moth bean, rice bean, soybean, and legumes in general.
The increase in nutritive value in the raw sprouted seed is due to an explosion of enzyme activity, which breaks down the storage-protein and starch in the seed into amino acids, peptides, and simpler carbohydrates needed for the seed to grow. The seed is literally digesting its own protein and starch and creating amino acids in the process. Because of this process, sprouted seeds are essentially a predigested food. At the same time, the anti-nutritional factors such as enzyme inhibitors and other anti-nutrients are greatly decreased to insignificant levels or to nothing.”
Wow! What a story- food that digests itself- what will nature think of next? See below for a picture journal of my tiny sproutlings. I had to harvest a little early (on day 4) because they were poking out of the top of my sprouter! They just couldn’t wait to get in my belly! Keep in mind that there is no fancy sprouter necessary in this process. A couple of mason jars with cheese-cloth rubber banned around the top would work just fine!
Day 1: Below
Day 1: I chose to use Alfalfa seeds and Soy Beans as my first trial run for sprouting, but as you read earlier you can sprout just about anything. I soaked each of these beans separately in glass jars overnight before I put them in this little multi-layered sprouter. The soaking is an essential step- it activates enzymes and kick-starts germination. I read that you should keep them out of the sun so I put them on my counter without any light from the window. Look how full of hope they are!
Day 2: Below
Day 2: Just 24 hours after being taken out of soaking, the little guys have already sprouted! Now the only upkeep is to add enough water to cover them and then drain. I will do this once a day for the entire growth period. Take a closer look at the different levels at Day 2-
Day 3: Below
Day 3: The growth is amazing! Did I really just start this process a couple of days ago? Take a closer look at the different levels on Day 3-
Day 4: Below
Day 4: The alfalfa is literally pushing the top-level off of itself! It wants out now! This is where I decided that I was going to cut the harvest time by a day. The sprouts are curling onto themselves and who am I to tell them that they can’t be free to join the rest of the plants in my salad? I plan to make sprouted soy milk with the soy beans for the extra nutritive enzymes. My reading tells me that the taste will remain unaltered but my glass will pack an extra vitamin punch. On the this final day of growing I put them in the sun for an hour to absorb chlorophyll which accounts for the green color and further develop their nutrients. The Survival Spot makes the very good point of that sprouts make a good survival food since they need such minimal sunlight and space to grow. Take one last look at these beauties below:
Don’t just take my word for it- see the Sprout Nutritional Guide and make up your own mind! I’m no doctor but if you’re unsure about sprouts and their effects- have a chat with yours. Happy Sprouting!