This topic seems fitting during a time when there is less certainty about the availability of fresh produce. Sprouts are the nutritional equivalent of fresh vegetables.
Sprouting seeds are supposed to have a two-year shelf life, but in ideal conditions you should be able to get older seeds to sprout successfully.
Sprouts are economical, easy to grow and tremendously healthy. They are low in calories, and high in protein, fiber, vitamin C, iron, manganese, potassium, B vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals. All the nutrients of the mature plant are contained in the sprout, so the concentration of nutrients is very high. Those nutrients can contribute to a strong immune system.
Sprouts contain an estimated 100 times more enzymes than fresh fruits and vegetables. These enzymes allow your body to extract and absorb higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from foods you eat with the sprouts. When the seed starts to sprout, minerals such as calcium and magnesium bind to proteins in the seed, which makes both the minerals and the protein more readily available and efficiently absorbed.
Many seed catalogs and online sites carry sprouting seeds. Be sure to purchase seeds that are specifically labeled as sprouting seeds.
While alfalfa and bean sprouts are the most familiar, there are many options. Each type has its own unique flavor and texture. Some have a bit more zing; some are more crunchy. The only way to know what you like is to try a variety. You might develop your own special blend.
You can buy a commercial sprouting tray, or you can use a glass jar. With the jar method, you will need cheesecloth and a rubber band, or a straining lid that will fit your jar. Places that sell mason jars also sell straining lids.
The seeds will expand, so use only one or two tablespoons of seeds for a quart jar. Don’t make more sprouts than you will use in a day or two. They don’t store well.
Cover the seeds with water, swish them around and strain them. Cover them again with water and soak. Strain and place in the jar. Stretch the cheesecloth over the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band or jar ring. Place the jar out of direct sunlight, upside-down, but at an angle to allow drainage and air-circulation through the mesh.
Rinse and drain the seeds three or four times a day. Do not let them dry out. It will take from three to seven days for your sprouts to be ready. Use them from the time when they are still small until they just barely begin to turn green. Give them a final rinse, drain and store covered in the refrigerator. Use within a few days and rinse them each day.
Specific soaking and rinsing instructions are printed on the package.
The best way to use sprouts is to sprinkle them on a fresh green salad. But that isn’t the only way. Season them and eat them as a snack. Add them to a sandwich. Serve on crackers or stir into a spread. If you juice vegetables, a handful of sprouts can add an even greater nutritional punch to your juice.
Sprouts can be cooked, but keep in mind that cooking destroys the very beneficial enzymes. They can be stir-fried or mixed into soups or noodle or rice dishes. They go especially well with Asian foods.
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