As winter takes hold, we crave things that are good for us. Our senses direct us to choose healthier foods, and salads take on a whole new relevance. The availability of fresh and local becomes more challenging, but not impossible! Sprouts are an economical, easy to grow and nutritious option.
Sprouts are germinated seeds in their infancy. They are consumed before they develop any leaves. For this reason, they don’t require any special light or temperature to grow at this early stage. Once sprouted, and ready to eat – usually in only 4 days – they can be refrigerated for a few days and stay very fresh.
Consider sprouts as a new ingredient in your greens or fresh food arsenal. Yes, they can be eaten by themselves, but even better, they add texture and flavour to a variety of dishes. On their own they do have an earthy flavour profile. It is important to taste and appreciate different types of sprouts. This tasting will help define the quantity and type you want to add to other dishes. Use your imagination, as the possibilities are unlimited. Small seed varieties (Alfalfa, Broccoli, Kale, Clover) sprouted, are very fine and are delicious used in wraps, sandwiches and smoothies, dolloped into cream soups, stirred into egg dishes, or in salads. Larger seed selections (Peas, Beans, Lentils) offer more texture and crunch, and are especially great dressed in a salad. Sprouted Peas have a delicious, fresh pea taste and crunch. You don’t want to ‘cook’ your sprouts, as they will lose a great deal of their nutritional value.
After trying many sprouters, a favourite one is the ‘Easy Sprout’. It’s patented design makes sprouting truly easy and fun. With an inner seed chamber, the unit allows for air circulation for the seeds while sprouting, and produces perfect sprouts every time. The size is also very convenient to produce a good amount per batch, and it doesn’t take up much room. Many of us have tried the mason jar method and if you are comfortable with a very exacting routine, it works just fine. The convenience of Easy Sprout allows you to process two batches at once, which helps to maintain a constant supply.
When choosing your sprouting seed, begin with fresh, healthy, organic seed. Consider that you are going to eat this seed and you want to know its pedigree! One company, Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, is a Canadian company offering a great selection of single seed varieties and seed mixes. They also only sell certified organic seed. This means non-GMO seed. A popular selection of Mumm’s Seed is offered at our booth at Western Fair Farmer’s Market.
Sprouts are a super-food. While Broccoli sprouts or the brassica family are considered to be the most powerful, nutritionally speaking, Alfalfa sprouts have a high antioxidant capacity. Each family of seed offers specific health benefits that may be helpful for you or your family. However, it’s important to remember that they are all very good for us and each also offers different flavour experiences. Enjoy the variety of seeds or seed mixes offered to keep your interest “fresh.” For more information on the health benefits visit www.sprouting.com, Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds site.
Although the use of sprouts as a food source for man is as old as man’s use of seeds, it is only in recent times that science has begun to unravel the chemistry of a sprouting seed, and its potential significance in both human and animal nutrition. Although a dry seed is characterized by a remarkably low metabolic rate, just moistening of the seed triggers tremendous and complex changes.
Anyone who enjoys gardening will enjoy ‘growing’ sprouts. Any cook will also appreciate the freshness of growing your own and the variety of flavours. Children also really like the idea that they can help produce food — good food, for the family. It has been a popular project choice that starts families on a path to better eating.
Grow your own food on your counter this winter. Enjoy your sprouts and your experience.
Rick Weingarden and Allan Watts own Anything Grows SEED Co. (www.anythinggrows.com). They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, and at various gardening events around the region.