By Kim Robson:
What would you say if I told you there is a new vegetable that will grow in any climate, rival meat in nutritional value, mature in three to five days, require neither soil nor sunshine, rival tomatoes in Vitamin C; and it can be planted any time of the year, cooked quickly with little fuel, and is free of waste in preparation? You might cast a skeptical look my way before I explain that this vegetable isn’t new at all: it’s just enjoying a re-discovery of sorts, especially in the Western hemisphere.
Sprouts have a long medicinal and nutritional history. Over 5,000 years ago, ancient Chinese physicians recognized the benefits of sprouts and prescribed them to cure many disorders. The Chinese are still famous for their delicious mung bean sprouts. Sprouts continue to be a main staple in the diets of Asian Americans. Accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible, in the Book of Daniel, although it took centuries for Westerners to fully realize their nutritional merits.
When eating a sprout, you are effectively eating the entire plant, just at a very young age. So, you are eating the root, stem, and head. This is important, as different nutrients are concentrated in different parts of the plant. There are about 4,000 baby plants in each grocery store-sized container of sprouts, and each one can have as much or more of certain micronutrients as an entire mature plant.
Sprouted foods show a marked increase in nutrients when compared to their dried embryos. In the process of sprouting, the vitamins, minerals, and protein increase substantially, with a corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrates. Sprouts retain the B-complex vitamins present in the original seed, and explode with three times the Vitamin A and five to six times the Vitamin C compared to that present in un-sprouted seeds. Also, during the sprouting process, starches are converted to simple sugars, thus making sprouts very easy to digest.
All edible grains, seeds, and legumes can be sprouted:
Grains: Wheat, maize, ragi, Bajra, and barley
Seeds: Alfalfa, radish, fenugreek, carrot, coriander, pumpkin, and muskmelon seeds
Legumes: Mung, Bengal gram, groundnut, and peas
Alfalfa, as its Arabic name signifies, is the king of all sprouts. Alfalfa contains valuable trace minerals including manganese, which is especially important to health and digestion, and is a vital component of human insulin. Alfalfa is also a rich source of amino acids and Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
Sesame seeds contain all nine essential amino acids needed to sustain human life, a whopping 20% protein content, and a higher concentration of calcium than milk. They are also high in lecithin, unsaturated fats, Vitamin E and Vitamin B complex, and other live nutrients.
Sprouts have been associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in this country – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension – and with the prevention and treatment of other medical ailments.
You may have heard recent stories surfacing about bacterial contamination in sprouts. Many assert that these reports are overblown and that there’s a lot of politics involved, which I don’t intend to address here. Let me simply state one fact: organic sprouting seed has never been blamed for an outbreak of food-borne illness. As Jim Mumm of Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds says, “Home grown sprouts, especially grown from certified organic seed, are far safer than a hamburger or potato salad at a picnic.” Of course, if you have a compromised immune system, or small children or elderly charges, you may have reason for some concern. The solution? Grow your own!
Sprouting is surprisingly easy and requires little care beyond an occasional sprinkling of water. Of course, there are plenty of sprouting kits available on the internet, but here’s a simple method you can try today:
You should be able to enjoy your sprouts in three to six days, when they are about 1 – 2 inches long. When they’re ready, transfer your sprouts to a covered container and store them in the refrigerator.