Sprouting seeds or beans indoors is a very efficient way of utilizing the minimum amount of space in order to produce the maximum of nutrients all year round--in fact one does not even require a garden at all- a window ledge or kitchen shelf would be perfectly adequate. Many seeds or beans are suitable for indoor sprouting including alfalfa, mustard, green lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos) and fenugreek, whilst one of the most common is the mung bean (Vigna radiata), well known as the popularly sold ‘Chinese Bean Sprout’. Mung beans can be bought in health food stores or grocery stores, although care should be taken that these are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing, as these may have been treated with chemical dressings. Several countries, for example New Zealand, also require that some varieties of edible seed be heat-treated, thus making them impossible to sprout.
How to sproutEdit
The main requirements for successful sprouting are moisture, warmth, and (in most cases) some indirect sunlight. Providing a few guidelines are followed, it is remarkably easy to obtain good results requiring very little time, effort or space. Initially a small handful of seeds should be run under a tap, then left at room temperature (between 13 and 21 degrees Celsius) in the sprouting vessel. Although a number of items can be utilized for this task ranging from a jam jar with a piece of net curtain secured over its rim by an elastic band to specially designed ‘tiered’ sprouters, it is highly important that the vessel is free draining, for waterlogged sprouts will quickly rot. The seeds will soon swell, and within a day or two begin germination. They should then be rinsed at least twice a day, possibly even three or four times in hot weather or they may quickly sour. After around four to five days they will have grown to around two or three inches in length and will be suitable for use. If left much longer they will begin to develop leaves and can become bitter tasting, although the growth process can be halted by placing them in the fridge until needed.
Although sprouting of mung beans is generally successful once a routine has been developed, it is not uncommon for beginners to experience failures, although these are often due to the following causes which can be easily remedied once recognized;
- Seeds being allowed to dry out
- Seeds being waterlogged
- Temperature too high or too low
- Insufficient rinsing
- Dirty equipment
Mung beans can be sprouted either in light or dark conditions, eg, an airing cupboard. Those sprouted in the dark (as in the case of the shop-bought Chinese Bean Sprouts) will be crisper in texture and whiter, but have less nutritional content. Growing in full sunlight however should be avoided as this may cause the beans to overheat or dry out. Subjecting the sprouts to pressure, for example, by placing a weight on top of them in their sprouting container, will result in larger, crunchier sprouts similar to those sold in Chinese groceries.
Sprouts purchased in supermarkets tend to be mung or alfalfa cultures.
Nutritional information and precautionsEdit
Some legumes can contain toxins, which can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (eg, stir frying). Joy Larkom, advises that to be on the safe side “one shouldn’t eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts on a regular basis, no more than about 550g (20oz) daily” (‘Salads For Small Gardens’, Hamlyn 1995).
|Bean, Grain or Seed||Optimum Sprout Length||Days to Sprout||Nutritional value||Comments|
|Alfalfa||1 " / 2cm||3-5||Vitamins A, B2, C, D, E, niacin, minerals inc. iron, magnesium, amino-acids, chlorophyll||Described as 'a complete food'. Exposing to indirect sunlight helps to develop chlorophyll. Shoots can be eaten when long or short|
|Broccoli||½” / 1cm||3-5||Vitamins A, B, C, E and K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Carotene, Chlorophyll, Amino Acids, Trace Elements, Antioxidants, sulforaphane||Said to stimulate the body's natural defences against cancer|
|Cress||1 " / 2cm||6-8||Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, D, niacin, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous||Good companion to mustard, eg as grown on damp kitchen towel|
|Chick pea||½” / 1cm||2-4||Vitamins A, C, amino acids, carbohydrate, fibre, minerals inc. calcium, magnesium, potassium||Pre-sprouting will reduce cooking time. Sprouts will go bitter if left too long|
|Fenugreek||½” / 1cm||2-3||Lymph, blood and kidney tonic. Vitamins A, C, iron and phosphorous||Strong spicy aroma. Best eaten mixed with other sprouts. Goes bitter if left too long|
|Green lentil||½” / 1cm||2-3||Vitamin C, iron, amino acids||Good in sprout mixes|
|Mung bean||1 " / 2cm||3-5||Vitamin C, iron, amino acids, potassium||Sprout under pressure (eg, place a weight on top) to produce crisp white 'bean shoots'|
|Mustard||1 " / 2cm||2-7||Said to clear sinus congestion. Vitamins A, C, minerals and chlorophyll||Good companion to cress, eg as grown on damp kitchen towel|
|Pumpkin||0||1-2||Vitamin E, amino acids, essential fatty acids, phosphorous, iron, zinc||Use hull-less cultivars. Seeds will swell rather than sprout|
|Quinoa||1 " / 2cm||1-2||Vitamin B, E and amino acids||Rinse well to remove bitter saponins. Has pleasant nutty flavour|
|Radish||1 " / 2cm||2-5||Said to cleanse and heal mucus membranes. Vitamin C, potassium, chlorophyll||Strong shot flavour. Best eaten mixed with other sprouts.|
|Red clover||1 " / 2cm||2-5||Blood cleanser, vitamins A, C, minerals and trace elements||Similar to alfalfa|
|Sunflower||Until first 2 'leaves' (cotyledons, not true leaves) form||1-6||Vitamins B, E, amino acids, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, potassium||Use hull-less cultivars. Good 'indoor green'. Will go bitter if true leaves allowed to form|
|Wheat||½” / 1cm||2-3||Vitamins B, E, amino acids, essential fatty acids, magnesium, potassium||Good for juicing. Will go tough and stringy if left too long|
Sprouting and the Living foods dietEdit
Advocates of a Living foods diet promote the use of sprouting as an effective way of increasing the nutrient value, and digestibility, of beans, seeds and nuts.
Each food has its own ideal sprouting time, see below for guidance and education.
- The Raw Truth by Jeremy A Safron, (Celestial Arts, Toronto, 2003) ISBN 1-58761-172-4 (pbk.)
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