|Superfood No. 9: Sprouts
Sprouts are a highly nutritious food. Grown locally year round, sprouts are a good source of protein and vitamin C. A sprout is produced when a seed starts growing into a vegetable. Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables, grains, legumes, buckwheat, and beans. Sprouts vary in texture and taste. Some are spicy (radish and onion sprouts), some are hardy and often used in Asian cuisines (mung bean), while others are more delicate (alfalfa), and add texture and moistness to salads and sandwiches.
There are a great many reasons to eat sprouts. As we age, our body’s ability to produce enzymes declines. Sprouts are a concentrated source of the living enzymes and “life force” that is lost when foods are cooked or not picked fresh from your own garden. Additionally, due to their high enzyme content, sprouts are also much easier to digest than the seed or bean from which they came.
All nutrients necessary for life are contained in seeds-a food category that includes grain kernels, beans, legumes, and nuts. Because sprouts are so fresh, and do not sit for days or weeks in warehouses, we know that we are getting optimum nutrition.
Great Ways to Serve Sprouts
Add to tossed salads
Use in coleslaw (cabbage, clover, radish)
Try in wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
Stir-fry with other vegetables (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean, lentil)
Blend with vegetable juices (cabbage, mung bean, lentil)
Mix with soft cheeses, tofu, yogurt of kefir for a dip (mung bean, radish)
Stir into soups or stews when serving (mung bean, lentil)
Eat them fresh and uncooked in a sprout salad (salad mixes)
Top omelet or scrambled eggs (alfalfa, clover, radish)
Combine in oat, barley or buckwheat dishes (fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)
Add to sushi (radish, sunflower)
Sauté with onions (mung bean, clover, radish)
Puree with dried peas or beans (mung bean, lentil)
Add to baked beans (lentil)
Where to Find Sprouting Supplies
Inexpensive sprouting kits and seeds are available online and at some health food stores and supermarkets. Buy only certified organic seeds, grains, legumes or beans for sprouting, purchase them in small quantities, and keep them refrigerated prior to sprouting.
A partial list of seeds, beans, legumes and grains appropriate for sprouting includes alfalfa, cabbage, clover, fenugreek, mustard, radish, sesame, sunflower, adzuki beans, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, green peas, wheat, rye and triticale. If you grow your own sprouts, harvest them within four to eight days for maximum enzymatic activity.
When you do not have the time to grow your own sprouts, purchase them at a local fruit and vegetable market, or in the fresh vegetable department of your supermarket. Health food stores that sell produce often offer sprouts as well.
Sprouts are fresh when their roots are moist and white and the sprout itself is crisp. Caution: Regardless of the source, do not use seeds that have been treated with a fungicide. Treated seeds are not edible and can be recognized by the coating of pink or green dust on the seed coat. Seeds sold for planting purposes fall under this category. Use only seeds sold for sprouting or eating not for planting.
Store sprouts in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator, and use them as soon as possible. Rinsing daily under cold water can extend their life. Mung bean sprouts can be frozen in an airtight bag for several months, if they are to be used in cooking.