Commonly Sprouted Seed Varieties
All viable seeds can be sprouted, but some sprouts should not be eaten raw. The most common food sprouts include:
ADZUKI SPROUT SEEDS. The Adzuki Bean (Vigna angularis) has been grown in the Far East for centuries. Like the soybean, it probably originated in China and was introduced to Japan around 1000 AD. Today, Adzuki beans are one of Japan’s largest crops, with annual consumption of over 120,000 metric tons. Adzuki beans are often sprouted for only one day, mixed with other sprouts and called a “Crispy Mix” or “Crunchy Mix.” They are commonly used throughout Asia in a variety of ways.
ALFALFA SPROUT SEEDS. This legume originated in Central Asia and the Mid East, with its name derived from the Arabic word for “best fodder.” The sprouts are the second most popular sprout (after bean sprouts) in North America. They have a sweeter, fresher taste when yellow, but market acceptance often demands alfalfa sprouts to be greened.
BARLEY SPROUT SEEDS. One of the earliest cultivated cereals, barley is grown throughout the world. It is used commercially by breweries, pet stores, in agriculture and can be juiced for a nutritious drink. It is often sold to restaurants where it is added to fruit and vegetable drinks.
BLACK-EYED PEA SPROUT SEEDS. A favorite in the southern U.S., this nutritious legume is most often sold rehydrated, rather than sprouted, in the produce sections of grocery stores. Black eye peas should be large and light tan (not gray) for an attractive product.
BROCCOLI SPROUT SEEDS. Broccoli has become a popular sprout because of its delicious flavor. In 1998 Johns Hopkins University declared broccoli sprouts and other crucifer sprouts to be particularly high in sulforaphane, a glucosinolate shown to have a variety of health benefits.
BUCKWHEAT SPROUT SEEDS. Buckwheat is native to Asia and has fragrant white flowers that are prized by beekeepers. The seed looks like a tiny beechnut and has an amino acid composition that is nutritionally superior to other cereals. It also contains a very high lysine content.
CABBAGE SPROUT SEEDS. Cabbage is a cultigen that originated many centuries ago from Brassica Oleracea, a mustard-like, mostly seacoast weed of the Old World. Today there are hundreds of varieties found in every country with a temperate climate. The sprouts have a strong cabbage flavor, and are often used with Alfalfa or Clover to tame the taste.
RED CABBAGE SPROUT SEEDS. Red cabbage is similar to white cabbage except the stem is red. It adds color to sprout mixes and is more interesting than white cabbage.
CHINESE RED BEAN SPROUT SEEDS. Native to Central Africa, its cultivation has spread to practically all of the world’s warm, tillable areas. This mild flavored legume is similar to Adzuki bean sprouts in taste and performance. The sprouts are high in vitamins C and B, especially B1, and have 19.4% protein, 54.5% carbohydrates and 1.1% fat. They are generally used in sprouted mixes with Green Peas, Lentils, Garbanzo and/or Mung.
CLOVER SPROUT SEEDS. A member of the pea family, clover originated in Europe and has been used for over 2,000 years as a cover crop to improve soil. Clover sprouts are very similar to alfalfa sprouts and are sweeter when they are yellow. Clover sprouts contain the most significant dietary sources of isoflavons of any sprout variety.
CRESS SPROUT SEEDS. A member of the mustard family, cress has a peppery and pungent taste. Cress sprouts are popular in Europe and are used as a garnish to spice up sandwiches, fish and salads.
DAIKON SPROUT SEEDS. Daikon is a type of radish sprout that grows tall and slender. In Japan it is known as Kowari. It is generally used as a garnish and goes well with sushi.
DILL SPROUT SEEDS. Appearing in ancient Egyptian culture 5,000 years ago, dill (meaning “to lull”) was once used in tonics to relieve colicky infants. Most Americans associate this herb with pickles, but in Europe dill is a common pastry flavoring. Dill sprouts have a pleasant, fresh taste giving a unique flavor to salads, sandwiches and cottage cheese.
FENNEL SPROUT SEEDS. A native to Eurasia, this member of the carrot family was introduced to North America by Spanish priests and still grows wild around their old missions. The Greeks used fennel to treat more than 20 illnesses and to suppress the appetite. The entire plant is edible, and the licorice flavored seeds and sprouts are used to flavor vegetables, meats and baked goods.
FENUGREEK SPROUT SEEDS. This legume originated in the Mediterranean region and Asia and is among the oldest of medicinal herbs. Its seeds were a favorite cure-all in ancient Egypt, India and later among the Greeks and Romans. Modern research has confirmed its ability to relieve gas pains, lower blood sugar, and, when used externally, to relieve a variety of skin ailments. Fenugreek sprouts should be short when harvested to prevent the pleasant spicy taste from turning bitter.
GARBANZO SPROUT SEEDS. A native of Asia, this member of the pea family has been cultivated for centuries in the Mid-East, India, Southern Europe, and more recently, the Philippines. Garbanzo is a very hard bean that requires a long soak and then a multi-day waiting period for sprouting. Chick Peas have a mild nutty flavor and are generally sold in a mix such as Lentils, Peas and Red Beans with other sprouts.
GARLIC SPROUT SEEDS. A member of the lily family, garlic has long been used as a culinary and healing herb. Recent research has shown that it contains vitamins A, B, B2 and C, and further indicates that it may be effective in lowering cholesterol levels, reducing hypertension, and as an antiseptic and antispasmodic. Garlic sprouts have a mild garlic taste.
GREEN PEA SPROUT SEEDS. One of the first food crops ever to be cultivated, “Garden Peas” probably originated in the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. High in fiber, protein and carbohydrates, iron, potassium, vitamin A, thiamine and riboflavin, peas provide excellent nutrition at a very low cost. They can be grown in dark or light. When grown completely in the dark, the sprouts have the look and taste of thin yellow asparagus.
LEEK SPROUT SEEDS. Believed to be a native either to Algiers or Switzerland, this herb was grown by ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. A relative of onion, chives and garlic, leek has a mild onion flavor and is prized as a vegetable and flavoring agent. Leek sprouts are often mixed with alfalfa sprouts to tone down the strong “onion” flavor.
LENTIL SPROUT SEEDS. Lentils can be purchased in red, black or green varieties. Archeologists believe dry peas and lentils were some of the first food crops ever to be cultivated. They calculate that occurred almost 9,000 years ago; lentils have been a staple in Mediterranean countries and India ever since. High in potassium, iron, vitamin A, folic acid and fiber and 26% protein. Lentils are becoming increasingly popular in North America. Lentil sprouts are usually sold as part of a sprouted bean mix and can be cooked or eaten raw.
LIMA BEAN SPROUT SEEDS. A native of the American tropics, Lima Beans are mostly sold by sprouters in a rehydrated state in small packages in the produce sections of grocery stores. This is a good product for growers who want to expand their line in an area that won’t compete with their current sprout sales.
MUNG BEAN SPROUT SEEDS. Possibly originating in India, Southern Asia, or the Malayan Islands, mung bean sprouts have been cultivated in the orient for thousands of years. Today, “bean sprouts” are synonymous with mung bean sprouts, and the popularity of this nutritious sprout continues to grow. They are a good source of protein, fiber and vitamin C.
MUSTARD SPROUT SEEDS. Mustard is a member of the crucifer family. Mustard greens are a popular dish in the Southern U.S. and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Mustard sprouts have a strong spicy flavor and are usually blended with alfalfa or clover sprouts.
ONION SPROUT SEEDS. Onion has been cultivated since antiquity. Ancient Egypt was famed for the mildness of its onions. High in vitamins B1, B2 and C, Onion sprouts taste like fresh onion and are generally blended with clover or alfalfa to make them more mild. Onion sprouts are 20% protein and good sources of vitamins A, C and D.
RADISH SPROUT SEEDS. A member of the mustard family and probably originating in Eurasia, radish is one of the world’s earliest recorded cultivated vegetables. Its name comes from the Latin word “radix,” meaning “a root.” Radish sprouts are fast growing with a spicy, hot flavor. Daikon seeds produce tall, lush green sprouts, while China Rose or Cherry Bell radish sprouts have a touch of pink. Radish sprouts have 29 times more vitamin C than milk and 4 times the vitamin A. They have 10 times the calcium of a potato and more vitamin C than a pineapple.
SOYBEAN SPROUT SEEDS. This legume is native to Manchuria and Japan and has been cultivated for thousands of years. With a protein content of over 40%, soybeans are a major source of nutrition for humans and animals. Soybeans also provide half the total vegetable fats and oils consumed and provide a substitute for milk and meat. Soybean sprouts are the “bean sprouts” of Korea and are generally used in soups. Soybeans are very high in protein, vitamin C, folate and fiber.
SUNFLOWER SPROUT SEEDS. A native of the Americas, sunflowers are now widely cultivated. A valuable source of vitamins and minerals, the seeds were ground and used as meal by Native Americans. Producing large sprouts that contain all the known vitamins (even B-complex and D) sunflower seeds have a sweet, nutty flavor and a crispy texture. Many consider sunflower sprouts to be the best tasting, most versatile sprouts available. They are great fresh, frozen, or cooked. Once grown only in dirt, hydroponically grown sprouts now command a premium price.
WHEAT SPROUT SEEDS. Most likely from Western Asia, circ. 5000 B.C. and a member of the grass family, wheat is the second most important cereal grass in the world. When sprouted in darkness for two or three days, wheat sprouts are tender and sweet, with a taste similar to watermelon. If allowed to grow for seven days, wheat reaches the “grass” stage when it can be juiced for a nutritious drink.