At some point in my journey to eating healthful, unprocessed foods, I wanted to not simply consume whole foods, but to maximize their nutrition. I had been reading about sprouting, but it seemed overwhelming and time consuming. I decided to just purchase some sprouted products, which we enjoyed, but they were pretty pricey, and as quickly as we went through them, ordering them on a regular basis was not an option. Once I finally embarked on my sprouting journey, I was amazed how easy and economical it is, and I actually think it’s fun; I know – I’m weird that way! Here’s the lowdown on sprouting:
What can be sprouted:
*Many “raw” nuts and seeds have been pasteurized and/or irradiated. All almonds grown in the U.S., for example, are required to be pasteurized. The pasteurization is typically done using steam or a chemical called PPO. Always look for steam pasteurized nuts or purchase raw nuts. They can only be truly raw if they are grown outside of the U.S. Nuts and seeds that have been pasteurized will not sprout, but they can still be soaked to increase nutrient absorption. More on soaking in a future
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- Sprouting increases nutrients. Sprouting replicates germination, which increases the vitamin A, B ,C, and carotene content of the food. Sprouted foods are nutritional powerhouses.
- Sprouting makes the nutrients and enzymes more bioavailable to the body. Phytic acid, a substance present in beans, nuts, seeds, and grains, binds to beneficial minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium. Sprouting reduces or eliminates the phytic acid, making the minerals able to be absorbed by the body.
- Sprouting aids in digestion. The germination process actually creates important digestive enzymes.
- Sprouting is easy. Sprouting requires no special equipment – only items you probably already have around your house.
Tools Needed for Sprouting:
- Mason jars
- Mesh “screening” – this can be lemon, onion, or potato bags you’ve saved. There are special sprouting screen lids you can buy to fit on top of mason jars, but I’ve found the mesh bags work just fine.
- Rubber band
- Water – preferably filtered, fluoride and chlorine-free
How to Sprout:
- Prepare screening – cut your mesh produce bags into a square that will fit over your jar and come down the sides enough to secure the mesh “screen” with a thick rubber band OR simply screw on the sprouting screen lid if you have one. If you’re sprouting something really small, such as quinoa, I would recommend placing three or four layers of screening over your jar, or placing a layer of cheesecloth over the jar.
- Soak- Fill the jar 1/3 full with whatever it is you’re sprouting. Place screening over the opening, secure with a rubber band, and allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours.
- Drain and rinse – after soaking overnight or for 8 hours, tip the jar over the sink and drain off all the water. Fill with clean water, shake to rinse, and drain again. Then place the jar, with the bottom end slightly elevated, into a baking pan or dish, allowing excess water to continue to drain. This is important for air circulation. Rinse and drain twice a day.
- Watch for sprouts. Once you see little “tails,” you’ve achieved sprouting. For most foods, you want the sprout to be about ¼ inch or so. Don’t let the sprout get much longer than ¼ inch. The time it will take to achieve sprouting can be anywhere from 1 to 4 days, depending on what you’re sprouting. I have found that grains sprout in one day after the initial soaking. Something like broccoli sprouts, however, will take closer to 4 days to reach ideal sprout size.
- Rinse thoroughly the completed sprouts. Either cook, dehydrate for storage, or put in the refrigerator for consumption within a week or so.
Here’s a pictorial through the sprouting process:
Buckwheat (left) and quinoa (right) soaking
Rinsing and draining quinoa. Rinse and drain morning and evening.
Lay jar, tilted, in a baking dish so it will continue to drain between rinses.
See the tails on the buckwheat? This is fully sprouted and ready for a final rinse and drain.
Rinsing and draining the buckwheat before dehydrating or preparing.
Buckwheat spread onto dehydrator trays for drying. Line trays with parchment or Paraflexx if drying quinoa or tiny sprouts that will fall through the regular dehydrator trays.