Kitchen Counter Gardening: Try Sprouting Seeds

If you want tasty, nutritious fresh vegetables during winter, sprouting seeds is the way to go. Moisture, air, a suitable container, a handful of seeds, and a few days are all you need.

| February/March 2009

Contained inside a single plant seed is all the nutrition it needs to grow into a healthy seedling. And that’s exactly why these tiny guys pack such a wallop of nutrients. You can certainly benefit from eating raw seeds and nuts, but soaking and sprouting seeds helps them begin to do what they were made to do: grow. And that helps unlock some of those powerful compounds. It’s a great — and easy — way to release all that nutrition into a tangy, tasty treat.

When a seed is in contact with moisture, it begins to germinate. During this process, several key nutrients are increased or made more accessible to us. Some of these compounds include vitamins A, B-complex and C; minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium; protein; fiber; essential fatty acids; and various beneficial enzymes, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Sprouted Cuisine

In culinary terms, sprouts are typically enjoyed as a flavorful addition to other foods, rather than eaten on their own. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and fall into three broad categories: salad-, grain- and bean-type sprouts. Eating a variety of different sprouts is the best way to take advantage of their complete buffet of flavors and health benefits. Here are a few dishes that will be improved by the addition of your fresh, homemade sprouts:

  • scrambled eggs or omelettes
  • salads
  • side dishes, such as coleslaw and three-bean salad
  • dips and spreads
  • sandwiches and wraps
  • stir-fries and sautés
  • casseroles
  • soups (added to the pot just a couple minutes before serving)
  • breads (added to the dough before baking; can even use 100 percent sprouted grain dough)
  • even desserts! (There’s a great recipe for chocolate tortes with sprouted almonds at Sprout People.)

And the Nominees Are …

Though some (alfalfa, mung bean) are more common than others, all of the following plants have great seeds for sprouting — experiment away!

  • Adzuki bean
  • Alfalfa  Kale
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Cabbage
  • Chickpeas
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Clover
  • Cress
  • Crimson
  • Fenugreek
  • Garlic chives
  • Kale
  • Kamut
  • Lentils
  • Mung bean
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Peas (green)
  • Quinoa
  • Radish
  • Red Clover
  • Sunflower   

Safe Sprouts

Since 1990, more than a dozen outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to commercial sprouts, so some people have harbored suspicions about their safety. Should we worry, even if we grow the seeds and sprouts ourselves?

Probably not. Because sprouts are grown at room temperature in moist conditions, they can foster bacterial growth. But these days, most seed sold for sprouting purposes has been tested for bacterial traces. As long as you start with uncontaminated seeds, use clean jars and water, and refrigerate sprouts when they attain perfection, the risk of growing a secret crop of Salmonella is next to nothing.

Suzanne Horvath
3/23/2011 6:09:42 PM

I tried to grow mung bean sprouts, but they were not as large and plump as what I used to buy in the stores. Can anyone tell me what I did wrong? I make a lot of Asian dishes and I need the big, plump mung bean sprouts. Our local stores stopped carrying the fresh sprouts so I'm totally without.

Aliza Sollins_2
1/18/2011 3:44:51 PM

Yum! Sprouts are a great way to get fresh greens in the dead of winter (without trucking them and/or storing them in the fridge.) One of my favorite recent meals was chopped cabbage + carrot + onion + mung bean sprouts. Saute with soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, and sriracha. Feed it to a bunch of folks who don't cook a lot and watch their eyes light up. ~ Aliza //

1/16/2011 5:56:04 PM

Found this article useful for dealing with contamination: I would think a short vinegar bath followed by skimming, and a thorough water rinse ought to be fairly effective. Anyone have thoughts on that? I know vinegar kills both E coli and salmonella, just not sure how it would affect the seeds themselves.

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