What is Sprouting and What Can You Sprout?

Dried seeds and grains don’t contain all the nutrition your body needs, but when they are sprouted, something magical happens! Suddenly, you’ve got a super-food that can work wonders for your overall health.

A word of caution: you can’t sprout just anything. Just because you eat the fruit or the root of a plant doesn’t mean that the sprouts can’t be poisonous! Let’s take a closer look at sprouting and sprouts.

Sprouting

Germinating seeds for the table is really quite simple. You can use a commercial sprouting kit or equipment as basic as a glass bottle! The seeds are rinsed to ensure that they are clean. Then they are soaked for up to 12 hours to activate the germination process. After soaking, the seeds are drained and are kept moist by rinsing them from time to time until the roots and shoots appear.

What can you sprout?

You can’t use any old thing for sprouting. The seeds must be viable (alive) and they should be intended for human consumption. Seeds intended for farming purposes may have been treated with pesticides. To be on the safe side, only buy your seeds from specialist suppliers.

Legumes

This group of plants includes alfalfa, cover, fenugreek, lentil, pea, chickpea, mung bean and soya bean. Of these, chickpea is the safest sprout. Mung bean sprouts should ideally be cooked in stir fries. Although soya beans are commonly sprouted, they contain compounds that may be toxic. They are not recommended. Lentil sprouts can adversely affect digestion and they cause bloating and gas. Alfalfa sprouts are somewhat better, but should not be eaten too regularly. Cancer sufferers and those with immune system disorders should avoid them altogether.

Cereals

This group of sproutable seeds includes oats, wheat, maize, rice, barley and rye. You will have to look for whole oats for sprouting and the hulls may be too hard to eat. Germinatable rice is not commonly sold in supermarkets – ask your health food store for advice if you would like to try this healthy sprout. At all times, ensure that you are using whole seeds that have not been heat-processed or hulled since these seeds will not grow.

Pseudo-cereals

This group contains quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. All three of these are being scientifically investigated thanks to their rich nutrient composition and high level of natural antioxidants. Quinoa is one of the easiest to sprout, but seeds that have been polished or processed lose their ability to germinate.

Oilseeds

Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, almond, hazelnut and peanut are said to be much healthier once they have begun to grow. Eat them raw or roasted or add them to sir fries.

Brassicas

This large group of edible plants includes broccoli, cabbage, arugula, watercress, radish, rocket, mustard, mizuna, tatsoi and turnip seeds. They are among the tastiest, safest and most popular sprouts you can get, and they’re known for their high concentration of antioxidants. They’re easy to sprout, but remember to avoid seed that was intended for planting.

Umbelliferous vegetables

Chow down on healthy sprouts made from carrot, parsley, celery and fennel seeds – of these, carrot and fennel are the easiest to germinate. Some people distinguish between sprouts and ‘microgreens’ and these would be examples of the latter.

The onion family

This includes, onion, leek and spring onion as well as chives. In general, they would be classed as microgreens.

There are other herbs and veggies that are used for making sprouts including spinach and lettuce. Before you try a new type of sprout, do your homework to determine whether it is healthiest eaten raw or cooked. Some plants that produce delicious veggies are toxic when eaten as sprouts – make sure that you know what you are doing!

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