Monday, May 21, 2012

Sprouting - Growing your own vitamins

Here is the post I promised. You are all going to be surprised at how easy sprouting really is! Sprouting is a way to significantly increase the vitamins you are receiving in your diet. I'm not going to bore you with the scientific details, but a quick search of the internet will alert you to all the health benefits of eating sprouts. You can grow them at home for a few pennies and save a lot of money over purchasing them from the store. The kids get involved too when you tell them it's a science experiment.

You can purchase the fancy sprouting trays and other equipment, or you can use an empty wide mouth jar. I put a double layer of tulle over the opening and secured it with a canning ring. 

Step 1: Place the item you are sprouting in the jar and fill the jar with a good amount of cool water. Cover the jar with the tulle and secure it. Allow this to sit on your counter for 8-12 hours. This begins the process of sprouting. You can begin to enjoy the health benefits even after the first soak. I have a jar of wheat, lentils, and alfalfa.

Step 2: When the first soak is complete, pout the water out through the tulle or mesh top. Refill the jar with fresh water and pour this out immediately. (I call this rinsing your sprouts.) I prop my jar upside down in the sink drain to allow all the water to drip out. When it has all drained, place your jar on the counter on its side and leave it this way for another 8-12 hours. This picture is the alfalfa.

Here is the wheat.

Here are the lentils.

Here they all are resting on the counter. 

Repeat this rinsing process every 12 hours or so. I take care of my sprouts at about 8 am and 8 pm. 

Wheat: The wheat sprouts can be used even after the first soak. I haven't let them go more than 2-3 days. Sprouting times really depend on how warm it is in your kitchen. This time of year they are done in 1 1/2-2 days for me. You only want their little tail to get to about 1/4 of an inch at the longest.

Lentils: These take 2-3 days. You want the tail to be 1/4-1/2 inch or so, but you don't want the leaf to appear. In my opinion, once the leaf appears, they taste bitter. Really the taste is what determines they are done, and that will be a bit different for everyone. The taste of sprouted lentils reminds me of peas so you could use these in salads and soups where you would normally use fresh or frozen peas. They would also be great in stir-fry.

Mung Beans: The trick to sprouting mung beans is to do them in the dark. Instead of letting them sit on my counter, I actually put them in a cupboard with the door closed. If you don't sprout them in the dark, they are very bitter. I soak and rinse them just like the other sprouts, I just let them sit out their 12 hours in complete darkness. They take 2-3 days like the lentils do and taste very similar to peas as well. I use them interchangeably with lentils or put both kinds of sprouts in the same dish.

Alfalfa: 2 Tbsp of alfalfa seeds will end up filling your entire jar. They grow for 4-6 days. You want their leaf to appear. In order to get the most nutrients from your alfalfa, you need to let the chlorophyll develop. Because they grow into such a tight ball in the jar, it is easiest if you spread the sprouts out on a couple of plates or larger tray the final few hours. 

Here I have moved them into the sun from our skylight. I only leave them here an hour or so and then the leaf turns a deep green color. If you leave them too long in the direct sunlight, you will fry your sprouts so be careful.

Alfalfa requires one final step that the other sprouts do not, you need to rinse the brown seed covers away so the sprouts will store longer. Place your finished sprouts in a bowl of water and mix them up a bit with your hand. The brown seed covers will rise to the top.

I then just skim them off the top and discard them. This is a bit of a process and you can never get them all off so just do your best.

Storing Sprouts: Drain well after the final rinse. Place a paper towel in the bottom of a storage/tupperware container. Transfer sprouts to storage container. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks. Change the paper towel anytime it feels wet.

Uses for Sprouts: Sprouts can add nutrition to many dishes. Use alfalfa sprouts in place of all lettuce and other salad greens. They are delicious mixed with other vegetables to make a salad or placed on a sandwich or hamburger. Mung bean and lentil sprouts taste like peas so they also work well in salads. Try adding them as toppers to your lettuce salads or stirring them into pasta salads. They also taste great in stir-fry or as part of the filling in wontons or egg rolls.
Wheat sprouts can be used in breads and muffins or chopped into smoothies or other sweet treats.

Shelf-life of Sprouting Seeds: Most seeds will store 4-5 years when kept in a cool, dry environment. You can dry pack beans and lentils to lengthen their shelf-life. Seeds, such as alfalfa, are more tender and stay better if just sealed in an airtight bag with a food saver if you have one. 

Most sources suggest that you purchase only organic seeds meant for sprouting, but I have found great success using my wheat that I store for making flour and also buying lentils and mung beans just out of the bulk bins in our local grocery store.

Recipes: Here are recipes I have tried and enjoyed using the sprouts I have grown. You'll have to pick up a few seeds and try your hand at it. If you come up with a recipe that you enjoy you'll have to comment and share it with us.

Hawaiian Cole Slaw

4 cups shredded cabbage
Raisins, optional
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
Coconut, optional
1 cup 2-day sprouted wheat
Mayonnaise, to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Adapted from  Natural Meals in Minutes by Rita Bingham

Overnight Whole Wheat Pancakes

2–3 cups water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup whole wheat berries
½ tsp salt
¼ cup powdered milk
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 ½ cups warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Dash of cinnamon
2 Tbsp oil
Soak wheat berries in 2–3 cups of water for 8–12 hours. Drain. Combine soaked wheat berries, milk powder and warm water in a blender. Blend on high for 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to blender and blend for an additional 2 minutes. Cook on hot griddle. If you don't blend long enough, your wheat grains will remain crunchy. VARIATION: Add ¾ cup cooked pumpkin, applesauce, mashed squash or sweet potatoes in place of ¾ cup of the water. Add additional cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to taste. Add a little more water to adjust the moisture level as needed to make the batter the right consistency. Source: All Things Provident by Tamara Price

Pineapple Orange Freeze

2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup sprouted wheat
1/2 cup dry milk powder
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate

Chop sprouts very small. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 2 minutes. Serve immediately or freeze in ice cube trays. When ready to serve, blend cubes,  adding water or fruit juice to make a thick, creamy shake. You can substitute mixed fruit juices for the pineapple juice and sprouted sunflower seeds for the wheat sprouts. You may need to divide the recipe into 2 batches to fit in your blender. Adapted from  Natural Meals in Minutes by Rita Bingham

Oatmeal Raisin Sprout Cookies

¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup peanut butter
¼ tsp baking soda
2 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped alfalfa sprouts
¼ cup water
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Cream together brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla. Combine water and raisins in a small saucepan. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to sit until raisins have absorbed all the water. Add remaining ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir until it forms a stiff cookie dough. Form into cookies and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° F  for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes about 2 dozen.

Macaroni Salad

8 oz  macaroni or shell pasta
Frozen peas, thawed
Carrots, grated
Cheddar cheese, grated
Black olives, sliced
Salad dressing (mayo type)
Dill pickles, diced
Lentil or mung bean sprouts
Lemon pepper, salt, onion powder, and garlic to taste

Cook pasta until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Mix vegetables and cheese with pasta. To make dressing, place about ½ cup salad dressing in a bowl. Add a little dill pickle juice to thin it and the seasonings. Stir to combine. Stir dressing into salad and adjust seasonings as needed before serving. You can use dehydrated carrots, just rehydrate them first. There are no amounts for this recipe because I never measure. I just mix it until it looks and tastes good.  Source: All Things Provident by Tamara Price

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