What do I mean by “sprouting your seeds”?
Sprouting is basically germinating seeds. Remember that experiment you did at school with the cress seeds and the damp cotton wool or kitchen towel? That’s the same thing except we are talking about making these on a slightly bigger scale. It’s all about making the seeds grow a little. As far as sprouting seeds for consumption goes, we are really looking at soaking them then keeping them damp for a period of time until they show signs of plant life. That is usually a little green bud or sprout coming out of the seed. It’s a very popular process partly because it is simple to do but mostly because it reaps huge nutritional rewards.
Why sprout your seeds?
Why wouldn’t you just eat them as you buy them i.e. raw? Well, the simple answer is to multiply the nutritional benefits offered. Although you can buy sprouted seeds from health food stores and supermarkets they start to lose those nutritional benefits as soon after harvesting, especially if they’re not preserved quickly enough. That’s not to say it’s not worth buying already sprouted seeds so long as they haven’t been hanging around too long but that’s difficult tell so you might also like to know how to make your own. The nutritional benefits of making your own are joined by the cost advantages too. It’s a very inexpensive process. All you need is seeds, water and something to grow the seeds in or on such as a piece of muslin or a sprouting bag (I use a nut milk bag). The sprouted seeds are at their absolute freshest and most nutrient rich immediately after you have harvested them. Once harvested they should go straight into the fridge for preservation. Sprouted seeds harvested and left at room temperature will start to lose their nutritional value very quickly.
How sprouting works?
Soaking and then rinsing the seeds removes what are known as “enzyme inhibitors”. Naturally, seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that offer protection for the seed against insects. What these inhibitors mean for humans is that the enzymes are not able to break down and release the component parts of seeds. Heating and cooking the seeds also destroys the enzyme. So the advantage of soaking is to break down the enzyme inhibitor, thereby releasing the enzymes and enabling breakdown of the seeds into their simplest components:
- Proteins in the seeds are broken down to amino acids.
- Starches are broken down into simpler carbohydrates.
- Multiple nutrients are available as the seed starts to germinate. That’s because if the seed were to grow into a fully-fledged plant it would need lots of available nutrients to ensure this process happens efficiently and that the resulting plant was healthy.
What are the nutritional benefits?
Sprouted seeds are incredibly nutritious. They contain multiple vitamins including a range of B vitamins, some of your antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. They’re also a source of fibre and protein. Some even contain even more omega 3 fatty acids as a result of sprouting too. Also, because the enzyme inhibitors are removed more of the macronutrients are available and more easily digested too.
How should I sprout my seeds?
- Soak the seeds in a bowl, with room temperature water to cover, overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- The following morning simply drain the water off and rinse the seeds in a sieve.
- Put the rinsed seeds into a damp sprouting bag (I use a nut milk bag) or onto a damp piece of muslin.
- Two or three times a day rinse the seeds again with water to keep them damp and mould-free. Do not place in direct sunlight.
- You can harvest them when the root (not the shoot) is the length of the original seed. This could be a matter of a day or several days depending on many factors including the temperature of the room or environment, the type, size and quality of the seed.
- Once harvested rinse once more before preserving in the fridge in a jar.
How should you eat them?
You can add them to your meals at the end of cooking, add them to smoothies, or salads. Some sprouted seeds are incredibly flavoursome and make a fantastic feature flavour to dips like white bean with garlic or hummus. They’re a great topping for nut butter or smashed avocado on toast too!