Get Your Sprout On!

WHY I SPROUT
A story about connecting to nature and feminine energy in NYC

A Northern California nature-lover who was transplanted into the concrete jungle known as New York City, I have had to continually find ways of connecting to the earth in order to maintain my internal balance and sense of peace. As a child, I played Hide and Seek in my family’s backyard that dipped down into a vine-entangled canyon. Now I practice yoga in Prospect Park on steamy summer nights. As a teenager, I explored countless hiking trails, all within a 10-minute drive from home. Now I take Metro North for two hours to explore the Tri-State’s wilderness. As a young gardener, I enthusiastically plucked cherry tomatoes that grew abundantly from our small vegetable garden in the August heat. Now I bring that essence of cultivation directly into my city apartment.

New York City in all her glory from a roof-top garden in Chelsea.

New York City in all her glory from a roof-top garden in Chelsea.

How, you might ask, do I manage to cultivate anything while living in the quintessential Brooklyn apartment with no outdoor access, limited sun exposure, and even more limited floor space?

Yes, I tend to houseplants with greater care and attentiveness than probably necessary, but I also turn to an ancient form of food preparation, sprouting, to nourish that inherent human characteristic in me that finds purpose and meaning in connecting to nature and caring for life.

When we plant a seed, thoughtfully water it, and wait patiently for the earth to bring forth a bounty, we connect with our feminine energy - the gatherer, the nurturer. Such energy (which is not exclusive to any gender) is creative, expansive, and fluid. From my experience, New York City, with its progress/goal/success-oriented culture, stomps all over my divine feminine when I’m not paying attention.

Sprouting connects us to that feminine, nurturing energy, right in our very own kitchens. And in the most full-circle way possible, the product of those labors then nourishes us right back. A seed contains the components needed for life locked tightly inside. What happens when you plant a seed and water it? Germination turns that seed into a sprout and that sprout grows into a plant and that plant produces more seeds! Water unlocks the enzymes and nutrients and puts that process of growth into action. When you eat a legume, grain, nut, or seed that has been sprouted, you are consuming all those activated components. You are eating a little plant whose nutrients are more easily digested and absorbed. To me, the life force of sprouts is exponential in comparison to its seed-bound form.

Mung bean sprout babies all grown up and ready to be enjoyed.

Mung bean sprout babies all grown up and ready to be enjoyed.


BOOSTING NUTRITION
Some facts about sprouting for my fellow nutrition nerds out there

  •  Sprouting decreases phytic acid in the seed. Phytic acid is an “anti-nutrient” that binds to minerals and shuttles them out of the body. Since we want to absorb our minerals, less phytic acid means better absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc. This is very important for bone health. [1] [2]

  • Sprouting increases protein content and digestibility. Improving the availability of plant proteins is important because our bodies are not as efficient at absorbing them as animal proteins. Sprouting is another tool to make sure you are meeting your protein needs if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or limit your intake of animal products.

  • Sprouting increases vitamin C, B vitamins, and carotenes.

  • Sprouting helps to break down complex carbohydrates so that less gas is produced during digestion. MAJOR WIN!

  • Sprouting produces enzymes that help aid in digestion. Yes, you are what you eat, but more importantly, you are what you digest. The better we digest our food, the more nutrients for nourishment and wellness we receive.


HOW TO GET YOUR SPROUT ON
(When you're ready to start a little sprouting garden in your kitchen)

1.     Rinse the beans, grains, nuts, or seeds that you want to sprout. Place them in a clean quart-sized glass jar. (A quart jar can accomodate 1/3 - 1/2 cup of most seeds, beans, nuts, or grains.) Fill the jar with water (leaving a bit of room at the top) and cover ith a sprouting lid or cheesecloth fastened with a heavy rubber band. Soak, unrefrigerated, overnight.

2.     Drain and rinse seeds with fresh water. Drain once again before inverting the jar so that the water can continue to drain out through the lid. Put your jar in a bowl to avoid a puddle. You may have to get slightly inventive with how you prop up your jar so that it’s at an angle.

4.     Water and drain your sprouts 2-3 times a day until they grow a little tail about 1/2 - 1 inch long, depending on the sprout. To turn the sprouts green, place them in indirect sunlight on the last growing day. Sprouts can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

This is a rough guide to sprouting. Different seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains have differing soaking and sprouting times. Here are the numbers for some of my favorite sprouts:

Germinating mung bean sprouts. I could not find my sprouting lid, so I fastened a nut milk bag to the jar with a rubberband. It worked just fine!

Germinating mung bean sprouts. I could not find my sprouting lid, so I fastened a nut milk bag to the jar with a rubberband. It worked just fine!

Mung beans
Soak time: 8-12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 2-4 days

Chickpeas
Soak time: 12-24 hours
Daily rinses: 2-4
Sprouting time: 3-4 days

Lentils
Soak time: 8 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 2-4 days

Wild rice
Soak time: 48-72 hours
Daily rinses: 3-4
Sprouting time: 2-3 days

Fenugreek seeds
Soak time: 8-12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 3-4 days

Alfalfa seeds
Soak time: 12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 4-7 days

CULINARY WELLNESS TIP: Try soaking and sprouting combinations of seeds with similar sprouting times together. You can create interesting flavor blends and improve the nutritional profile of your meals. I love combining fenugreek seeds with mung beans or chickpeas because of the subtle maple flavor they add.


EAT YOUR SPROUTS
So I’ve grown these little guys. Now what do I do with them?!?

  •  Sprouted legumes are a delicious addition to salads. Instead of using cooked legumes in a salad for protein, you can add sprouted mung beans, sprouted chickpeas, or sprouted lentils. They’re crunchy too!
     
  • Sprouted seeds (broccoli, alfalfa, clover, fenugreek) are really delicious on a sandwich or tossed into a salad. They add a dynamic flavor and are nutritional powerhouses.  
     
  • Sprouts don’t have to just be eaten raw. You can grow a micro-sprout (with a tiny tail just starting to poke through) and then follow normal cooking instructions. Use the method with some grains and legumes like brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans, and lentils.
     
  • Sprouted nuts are fabulous for homemade nut milk. You can also dehydrate them and then use them in any recipe or as a snack.

For a a salad recipe that uses sprouted mung beans and fenugreek seeds, click here.

My Mung Bean Sprout Summer Salad tossed with some arugula, avocado and walnuts for a light and refreshing August lunch.

My Mung Bean Sprout Summer Salad tossed with some arugula, avocado and walnuts for a light and refreshing August lunch.


[1] Ghavidel RA, Prakash J (2007) The impact of germination and dehulling on nutrients, antinutrients, in vitro iron and calcium bioavailability and in vitro starch and protein digestibility of some legume seeds. LWT 40:1292–1299

[2] Luo, Yuwei and Xie, Weihua (2014) Effect of soaking and sprouting on iron and zinc availability in green and white faba bean. J Food Sci Technol 12:3970-3976

[3] Britton, Sarah (2014) My New Roots. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. New York.