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What's in a sprout?

Lifestyle Section - Food

 
cn_rh_sprouts3-MAccording to a research study published in 2012 in the World Applied Sciences Journal, “Desirable nutritional changes may occur during sprouting that are mainly due to the breakdown of complex compounds into a more simple form, transformation into essential constituents, and breakdown of nutritionally undesirable constituents.

As much as I love bacon and eggs, it is not very sensible as a daily breakfast, but eggs in a variety of forms, most certainly are. Variety is actually really nice, so coming up with something different, a means of enjoying one’s daily eggs a tad more, makes a great deal of sense.

Sprouting of grains affects the  nzyme activity, increases total protein, and changes in amino acid profile, increased sugars, crude fibre, vitamins and minerals, but decreased starch and
loss of dry matter.”

Browsing the shelves the other day at the supermarket, I was struck by the exhorbiant price of a small pack of mung bean sprouts, so I resolved to do some research, and reinvigorate our sprouting regimen at Maison McFarlane. When Mrs M did the cooking she’d often sprout mung beans, using a purpose-designed plastic sprouting bottle with a mesh or sieve-like lid, but over time it became brittle and discoloured so
it ended up in the recycling bin.

A few years ago I did sprouted wheat loaf recipe, and acquired a square metre of fine plastic mesh for use as a sprout sieve.   selection of bottles, around 750ml or larger capacity, a pair of scissors with which to cut pieces of mesh, and a handfull of ubber bands, and my sprouting farm was eady to rock. The result is a simple and economical method of growing multiple sprouts simultaneously, as long as you remember to rinse your sprouts thoroughly each day. luten intolerance means no more sprouted wheat (contrary to popular belief, sprouted wheat is not gluten free), but some research revealed some surprising
options.

In the last week, I’ve sprouted alfalfa, sunflower, millet, mung bean and brown lentil seeds with varying degrees of success. The millet seeds, after four days or so, don’t seem to want to sprout, aside from a very few out of three tablespoons full. The aroma that wafts up from the sprout bottle, and the tell-tale bubbles around the edge of the seeds indicates that fermentation is setting in, and I’m well on the way to making my first batch of umqombothi, the traditional beer so loved by the amaXhosa and AmaZulu, for which I developed a taste during many visits to the Transkei.

Other options include chia (wildly expensive), aragula, brocolli, radish, mustard, kale, almond, amaranth, buckwheat groat, black sesame, quinoa, flax seed, and interestingly hemp sprouts, but most of them are not easily available here. I do have some black and yellow mustard seeds in the spice drawer, and I plan to give them a go, and report back in due course. Each has a specific method and duration, and the package may well include instructions, but not always. The alfalfa seeds I bought, did, the millet seeds not, nor the sunflower seeds, or the quinoa for that matter. In some respects, you’re embarking on a voyage of discovery, because whereas all the seeds I’ve mentioned, as well as a host of grains, are readily available in America and Europe for sprouting, this is not the case locally.

I found the website sproutpeople.org to be an invaluable resource, because where I’d bought a seed that did not come with sprouting instructions, I found them on the site with a simple Google search. In general, the larger seeds like mung beans, require a soak of up to 12 hours, whereas the little seeds tend not to. Alfalfa seeds for example, require a good initial rinse, then a twice daily rinse while the sprouts grow in a dark warm place, for about three days. Remove them from the cupboard and allow them to stand in the light for a day to green and develop chlorophyl. After a final thorough rinse, drain them ell, then spread the sprouts on a kitchen towel to dry for an hour or two (damp sprouts deteriorate rapidly), then store in a sealed glass or plastic container in the fridge, for up to six days, although they are so delicious, they are unlikely to last that long.

Don’t ever buy seeds packed for growing, as they are generally treated with a pesticide and although unlikey to kill you, would make you ill. Buy your seeds and grains from a health shop, or the health food section at your local supermarket.

A sprouting bottle can be easily made by cutting a square (or circle) of fine plastic mesh (available from your local hardware store), which is secured to the bottle by means of a thickish rubber band around the neck. Aside from cooking with sprouts – mung bean sprouts are de rigeur in a stir fry – and of course, they liven up any salad. If you embark upon this road, please drop me a line, and share your successes – and failures. Happy sprouting.

Written by Norman McFarlane You are reading What's in a sprout? articles

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