Sprouting is the practice of soaking then draining and leaving seeds until they germinate and begin to sprout.
Sprouting seeds or beans indoors is a very efficient way of utilizing the minimum amount of space in order to produce the maximum of nutrients all year round--in fact one does not even require a garden at all- a window ledge or kitchen shelf would be perfectly adequate. Many seeds or beans are suitable for indoor sprouting including alfalfa, mustard, green lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos) and fenugreek, whilst one of the most common is the mung bean (Vigna radiata), well known as the popularly sold ‘Chinese Bean Sprout’. Mung beans can be bought in health food stores or grocery stores, although care should be taken that these are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing, as these may have been treated with chemical dressings.
How to sprout
The main requirements for successful sprouting are moisture, warmth, and (in most cases) some indirect sunlight. Providing a few guidelines are followed, it is remarkably easy to obtain good results requiring very little time, effort or space. Initially a small handful of seeds should be run under a tap, then left at room temperature (between 13 and 21 degrees Celsius) in the sprouting vessel. Although a number of items can be utilized for this task ranging from a jam jar with a piece of net curtain secured over its rim by an elastic band to specially designed ‘tiered’ sprouters, it is highly important that the vessel is free draining, for waterlogged sprouts will quickly rot. The beans will soon swell, and within a day or two begin germination. They should then be rinsed at least twice a day, possibly even three or four times in hot weather or they may quickly sour. After around four to five days they will have grown to around two or three inches in length and will be suitable for use. If left much longer they will begin to develop leaves and can become bitter tasting, although the growth process can be halted by placing them in the fridge until needed.
Although sprouting of mung beans is generally successful once a routine has been developed, it is not uncommon for beginners to experience failures, although these are often due to the following causes which can be easily remedied once recognized;
* Seeds being allowed to dry out
Mung beans can be sprouted either in light or dark conditions, eg, an airing cupboard. Those sprouted in the dark (as in the case of the shop-bought Chinese Bean Sprouts) will be crisper in texture and whiter, but have less nutritional content. Growing in full sunlight however should be avoided as this may cause the beans to overheat or dry out. Subjecting the sprouts to pressure, for example, by placing a weight on top of them in their sprouting container, will result in larger, crunchier sprouts similar to those sold in Chinese groceries.
Sprouts purchased in supermarkets tend to be mung or alfalfa cultures.
Nutritional information and precautions
Sprouts are rich in vitamins, minerals, Amino Acids, proteins and phytochemicals, all necessary for a germinating plant, and rich in essential nutrients for humans.
Some legumes can contain toxins, which can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (eg, stir frying). Joy Larkom, advises that to be on the safe side “one shouldn’t eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts on a regular basis, no more than about 550g (20oz) daily” (‘Salads For Small Gardens’, Hamlyn 1995).
Sprouting and the Living foods diet
Advocates of a Living foods diet promote the use of sprouting as an effective way of increasing the nutrient value, and digestibility, of beans, seeds and nuts.