Sprouting: All You Need To Know About This Top Health Trend

Sprouting: All You Need To Know About This Top Health Trend

Whether you’ve been growing sprouts yourself while at home during a lockdown or have seen them popping up in health food shops and menus and are wondering what all the fuss is about, you’re in the right place. Here we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about sprouting, why seed sprouts are so good for you and different ways you can use them to get all this goodness into your diet.

What are sprouts?

What are sprouts?

‘Sprouts’, as an overarching term, refers to the micro greens that spring up out of a variety of seeds after just a few days, i.e. the early sprouts of a plant. These can be from pretty much any bean or seed but the key is that these little babies are packed full of vitamins and nutrients.

Why sprouts are good for you?

Studies show that the germination process increased protein content of lentils and horsegram and that sprouted alfalfa seeds are a very good source of fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Ribofalvin, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, among others.

Not only are sprouts low in calories and high in nutrients, but they are also easier to digest than fully-grown grains, seeds and legumes due to the fact that they reduce ‘antinutrients’ such as phytic acid, tannins, and polyphenols that decrease your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from plant-based sources. This means that your body will be able to reap the benefits of all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants of sprouts without your digestive system having to suffer.

Another plus of sprouts is that they are cheap and easy to grow at home in a mason jar (even if you have a small space without a garden!) and are much less single-use-plastic intensive than buying salad leaves or sprouts from a supermarket.

So basically, sprouts are a win all round!

Which sprouts are great to grow?

There are a variety of seeds that are particularly good to sprout both in terms of the rate they grow (most in just 5 days) and the health benefits they provide. Below you’ll find a quick run through of the top seeds to try when you start sprouting with the relatively health properties and some recipes in which you can use them!

Broccoli sprouts

Broccoli sprouts are a favourite for beginners as they tend to germinate quite quickly and have a good success rate. In addition, broccoli sprouts are also dense in sulforaphane (activated glucoraphanin) which assists with digestion, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and may also protect against ageing, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Radish sprouts

Radish sprouts are another great option as not only are they full of Vitamins B, A, E, C and K but they are have some of the distinctive peppery flavour of the radish family which will add more to your salad than most sprouts which tend to have a light, fresh, leafy flavour.

Alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa seeds are a top superfood so it’s no surprise that alfalfa sprouts are excellent for your diet too. With high levels of Vitamin K (which helps your body absorb calcium) and Vitamin C (an all-round great antioxidant), these sprouts are perfect for adding to soups, smoothies and stir-fries to add an extra health boost to your meal.

Bean sprouts

You’ve probably used bean sprouts in Asian cooking before but perhaps never considered the fact that you could easily grow these at home. There are two main types of bean sprouts: Mung bean sprouts and Soy bean sprouts. Both of these types of sprouts are packed full of plant-protein and also help to balance cholesterol levels and optimise your metabolism.

Peas shoots

You’ll often find pea shoots in mixed bags of salad and they have a lovely fresh taste of summer that is perfect for lightening up any meal. Pea shoots are arguably slightly more of a leaf than a sprout, as you tend to leave them for longer before eating, but they are still a valuable part of this list as you can easily grow them at home and they boast many health benefits.

Sunflower sprouts

Sunflower sprouts are a top source of amino acids (the building blocks of our human bodies) so they’re an amazing thing to add to your diet, throwing a handful or two into your morning juice or smoothie. Unlike some of the other sprouts such as pea or radish, sunflower sprouts have a slightly nutty flavour. You’ll want to eat these sprouts while they’re still young as the second set of leaves are somewhat furry!

Chickpeas sprouts

Seeing greens sprout out of a chickpea can be quite interesting if you’ve never witnessed it before but trust us, you’ll love it! Sprouted chickpeas contain more protein and vitamins then their pre-soaked and sprouted counterparts and also made the amino acids within the chickpea more accessible to the human body.

How to grow sprouts from seeds?

There are three main ways to sprout: 1 – The Sieve Method, 2 – The Jar Method, 3 – The Micro-Farm Method. We’ll give you a quick run through of all three so you can choose the option that works best for you.

Method 1: The Sieve Method

This option is great if you don’t mind leaving your sprout seeds out on your kitchen side and don’t want to buy any new equipment.

All you’ll need is:

  • Sprouting seeds
  • Container (to soak your seeds/beans/lentils/peas in)
  • Sieve
  • Towel
Steps:
  1. Soak your seeds/beans/lentils/peas overnight in plenty of water
  2. Rinse thoroughly using a sieve
  3. Leave seeds/beans/lentils/peas in the sieve placed over a bowl with a towel over it, rising twice per day (morning and evening)
  4. Watch them sprout and eat when you’re ready (usually after approx. 5 days depending on the type)

Method 2: The Jar Method

This is essentially the same as the sieve method but you’ll use a jar in which to keep your sprouting seeds instead of a bowl and sieve.

All you’ll need is:

  • Sprouting seeds
  • A mason jar (or some type of jar with a lid)
  • A lid with holes in, a cheesecloth or an official sprouting lid
  • A small plate or bowl
  • A paper towel or two
Steps:
  1. Soak your seeds/beans/lentils/peas in your jar overnight in plenty of water
  2. Rinse thoroughly using your sprouting lid (or lid with holes in) or use a sieve before returning the seeds to the jar.
  3. Shake the seeds around the jar so most stick to the sides, then store facing lid down (preferably at a 45-degree angle) in the bowl with a paper towel in, ideally in a cool dark place.
  4. Take the seeds/beans/lentils/peas out of storage twice per day (morning and evening), rising with fresh water before returning to position.
  5. On the third or fourth day, start storing the sprouts in indirect light, moving them to a windowsill for the fourth or fifth day to green up.
  6. Watch them sprout and eat when you’re ready (usually after approx. 5 days depending on the type)

Method 3: The Micro-Farm Method

This method is for those who want to get home-grown farmer vibes, using soil instead of just water to sprout your seeds.

All you’ll need is:

  • Sprouting seeds
  • A pan, casserole dish or seedling tray
  • Soil (preferably organic)
Steps:
  1. Line your tray or dish with around two inches of soil
  2. Sprinkle your seeds on top, covering with one more inch of soil
  3. Spray tray with water every day
  4. Leave for 4-5 days and then cut to harvest. This method should allow you to reap more than one batch per seed.

How to store sprouts

Most sprouted seeds are best kept fresh (if you are going to eat them within a few days) but they can also be kept in the freezer so you can grab a handful at hand time and toss them in a smoothie or green juice. 

If you are going to store them for a few days, try to shake off as much water as possible first and then keep them in an air-tight container in the fridge. If you can, use a paper towel in the container to soak up any excess water, remembering to change this every few days.

Before using your sprouts, give them a quick feel and sniff to ensure they are still fresh. You’ll know if they smell off! 

Is there anything else I should be aware of when sprouting?

Sprouting has caused some controversy in its time due to some outbreaks of illness associated with them (mainly salmonella and e.coli) but this is largely due to the factors that come into play when producing sprouts on a large scale. 

Sprouts, as we mentioned above, require a warm humid environment (the same key climate that bacteria loves) and therefore when you’re producing them it’s important to ensure you keep them pathogen-free wherever possible. As soon as you scale the production up from a few mason jars in your house, to a commercial level with multiple people involved, things get a little tricky. But if you control the seeds you use, clean your jars before and after use and ensure you wash your hand before touching the seeds/sprouts, then you’ll likely be a-ok.  

Have you tried sprouting seeds yet? What do you love/hate about it? Let us know in the comments below. If you’ve not tried yet, why not give it a go? You’ll be reaping the rewards in just a few days and as the process is so quick and easy you can always be able to have a batch on the go for fresh greens to add to your salads and smoothies!