Through My Kitchen Window – Spectacular Sprouts

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Sylvia Hess, is a registered nurse who does individual dietary and lifestyle counseling as well as speaking to women’s groups and churches. She has spent years researching healthy foods and their preparation. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 28, Sylvia used a combination of diet and exercise to control the disease. Her oldest son is severely allergic to dairy products since infancy, which also led her to research food ingredients. She agreed to share some of her culinary wisdom with us. - Davina

What is simple to grow, crisp, tasty, versatile and packed with nutrition? The answer is home grown vegetable and bean sprouts. The nutritional content of seeds increases dramatically when they sprout. The sprouting process activates enzymes, protein and minerals become more absorbable, and parts of the seed not containing nutrients are diminished.

Sprouts grown in your kitchen are superior to sprouts or greens from the grocery store. Watering, light, choice of seed, type of container and timing are all under your control. No nutrients are lost during the time it takes to pack and ship the sprouts to the store.

Growing sprouts is a fun and fascinating activity for children or grandchildren. Seldom will a child refuse to eat something he or she has grown.

Seeds that are easy to sprout include lentils, clover seed, alfalfa, sesame, mung beans and adzuki beans. Some of these can only be purchased at a health food store or from a seed supplier. It is important to obtain seeds that are intended for food consumption. Seeds for planting may contain chemical treatments to discourage insect damage and should never be consumed.

Clover and alfalfa sprouts are mild and tender, delicious in salads and sandwiches. Mung beans and adzuki beans can be used in the same way but since they are larger, they may also be added at the end of stir-frying and spooned into hot bowls of soup. The fresh green of mung beans and bright red of adzuki beans will add a festive color to any recipe. Sesame seeds may not sprout a noticeable amount even after soaking and rinsing for 2 or 3 days, but the sprouting process enhances their flavor and texture as well as making them more digestible. Try them in salads and on top of whole grain breakfast cereal.

When sprouting becomes a regular part of your routine, you may wish for some additional supplies. Check your local health food store and talk to the personnel there about your needs. Your library will have books on the subject as well. Some helpful websites are www.johnnyseeds.com and www.mountainroseherb.com.

Various sprouter designs are available, so research them before making a purchase. Stackable designs might not allow enough air circulation, giving you moldy, unusable sprouts. My favorite sprouter is a set of three lids with small, medium, and large holes, which fit any wide-mouthed canning jar. The seeds can soak, rinse and sun in the same container. After rinsing, I allow the jar to drain on a slant in a bowl so that the water can escape and air can circulate. For tiny seeds like sesame and chia, use a clean piece of cheese cloth 5 inches square with a wide snugly- fitting rubber band to keep the tiny seeds from falling out of the jar.

The key steps to sprouting are:

1) Get a sprouting container, a colander, or a canning jar with cheese cloth and rubber band

2) Select 2-3 tablespoons of seed intended for food such as brown lentils. Check for stones, dirt and debris. Remove any broken or oddly colored seeds as they will be unlikely to sprout. Rinse thoroughly and place in a bowl of water to soak for 24 hours or at least overnight.

3) Drain the soaked seeds, place in the sprouter, rinse and let drain again.

4) Cover the sprouter with a cloth, because darkness will encourage sprouting.

5) Rinse 2-3 times during the day. Repeat the rinses daily for 3-5 days until the sprouts reach the desired length for harvest, usually 1-3 inches.

6) When leaves emerge, set the sprouter in a sunny location to allow the leaves to green and grow. This may take only a few hours depending on the amount of light that day. Very bright sun through a glass window can dehydrate and burn the sprouts, so it is best to keep an eye on them. Continue rinsing.

7) After your lentils reach an attractive length, around 1-3 inches, they will need to be stored in the refrigerator. Otherwise they will continue to grow like Jack’s unruly bean stalk! Remove them from the jar or colander and rinse thoroughly in a bowl of fresh water. Lift the sprouts out of the water by hand and allow them to drain before placing them in a clean covered container. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week. Use fresh sprouts for soup garnish, salads, and as a replacement for lettuce in sandwiches.

8) Wash all sprouting equipment in hot soapy water and rinse well. Select your next variety of seed to soak so you will always have a crunchy fresh addition to salads and sandwiches.

Growing your own vegetable and bean sprouts is a rewarding winter activity for all ages. Sprouts are delicious, nutritious, economical and versatile, all packaged in the wonder of a tiny seed.

Fruity Winter Salad with Sprouts

By Sylvia Hess

1 apple, cored and diced

1 pear, cored and diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated

¼ cup minced onion

1 cup finely grated cabbage

1 cup lentil sprouts or other sprouts

¼ tsp salt

½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley flakes

1-2 Tbs lemon or lime juice

Apple and pear may be peeled if desired. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve chilled. Makes 4 - 6 servings.

You can contact Sylvia to learn more about sprouting or eating healthy at: 717-872-5242 or slhessrn@gmail.com.

Contact Davina Weinhold online at throughmykitchenwindow@gmail.com

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