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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Awesome Power of Sprouts

Sprouts are great and you should grow them. The sprout is the new growth that originates from a germinated seed. Sprouts are jam packed full of nutrients. They are tasty, crispy and can be grown at any time during the year. Commercial sprouts are relatively pricey and have been linked to numerous e.coli and salmonila outbreaks. So the best way to enjoy the goodness of sprouts without losing a kidney is to grow your own. Growing sprouts is easy to do, safer than buying them, cost effective and healthy.

To grow sprouts, all you do is put half to a quarter cup of seeds into a jar. Fill the jar with water to soak the seeds for the time indicated on the chart or until you notice some tiny white shoots showing. Put on some mesh with a rubber band than tip the jar upside down to drain. Rinse the sprouts once every morning and once every night until they are done. You can tell they are done by eating one or you can follow a chart. Charts can be downloaded from anywhere but this one is pretty good. Pop them in the fridge or eat them when they are done. This process takes almost no time each day. It is easy to have a couple jars on the go at any one time.

As sprouts taste best raw, there are a few food safety issues you should be aware of. Commercial sprouting facilities seem to have a lot of trouble with contamination. There have been 37 salmonila and e.coli outbreaks linked to sprouts in the last 40 years in Canada. The cause of these outbreaks is fecal contamination of the sprouts at the growing facility or distribution centre. These contaminants can cause symptoms ranging from cramps to kidney damage to death. Because sprouts are most often eaten raw they are not exposed to the high temperatures used to kill bacteria unlike many other foods. I would think twice about ordering a dish with raw, commercially grown sprouts at any restaurant.

Fortunately for us, we are unlikely to expose our home grown sprouts to fecal matter. Just be sure to use a clean jar, rinse your seeds well and don’t put raw meat in your sprout jar. If you are still worried, use organic seeds as any manure that is used to fertilize organic foods has to be composted to a point where it will not pose such a risk. If there is a funky odour from your sprouts, toss the batch. I have sprouted a number of times and I have never had to throw out a batch. One last point on safety, be sure to choose seeds that produce edible sprouts. All these listed here are safe. Red kidney bean sprouts are poisonous. I did not know this when I started sprouting and I tend to sprout any random seed in my kitchen. I was lucky because the kidney beans are more difficult for me to reach I did not try to sprout them.

Sprouting is cost effective. Most seeds can be purchased cheaply at bulk barn or other grocery stores. The resulting sprout is much bigger than its seed. It is literally pennies to sprout things like lentils or barley.

Sprouts are currently taking off as a new super food. They are one of the most complete nutritional foods out there. If you think about it, this makes sense. Plants want their seeds to survive so they pump them full of good things so that each one has the food stores necessary to survive once they leave the parent plant. Sprouts contain almost everything that their original seed contained and sometimes more, especially if exposed to a bit of light. These little wonders have been known to improve digestive efficiency. Broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane which fights cancer by supporting anti-oxidant activity. Many sprouts contain chemo-protectants which benefit immune function and resist cell mutation and thus, cancer.

When you grow your own sprouts you know where they came from and what they have been exposed too. Unlike large commercial sprout farms, you don’t need contaminated fertilizers to speed up production. You don’t need to use pesticides or fungicides on them to keep down pests like disease carrying mice (poor mice). When you grow at home, you are aware of the purity of your food. So, now you know how very easy it is to grow sprouts and you have some guide lines to get you started. You know the safety concerns surrounding commercial sprout farms and have some food safety tips of your own. Sprouting is time and cost effective. Your final product is both healthy and tasty. Now all you need is a jar, some mesh and seeds, and elastic band and water and you are ready to sprout. So try it, you be glad you did.