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Sprouting at home is easy and requires little or no equipment not already have on hand. To save a few pennies, improve the taste, texture and nutritional status of your favorite recipes and to ensure you are eating well produced, safe and healthy sprouts, start sprouting in on your own kitchen counter today. See Monday’s post for a list of good seeds, beans and grains to sprout as well as some nutritional information on the super-food quality and power of sprouts.

What you will need:

  • 1 wide mouth jar (the bigger the better – ½ gallon or bigger)
  • Cheesecloth or a fine mesh screen to cover the mouth of the jar
  • A rubber band, string or fine wire to secure the lid on the jar
  • Your sprouting seed/bean/grain of choice

How to start

  • Use 1 part seed to 3 parts water
  • Place desired amount of seed in your jar. All of the following measurements will yield one quart of sprouts – 2 tbsp alfalfa or clover, ¼ cup radish or mustard, ½ cup lentils, 1 cup wheat or rye, 2 cups sunflower
  • Add the appropriate amount of filtered or spring water to the jar depending on what amount of seed you choose
  • Secure your cheesecloth or mesh screen over the lid of the jar
  • Let soak at room temperature for at least 6 hours for smaller amounts of seeds and 12 hours for larger measurements
  • Drain well and keep in a mild but warm dark place.
  • Rinse sprouts twice daily in a strainer and return to the jar
  • After three days place your sprouts in a slightly lighter area to increase the amount of chlorophyll, continue to drain twice daily
  • After 5 to 6 days your sprouts will be ready for consumption. Rinse before using and remove any hulls left behind from the original seed
  • Store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to one week in a clean and covered glass jar

Add sprouts to your favorite sandwich, wrap, soup, salad, pizza or stir fry. Spicier sprouts like radish and mustard make great garnishes for meats and seafood. Sprouts may be slightly cooked but provide the most nourishment when eaten raw and fresh.

Soba and Sunflower Sprout Salad with Cashew Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves crushed garlic
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp tamari
3 Tbsp smooth cashew butte
1 tsp chili sauce
2 9-oz packages soba noodles
3 cups fresh sunflower sprouts
6 green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
2 carrots quartered and thinly sliced (on a mandolin if you have it)

Combine olive oil, garlic, orange juice, sesame oil, tamari, cashew butter and chili sauce in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine. In a large saucepan bring water to a boil and add soba noodles.  Cook until just soft, drain and set aside. Toss cooled noodles with sprouts, green onions, cilantro, bell pepper and carrot.  Add dressing and toss until salad has a light coating and good flavor. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

*Add ginger soy grilled chicken or salmon for extra protein

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Following up on my article on soaking grains from last week, I thought I would discuss the result of going one step further in your whole grain preparation. If your grains are left soaking for three or more days (not necessary for the nutrient absorption and pre-digestion process, but an option that creates a whole new delicacy) the result is a sprouted seedling. As I explained, soaking helps release the “dormant energy” of the seed, making it more available for use by your body. As it happens, the dormant energy of any grain, seed or legume is the source of life and growth potential that it contains – remember it’s not just food, it’s a plant’s form of reproduction as well. As the growth process begins during sprouting, food enzymes are activated, nutrient levels increase and new vitamins and minerals are taken on. Like the initial soaking process, sprouting eliminates the nutrient blocking enzymes, begins pre-digesting the grain/legume/seed and results in a more nutrient rich and available food for your digestive tract.

With the recent salmonella outbreaks in commercially produced sprouts, what better time to take your grain soaking to the next level and try some at home sprouting? Depending on what you chose to sprout, nutrient contents vary, but all sprouts are healthy nutritional powerhouses. Some of the best grains for sprouting are: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice and wheat/rye. Other great seeds and legumes to sprout include pumpkin, radish, sesame, sunflower, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, garbanzo, lentil and mung. Avoid sprouting large beans such as black, fava, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and soy as they can be harsh on digestion and toxic to the body.

Don’t write off sprouts as a past time for hippies and granola lovers. Sprouts can be a delightful addition to a gourmet meal or a simple sandwich. They taste great, add texture and flare to foods and have amazing nutritional benefits.

  • Sprouted wheat contains almost four times the amount of niacin and twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate as un-sprouted
  • Sprouted wheat has a higher protein to starch ratio, which makes its impact on your blood sugar level less extreme. More protein than starch will help maintain energy and satiation longer and decrease cravings
  • Chlorophyll is abundant in sprouts and has intense purification, anti-inflammation and regeneration qualities
  • Sprouts help eliminate excess and stagnancy built up in the body from symptoms induced by stress, diet and lifestyle in modern cultures
  • Sprouts, especially of broccoli seeds, contain high levels of sulforaphane that supports antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and has been researched for its aid in cancer fighting regimens
  • Sprouts contain highly effective and beneficial digestive enzymes that help build healthy intestinal flora and proper digestion and assimilation processes
  • Sprouting cereal grains can produce up to 300 percent more vitamin A
  • A large variety of phytonutrients (naturally occurring plant based compounds) in sprouts have positive health benefits that include combating degenerative disease, aiding in pain relief and anti-inflammation, detoxifying the body, counteracting harmful free-radicals and oxidation and aiding metabolism and immune function
  • Alfalfa sprouts help clean and tone the intestines, remove harmful acids from the blood and contain enzymes that help with the assimilation of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carotene, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus zinc, vitamins K and P and abundant chlorophyll in alfalfa sprouts provide nourishing and healing qualities.
  • Sunflower sprouts (pictured above) are a rare food form of natural vitamin D, a necessary but usually deficient vitamin for most people. Vitamin D aids in bone and immune system health and plays a role in fighting cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This weekend, while waiting for my homegrown sprouts to work their magic, I picked up some beautiful sunflower sprouts at the farmers market. They were a treat to snack on plain (snappy and fresh — hinting of fresh spring life) as I meandered my way around the remaining booths. Luckily I managed to save a few for last night’s dinner, where they added a perfect crisp crunch to the top of  a black bean, quinoa, sauteed greens and arugula pesto salad.

Check back this Thursday for easy at home sprouting instructions and more recipe ides for the final product.