Sprouts!

by Kerry Dunnington

This marks my first anniversary of writing for baltimore eats, and I can’t think of a food more appropriate to feature this month than sprouts.

This time of year, when so little is coming into season here in Maryland, we’re all bound to be really craving food that tastes “garden fresh.” So it’s a great time to have homegrown sprouts in the kitchen.

The first time I ate alfalfa sprouts was in the summer of 1976 at a juice bar in a health food store. A mountain of them were piled on what was dubbed a “Powerhouse Sandwich,” purportedly invented by the owner of a natural food market here in Maryland.

 Thick slices of hearty 7-grain bread were generously spread with safflower oil mayonnaise and topped with slices of juicy summer tomatoes; romaine lettuce; thin slices of creamy Muenster cheese; a liberal sprinkling of Spike, a salt-free, multi-herbed vegetable seasoning that perfectly complemented the combination; and  that mountain of alfalfa sprouts…one bite of the Powerhouse got me hooked! This was a sandwich with healthy ingredients designed to satisfy and rejuvenate. 

The components that make up a Powerhouse were always some of my favorite foods, but new to me, and what seemed to really define the sandwich, were the crispy, fresh-tasting homegrown sprouts.

The woman who assembled my sandwich told me how she grew the various sprouts for the store: “It’s a simple process that requires no digging, planting or weeding. Sprouts grow in any kind of weather, any time of year and in 3-5 days, you will have a bountiful, nutrition-packed harvest!”

She was right! My first experience growing sprouts was nearly effortless. The rewards were so fresh tasting and the harvest plentiful…

Grow Your Own!
Make certain that you only buy organic seeds or beans for sprouting.  Non-organic beans sometimes will not sprout due to irradiation or other processes done to prolong their shelf-life. Rinse your beans or seeds well in warm running water and drain. Place them in a jar large enough to hold them once they’ve fully sprouted. (The sprouts you end up with may be anywhere from two to ten times the volume of beans or seeds you began with!)

Cover the seeds with fresh warm water and soak for 8 hours, or overnight.

Drain well, rinse and drain again. (After the initial soaking do NOT leave any water standing in the sprouting jar.  Sprouts need to be moist, warm, and clean, but not soggy wet—that will cause them to get slimy and decay.)

Place the jar in a dark place. Putting them in a cupboard you visit daily will help you to remember them!

Rinse your sprouts two or three times a day during the sprouting process. When they are almost sprouted to your satisfaction, expose them to indirect sunlight for about 3-5 hours to green them up a bit with a little photosynthesis.

Store finished sprouts in a closed container and refrigerate to halt the sprouting process. For best results, place a damp paper towel on the top and bottom of sprouts to help keep them moist.


Sprouts are a Nutritious “Living Food.”

B
elieve it or not, most types of sprouts contain more protein than meat! They are rich in essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements too.

  • One fully packed cup of alfalfa sprouts is only 16 calories.
  • Sprouts are high in dietary fiber.
  • Eating sprouts builds the immune system.
  • Sprouts help detoxify the body.


Build a Seasonal Powerhouse Sandwich.

When tomatoes aren’t in season, slices of sweet onion, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, avocado, roasted vegetables, cucumber, crunchy radishes or shredded carrots are a tasty and satisfying replacement to the tomato. Try it with baba ghanoush or sliced meats.


Other Ideas

  • You can add piles of sprouts to most any sandwich.
  • Top creamy hummus with a mound of sprouts.
  • Add heartier sprouts (like mung beans) to stir-fries.
  • Sprouted lentils are especially good. When lightly steamed, they have a nutty, vanilla-like flavor.
  • Sprouts are also delicious juiced.
  • Toss sprouts into lettuce leaf salads, or into heartier salads like shredded cabbage.

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