The Joy of Sprouting
In the worship of Demeter, goddess of the corn, the ancient Greeks beheld the mysteries of life itself in the simplicity of the single grain of wheat. They understood the incredible potential of the tiny seed. In it lies the power to sustain, nourish and satisfy. In the germination and sprouting process is contained the vital energies which transform the seed into a tall strong plant which can ultimately reproduce itself many times over.
And so today we are rediscovering, in our own homes, these very mysteries. Sprouted seeds and legumes are being eaten and enjoyed in unprecedented quantities in the 21st century. Sprouting provides fresh salad ingredients any time of year and is a fun thing to do with even very young children. Growing your own organic food is accessible to anyone who can put together an old jam jar, a sieve, some seeds and some water – it’s as simple as that!
Nutritionally, sprouted seeds contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, oxygen and proteins in an absorbable form which the most sophisticated supplement pill could not rival. Starches become simple natural sugars, splitting long-chain amino acids and converting saturated fats into free fatty acids, providing more nutrients gram for gram than any other natural food known.
The secret is in the chlorophyll, the ‘blood’ of the plant – the protein which gives it its distinctive green or purple colour. When compared to a molecule of haemoglobin – the oxygen carrier in human blood – chlorophyll is virtually identical. Without sufficient oxygen in our blood, we develop symptoms of low energy, sluggish digestion and reduced metabolism. Poor digestion, in turn, means reduced absorption of nutrients and a compromised immune system.
A century ago, plant chlorophyll was researched and identified as a natural powerhouse of healing. Scientific analysis explained the effectiveness of folk remedies using grasses for external as well as internal benefits. Wheat grass in particular can be crushed to make an antiseptic poultice for cuts, burns, rashes and insect bites. When juiced the extract can be used as a skin food – nutrients can be absorbed into the blood – and, as a hair conditioner, it mends damaged hair and soothes itchy scalps. Some of those old wives were pretty smart!
However, since chlorophyll in its extracted form is highly unstable, commercial and technological pressures after World War 2 favoured the use of faster-acting antibiotics and chemical antiseptics which could be patented and mass produced. Culturally, the tide was turning against self-help and homegrown remedies until the natural food movement itself regenerated – against all odds.
Sprouting easily satisfies the demands of 21st century sustainability – it’s cheap, it’s fast, it doesn’t take up much space and, hey, it’s even FUN – on top of being so completely good for you! Here are some tips to get you started.
Overnight: soak almonds, hazels, cashews, sunflower seeds, etc. This is enough to improve digestibility and flavour; add them to salads or to cooked rice.
24hrs: keep the water from your first soaking of wheat grain. This now contains enzymes which can be used in place of an acidophilus supplement to help create healthy intestinal flora. Using two cups of grain to one litre of water, the liquid, known as rejuvelac, can be sipped as needed throughout the day.
3-5 days: following a simple soaking and rinsing system, alfalfa seeds, lentils and beans will produce succulent shoots, providing a little salad patch in the tiniest corner of your own kitchen. In a jar with a muslin or mesh cover, simply soak a handful overnight, drain off the water (which you can pour on your plants) and leave to sprout. After another 12 hours rinse and drain the seeds. Repeat this until the sprouts start to form little green leaves – there’s your chlorophyll.
There are plenty of books available providing more technical details and there is an ever-increasing array of sprouting equipment to improve your yield. BioSnacky produce a small jar with a screw-on mesh lid and integral stand, so that you can easily drain off water. There is also a 3-tiered set of trays which allows you to sprout several varieties of seed without any extra effort.