Lately we've been talking about sprouted grains, from the nutritional and culinary benefits to making them at home. But sprouting doesn't have to be limited to grains. From sunflower seeds to almonds and chickpeas, sprouting can be a fun and nutritious way to enhance the ingredients in your kitchen.
As we covered in our sprouted grains primer, essentially any whole, untreated seed can germinate given the right conditions. This process increases certain nutrients and can enhance digestibility. Sprouting also turns hard, inedible seeds into a crunchy, chewy ingredient that may be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Sprouted seeds, nuts, and beans are delicious in salads, sautés, and more.
Below is a guide to some of the ingredients you can sprout in your kitchen. Always use sanitary seeds meant for eating and sprouting, not gardening or agriculture. Seeds should be raw (not roasted), non-GMO, and preferably organic. Your local health food store, Sprout People, Handy Pantry, and Mountain Rose Herbs are some good sources.
Alfalfa sprouts are ubiquitous, but they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sprouting. Other commonly sprouted seeds include broccoli, celery, chia, clover, fenugreek, radish, kale, onion, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower. These make great additions to salads and sandwiches and can also be sautéed, blanched, or steamed. In most cases, since the seeds are so small, you'll want to sprout just a couple tablespoons of seeds at a time or you'll end up with a lot of sprouts.
Note: Sprouts from the Solanaceae or nightshade family can be poisonous, so avoid eggplant, hot and sweet peppers, potato, and tomato. Also avoid rhubarb.
Most "sprouted" nuts are technically just soaked, meaning they undergo only the first stage of sprouting, which is soaking in water for 2 to 12 hours. (For suggested soaking times, see this guide from Vegetarian Times.) In addition to neutralizing enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, this process softens nuts, making them ideal for creating nut-based milks, creams, and spreads.
Some nuts such as almonds can be further sprouted until they develop little nubs, but shelled nuts like pecans and walnuts cannot be fully sprouted.
Commonly sprouted beans or legumes include adzuki beans, chickpeas, green peas, lentils, mung beans, and soy beans. Many people find that the initial soaking step alone renders the beans more digestible. Fully sprouting the beans softens them enough that they may be eaten raw, whizzed into soups, blended to make spreads like hummus, or lightly cooked.
You can also dehydrate soaked or just-sprouted beans for cooking later. Although the nutritional boost may be lost in cooking, an advantage is that the beans often require less water and time.
For detailed instructions and safety considerations, see our tutorial: How To Make Sprouted Grains