Written by Sherrie Cook, Contributing Writer
Sprouting is becoming a popular nutritional step in many homes now. I've read about it in gardening books and heard rumor of it in blogs. The news intrigued me. I decided to try it because really, it couldn't be that difficult. And boy was I ever...RIGHT! It's not challenging at all! I was thrilled because I've thought that very same thing about numerous other "kitchen experiments" and been sorely disappointed. But not this time.
I didn't even lose a lot of money or make a big mess during my trial. I call that a super-success! Now that's not to say my experience was a perfect one, because there are a few mistakes that can be (& were) made along the way, so I'll be sure to share my learning with you.
Before I tell you how to sprout your grains (I used wheat berries because I had them on hand), I want to try to explain the why to sprout your grains. (Just remember I'm new to all of this, so if I use a vocabulary word out of context and you know better, just cringe a little and read on - I apologize in advance.)
Why should we sprout grains?
Vitamins, Minerals & Protein. Sprouting grains and beans makes them better for you. Advocates of sprouting claim it increases the vitamin content of Vitamin C, folic acid, niacin and riboflavin by as many as one hundred times when compared to unsprouted wheat. Lloyd Rooney, a professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, says that sprouted grain breads may also be higher in protein because of the sprouting process.
Nutrition. Enzymes introduced during the sprouting process break down or neutralize phytic acid. This "breaking-down process", according to Margie King, a Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner, allows the consumer's body to absorb the minerals zinc, calcium, copper, iron and magnesium found within the grains. Without this phytic acid active in the grain, your body can take advantage of these nutrients, thereby making the grain itself better for you. It has to do with amino acids and protein bonds and such, but before we get too complicated, let's move on.
Health. If you are eating a raw diet, sprouting adds extra enzymes to your menu. When you choose not to heat your sprouts, enzymes are stable and will remain in your sprout for addition health benefits. People who have a sensitivity to wheat (NOT to be confused with gluten intolerance or celiac disease) may be helped by the presence of these enzymes. They may find that their bodies are more able to break down wheat in this form with thanks to the natural enzymes activated through the sprouting process.
Sugar & Preservatives (or the lack thereof). For diabetics or those just wanting to keep their sugar levels on an even keel, sprouted grain breads have a lower glycemic index than whole wheat breads. Additionally, most of these "living breads" (they are so named because the grains or seeds have been awakened from hibernation by the soaking process) contain no preservatives. For this reason, if you look for them in stores, you should likely check the refrigerated section.
Taste and texture. Sprouted grains have a unique earthy or nutty taste and texture when added to your favorite foods or baking recipes.
How I sprouted my wheat berries:
- In a mason jar, pour 1/2 cup wheat berries (I used hard red) and 2 cups lukewarm water.
- Cover top of jar with mesh (I used cheese cloth and a rubber band to secure it).
- Let sit in dark location for 12 hours.
- Drain. Add more water. Slosh around gently. Drain. Repeat.
- Set jar on it's side or mesh side down at a 45° angle so any excess water can drain out.
- Let sit in dark location for 36 - 48 hours. Rinse and drain (as in step #4) grains every morning and evening (approximately every 12 hours).
- When white sprouts are approximately 1/8" long, they are officially sprouted!
Things To Do with a Sprouted Wheat Berry
- Dehydrate and mill it into "sprouted" flour for baking (or anywhere you would use "regular" flour)
- Add the sprouts to your favorite cereal, sandwich, yogurt or salad
- Add (chopped or whole) to baked goods like muffins and cookies or pancakes and waffles
- "Hide" in casseroles, meatloaves or pasta sauces
- Plant them in well drained (preferably organic) soil to grow wheat grass for juicing or just for fun!
Hints for successful sprouting:
(aka "things I may or may not have done correctly while sprouting")
- Keep them covered, but make sure your sprouts get plenty or air circulation so they don't rot or mold.
- Rinse your sprouts more often in dry conditions.
- Place your jar in a dark location so they don't begin photosynthesis.
- Don't mistake the 1 to 3 white "legs" that emerge just after soaking for a sprout.
- Keep them wet but not in standing water (with the exception of the initial soak, of course).
- Keep them at a comfortable room temperature (around 70ºF).
- Don't be alarmed when your soak water gets a little cloudy - this is normal and it will be drained off.
- Get your children involved - they'll LOVE the process!