During quarantine, I’ve found myself wondering what would happen if the supply chain broke down and the supermarkets had to close shop.
Of course, I considered the obvious and intuitive solution of growing my own food.
Traditional farming (at any scale) comes with a large list of issues:
- Plot of land required
- Expensive seeds get the best results
- Time consuming activity takes attention and care
- Weeks or months between seed and harvest
- Hassle which prevents you from traveling
- Learning curve to figure out the process
- Sunlight and soil of your region dictate which plants you can grow
Worst of all, predators can steal your hard-earned crops just prior to harvest.
I researched for a better alternative. The answer fell in my lap.
As I read Doug Evan’s book The Sprout Book, I quickly discovered that…
Sprouts are the most powerful plants in existence. Regularly topping any list of world’s best superfoods.
These tiny, living nutrition superstars are packed with vitamins, micronutrients, phytonutrients, minerals, flavonoids, polyphenols, antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, live enzymes, and other beneficial phytochemicals. All with great digestibility and bioavailability.
Growing them doesn’t require sunshine, soil, or fancy irrigation systems. In fact, they suffer few of the same fates of conventional agriculture. Regardless of your agricultural prowess, If you have a kitchen windowsill, a greenhouse space, or even a closet or pantry, you can grow sprouts.
This post contains everything you need to know about the health benefits of sprouts, and how to easily get started with growing sprouts at home.
Sprouts are Nature’s Ultimate Superfood
Scientists have long known that sprouts are one of the healthiest foods on Earth.
Sprouts are the biological blueprint of a mature plant, but brimming with vital life force (AKA energy).
Along with spirulina and chlorella algae, I consider sprouts to be Earth’s original multivitamin. Natural compounds within sprouts interact with each other to increase bioavailability. You get nutrients in their raw and most absorbable form.
I previously wrote an article about how the Micro-RNA in plants rapidly activates or deactivates human genes through a process called epigenetics. Optimally grown plants send powerful signals to ramp up protective genes and deactivate the harmful. Scientists can detect these epigenetic changes in as little as 15-minutes after eating.
Sprouts add variety to our mono-diet.
Did you know that most produce in the supermarket comes from the same species? Research suggests that our ancestors ate over 200 plant species per year, where few modern humans consume more than 5! Diversity of diet correlates strongly with microbiome health.The nutrition in a small handful of sprouts is often more than the nutrition of the whole plant. Click To Tweet
If that’s not enough, scores of studies have investigated the therapeutic role of sprouts on human health. In fact, one of the many ingredients in broccoli sprouts (Sulforaphane) has amassed over 1,000 studies. Researchers have dubbed it one of the strongest food-derived molecules.
Before you run down to your local grocer to pick up a carton for yourself, you must know this.
Home Grown is Best
I never buy sprouts or micro-greens from my local grocers.
The ones you grow at home are vastly superior to store-bought sprouts:
- Far cheaper, often over 10X less than commercial sprouts
- Healthier. They haven’t been treated with pesticides
- Taste better. They haven’t aged, oxidized and spoiled from sitting around on shelves
- Nutritionally dense. Nutrient value of food decays every day after harvest. Commercial sprouts can be many days old
- Last longer. Sprouts spoil faster than fully-grown produce. By the time you buy sprouts, they’re already approaching expiration
- Environmentally friendly. Large-scale commercial operations pollute and use resources to get the product from their farm to your shopping cart
- Options galore. Most supermarkets only carry several types of sprouts. When you grow them yourself, you have dozens (or even hundreds) of options. Each with different flavors, textures, scents, and health benefits
With current technology, DIY sprouting will remain vastly superior.
As you’ll learn later, anyone, even those without prior gardening experience (like me) can sprout.
19 Benefits & Reasons to Sprout
The 1980s may have popularized sprouting, but it’s no longer just an activity for hippies.
Growing your own food connects you with nature and the rhythms of life. It puts sovereignty back into your own hands.
From The Sprout Book [Amazon] and my own brainstorming, here are some of the many benefits of sprouting your own food:
- Educational. You’ll learn how plants photosynthesize and convert raw materials into the energetic catalyst to grow. Great for all ages.
- Conversation starter. Guests often ask about our sprouting setup and want to sample each of our different trays. The conversation inevitably segues into the realm of nutrition, myths, and superfoods — a personal favorite.
- Clean air. Did you know that indoor air is orders of magnitude more polluted than even that or large industrial city streets? Well-known universities and institutions like NASA have shown plants (including sprouts) can remove the omnipresent toxins from indoor air.
- Empowering. Once you harvest your first batch of sprouts, you’ll discover the ease and reward of this activity. You’ll gain confidence in your ability to care for and feed yourself, regardless of nationwide supply chain disruptions.
- Pet-friendly. Pets, including dogs and cats, willingly eat sprouts. They get similar health benefits from these foods. Note that they tend to prefer the more mild tasting sprouts.
- Digestible. Before plants grow large and hearty, they’ve yet to develop the anti-nutrients that cause discomfort to those with sensitive digestive systems. With adequate chewing, most people can digest both sprouts and micro-greens easily.
- Delicious. Sprouts come in wide variety of flavors, textures, and smells. If you hate the taste of one, keep searching until you find your ideal match. I’ve yet to meet anyone that hates ALL types.
- Anti-disease. Depending on the type, different ingredients in sprouts have well-studied disease-fighting properties. They also make a good part of any prevantative plan.
- Accessible. Sprouts make fresh produce anywhere, even in the most remote “food deserts”. You can pickup seeds in town, or get them delivered virtually anywhere in the world.
- Detoxifying. Very effective for detoxifying your body with powerful compounds like sulforophane. Especially the cruciferous sprouts wihch contain lots of sulfur.
- Meditative. Growing sprouts is a form of meditation, a way to clear your mind while doing something very simple and repetitive. It’s an easy way to take a break in the middle of a hectic day to just relax and be quiet.
- Fun. Waiting for plants to noticeably grow can feel like watching paint dry — a slow uneventful process. Sprouts, on the other hand, grow rapidly. Breathing life into something also carries an intrinsic reward of sorts. Almost like becoming a proud parent.
- Local. There has been a recent reversion to produce grown locally. In addition to the lighter carbon footprint, the body can more easily digest, absorb, and assimilate local foods. Partially related to the gut microbiome fluctuations that occur with the seasons and local microbes.
- Fast. For most sprouts, you go from dry seed to first bite in only a few days. As opposed to months under a very narrow band of conditions for most plants. Should you want to grow shoots out of the sprout, one extra day exposed to passive light does it.
- Nutritious. Despite their size, sprouts often contain 10-100X more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and beneficial compounds than full-sized plants. Plus, normal produce takes extremely long (weeks to months) to go from harvest to shopping cart. With each passing day, the nutritional content of full-size plants declines. Sprouts are consumed within days.
- Travel-friendly. A tiny 2 TBSP bag of seeds makes 3/4 of a quart of sprouts. You could easily fit hundreds of meals worth of sprouts inside a backpack.
- Easy. Sprouts grow like weeds. They’re almost like having your own little pet, except you don’t have to feed them, walk them or clean up after them.
- Convenient. You’ll make fewer trips to the local grocer or farmer’s market. Without wondering if they’ll have your favorite sprout in stock. You can store an assortment of sprout options in your fridge at all times.
- Cheap. Unlike the sprouts purchased in supermarkets, homegrown sprouts cost mere cents per serving. Among all organic food, you won’t find any greater price-to-benefit value.
I regularly consume alfalfa, mung bean, lentil, and chickpea sprouts. Sprouting is a great way to add variety, nutrients, and freshness to your diet.
Once you sprout seeds they become more digestible and much easier for your body to break down into usable energy.
Home-grown sprouts are an amazing source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. Sprouts can be grown both indoors and outdoors, although in the latter case you have to make sure they’re protected from animals. You can also use a greenhouse or even grow them in a pot on your kitchen window sill.
Versatile and easy to grow, sprouts can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches or steamed or cooked in other dishes (though I recommend keeping them cold).
Sprouting can be done either by purchasing a sprouter or making your own container at home using a jar with holes drilled in the lid or a cheesecloth stretched over it.
What You Need to Grow Sprouts
To sprout successfully, you need just three things:
- Great water
- Quality seeds
- Growing area
For water, I use a special reverse osmosis system (my AquaTru review explains why it’s the best value water machine available) to filter out all the crap, and then I add a few drops of trace minerals back in.
Seeds are slightly more difficult.
Consider organic and non-GMO options. Organic seeds are usually grown with higher standards than those of conventional seeds, and non-GMO means that the product has not been genetically modified.
Each type of seed has different growing properties, scents, flavors, textures, and chemical constituents.
For overall health benefits, broccoli sprouts are considered number one.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want to buy organic, heirloom or non-hybrid seeds (whenever possible). These kinds of seeds are less likely to contain treated seed coats or chemical additives. You can get them online, or ask organic farmers at your local farmers’ market. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
Currently, I get most of my seeds from two places:
- TruLeaf Market (my current favorite)
- Todd’s Seeds
Lastly, you’ll want some quart-sized mason jars with a mesh top [Amazon], or a simple sprouting system [True Leaf Market].
I started with the mason jars, but once I upgraded, I’ve never looked back. Sprouters make the process easier, faster, cleaner, without mold, and drastically improve yields.
If you have a few bucks, I suggest skipping the mason jars altogether.
How to Grow Sprouts for Beginners
The sprouting process itself is quite simple.
These instructions will only come in handy your first time. Then it’ll be intuitive.
This is how to grow sprouts:
- Buy organic high-quality seeds from a trusted vendor
- Measure the proper amount of seeds and put them into a glass jar or sprouter
- Fill with water and let soak for 8-12 hours
- Store at room temperature, in the dark
- Rinse sprouts twice daily
- Fully aerate between rinses
- Optional: on the last day before harvest, expose sprouts to some passive light to increase chlorophyl content
- Depending on the sprout, after 3-6 days, remove, rinse, and store in the fridge (or freeze)
No soil, fertilizer, or cooking required.
I sometimes only rinse the sprouts once per day, but the 2nd time helps keep them clean and prevents mold and other unwanted growths.
Easy Ways to Consume Sprouts
Most people don’t think of adding sprouts to their meals, but they’re surprisingly versatile and can easily be incorporated into many recipes.
The key to getting the full health benefits is to to keep sprouts cold. Exposing them to heat, steam, or the microwave degrades the fragile enzymes and phytochemicals.
Only add them to dishes once you’ve removed them from heat.
Some great uses of sprouts and micro-greens include:
- Garnish. I often add them to stir-frys and other warm dishes at the end which retains their flavor, texture, and crunch.
- Smoothie. For smoothie makers, toss mild tasting sprouts (avoid radish!) in your blender alongside fruits and vegetables. Just a teaspoon turns an ordinary drink into a superfood smoothie.
- Salad. Sprouts go nicely with other raw vegetables. Add just a small teaspoon, or make them the star of the salad and use several tablespoons.
- Straight. When I mindlessly open the fridge, I know I’m not truly hungry. A small handful of sprouts staves off my hunger without requiring any meal prep.
- On-the-go. Similarly, sprouts are hyper-portable and I often carry them in my bag for easy and light nutrition. Great for busy days.
- Hummus. Mix 3 cups of chickpeas with 0.5 cup of tahini, 0.25 cup of lemon juice, and a clove of garlic in a food processor. Mix until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse another 0.25 cup of sprouts until even consistency.
These are but a few of my favorites and Doug’s Sprout Hummus recipe. After a few successful grows, I’m sure you’ll have your own list of uses!
DIY How to Easily Grow Sprouts, Shoots, & Microgreens at Home
Instead of wasting your day munching nutrient-depleted vegetables, what if you could get even more benefits from one portion the size of a lemon.
That’s no fantasy.
As we deplete our soils and ship more food around the world, the same produce today only contains a fraction of the nutrient profile just 50 years ago.
In fact, one study found significant reductions in six out of 13 (tested) nutrients between 1950 and 1999:
- Vitamin C
Similarly, in 1999 researchers found that consumers would have to eat eight oranges to get the same Vitamin A as their grandparents got in one.
The “Urban Farmer” of the 21st century is resource constrained:
Sprouts offer an easy, convenient, cheap, fast, and fun antidote to the modern issue of poor farming processes an unavailability of truly nutritious foods.
I now consume more plant species, get highly bioavailable vitamins and minerals, all just by consuming “nature’s multivitamin”.
Do you use sprouts? If so, let me know your experience in the comments below! I’m always hunting down new sprout recipes.