Now that I have the amazing Urban Cultivator on trial (it arrived to much excitement on 11th December, and you can read more about it here), I thought it would be an opportune time to write about sprouting and indoor gardening. When I talk about sprouts, I don’t mean those dubious squishy things that you might have felt obliged to eat for Christmas dinner recently – I’m talking about sprouted seeds, grains and other “activated” food that is so good for you and so easy to grow. Not everyone has a garden, and very few people are self-sufficient for their own food these days. By growing your own sprouts you can get maximum nutritional “bang” for your buck, even if you live in a small flat with no outdoor space. Young sprouts and germinated seeds contain far more nutrients than the full-grown produce, and can skyrocket your nutritional profile.
The 6 categories of sprouts are as follows:
In this category we have sunflower greens, wheatgrass and pea shoots, grown in soil. These foods are a great source of protein – in fact it is stated that sunflower and wheatgrass are a complete protein, meaning that they contain all the essential amino acids we need. Brilliant! Having green leaves, they are also a good source of magnesium because of their chlorophyll content. Magnesium is really important for bone health (even more so than calcium), as you’ll read in my award-nominated book Love Your Bones.
Small-leaf green sprouts
Alfalfa, broccoli, radish, onion, red clover… the list goes on. These small seeds can be grown in jars (don’t overfill your jar, just use a very small amount), or in an automatic sprouter (or of course the Urban Cultivator!). They are full of minerals and contain some chlorophyll. They are also an excellent source of phytonutrients – those components of plants, many of which don’t even have names yet, with rather miraculous properties, such as reducing high levels of free radical damage in the body (which in turn is anti-ageing – yippee!).
These are your carb-dominant sprouts which also contain a good spectrum of protein, important on the vegan diet. This is where your macronutrients come from. In this category we have lentils, peas and beans. They’re not as high in vitamins and minerals as the two categories above, but they’re an excellent addition to the diet, and great for athletes.
There’s a growing trend for going grain-free, and rightly so. Eliminating processed, refined, cooked, nutrient-depleted grains from the diet and getting rid of gluten is the way to go. The grains I’m talking about here are the small, alkalising, nutrient-rich grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and teff. I’ve put buckwheat in here because it “acts” like a small alkalising grain when sprouted, even though it is actually a member of the rhubarb family. Who knew? These high-protein, ancient and non-hybridised grains are easy to digest and gluten free. Enjoy them in salads or even for breakfast. Good for athletes or anyone who needs a food-derived energy boost.
Mung and adzuki beans
These beans have their own category. When sprouted, they are a good source of calories and sustained energy. They also contain very decent levels of minerals and trace minerals. If you’re not used to them, slowly does it at first – large quantities can have gassy side effects!
Fenugreek can be grown to standard “sprout-length” (i.e. the sprouted tail is the same length as the seed itself) or grown into the green-leaf stage, as I discovered serendipitously in the automatic sprouter a few years ago. It’s spicy, cleansing and detoxifying. Go easy at first, since it’s a bit like garlic in the sense that when overdone, it seems to be coming out of every pore…
So that’s it – anyone who wants to rev up their health experience in 2016 should think seriously about getting into sprouting. Simple, inexpensive, effective – what could be better?