Ya Little Sprout

September 24, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Immune System, Nutrition by Mary Ireland

Unlike Dr. Grandma who has said she was a bit of an earth mother in the early 1970’s, I came into my earth mother phase later in life – starting in my early 50’s. Before that, I had a career in the software industry. For me, there was something very comforting about growing vegetables, canning, pulling weeds and getting back to nature after 30 years of sitting at a computer monitor.

While I do eat fish and chicken on occasion, and even rarely eat red meat, most of the time I prepare vegetarian meals. I agree with Mark Bittman’s What Is Wrong with What We Eat.

In exploring ways to improve my eating style, I researched sprouting. I have a friend who is very enthusiastic about sprouting. It seemed like a really good idea – low carbon footprint and available year round. I got on the web and read glorious claims including that sprouts have many more nutrients than the mature plant. Hmm. How is that possible my left brain questioned? If the mature plant gets nutrients from the soil – shouldn’t it have more nutrients?

So, I asked Dr. Grandma about this. As it turns out, Dr. Grandma is interested in the data on sprouting also. She guided me in researching sprouts. The information I found falls in these three areas.

  • Research findings.
  • Health safety issues with sprouts.
  • Guidelines to follow when sprouting your own.

Research Findings

The following findings were reported in "Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 28(5): 401-437 by J. Chavan and S.S. Kadam (1989)

  • When seeds or grains are soaked and sprouted, complex biochemical changes cause enzymes to break down proteins, starch and lipids into simple compounds.
  • These enzymes increase total proteins, fat, certain essential amino acids, total sugars, B-group vitamins and decrease in dry matter and starch.
  • The digestibility of B-group vitamins, sugars, protein and starch increase.

There is also evidence that sprouts are loaded with the phytonutrients -- the nutrients from plants that Dr. Grandma mentions frequently in her blogs. Significant findings have been made regarding broccoli sprouts:

  • A research study in 1997 found that three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 50 times the amount of nutrients that help protect the body from carcinogins -- compounds than mature broccoli heads.
  • US researchers conducting studies on rats found that a concentrated extract of freeze-dried broccoli sprouts reduces the growth of bladder tumors by more than half.
  • A small, pilot study in 50 people in Japan suggests that eating two and a half ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months may provide some protection against a rampant stomach bug that causes gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer. They caution that eating this or any amount of broccoli sprouts may not fully protect anyone from stomach cancer or cure GI diseases.
  • Another Johns Hopkins research study indicates that phytonutrients in broccoli sprouts induce enzymes, boost antioxidant status, and protect animals against chemically induced cancer. Of importance is that raw, broccoli sprouts produced the best results.

Health Safety Issues with Sprouts
Sounds like sprouts have a lot of benefits. Next, I wanted to look at the health concerns.

  • Issues with commercially grown sprouts
    • The risk of Salmonella or E. coli bacteria contamination exists if you eat raw sprouts or lightly cooked sprouts. If the sprouts have been contaminated (which you don't know by looking at them), you must thoroughly cook them to kill the bacteria.
    • Young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are most susceptible to complications from illness caused by Salmonella and E. coli.
    • Poor hygienic practices in the storage of seeds and in the production of sprouts have been the cause of past sprout-related outbreaks.
  • Things to think about when doing your own sprouting:
    • Choose sprouts that are edible. Not all seeds are safe to sprout. For example, kidney bean sprouts are toxic. Here is a partial list of seeds that can be sprouted and eaten:
      • Alfalfa Seed
      • Adzuki Beans
      • Broccoli Seeds
      • Chia Seeds
      • Lentils
      • Fenugreek
      • Garbanzo Beans
      • Mung Bean
      • Quinoa Seeds
      • Sunflower
      • Wheat Berries
    • Make sure that the beans or grains have not been processed for planting and treated with a pesticide.
    • Purchase certified organic seeds to help ensure the safety of the sprouts.

Guidelines to follow when sprouting your own.

I personally love sprouted wheat berries -- the instructions are listed below. Sprouting other seeds is very similar the only differences are the size of the seed which determines how big of a container you will need for the expanding seed and whether you should sprout in the dark or with indirect sunlight. There are two excellent books on sprouting: Fresh Food from Small Spaces by R. J. Ruppenthal and The Sprouting Book: How to Grow and Use Sprouts to Maximize Your Health and Vitality (Avery Health Guides) by Ann Wigmore.

How to sprouting and germinate wheat berries:

What you'll need:

  • 1/2 cup wheat berries
  • 1 quart Wide Mouth Jar (or something similar)
  • Nylon Net or Cheesecloth + Rubberband (to cover the jar & keep the cover in place)

    You can purchase sprouting kits that have everything you need, including the seeds.


  1. Rinse ½ cup of wheat berries.
  2. Put the wheat berries in a wide-mouth quart jar. Don’t put too many berries in one jar – ½ cup per wide-mouth jar.
  3. Add 2 cups of room temperature water.
  4. Place nylon net or cheesecloth over the jar opening.
  5. Use a heavy rubber band or the metal jar ring to hold the nylon or cheesecloth in place.
  6. Soak 12 hours, then drain.
  7. Thoroughly drain the water – shake a bit to remove most of the water.
  8. Place the bottle in the cupboard, in the dark. Some people use a paper bag to keep the light out, but still near the sink to remind them of their sprouting project.
  9. It needs the air (fairly warm air) – so don’t cover the opening with a solid lid.
  10. Each morning and night rinse the wheat berries with room temperature water, drain again.
  11. 36 to 48 hours after the first soaking, Walla! You have germinated wheat or if you continue the process for a day or two more you have sprouted wheat.

Note: Sprouted wheat is often bitter, so you may enjoy it more if you just germinate it.

Storing Wheat Sprouts

Replace the nylon net or cheesecloth with plastic wrap or the metal jar lid to help keep it moist but not wet.

Store in the refrigerator.

Use within 5 days.

Things To Do With Sprouted Wheat

The following are some suggestions for things to do with your newly sprouted (or germinated) wheat.

  • As an addition to homemade bread – whole, chopped or blended in a blender (wonderful nutty flavor).
  • Addition to cereal (preferably whole grain cereal like oatmeal or cracked wheat cereal.)
  • Stir into cooked rice (preferable brown rice).
  • Added to rice pilaf.
  • Kneaded into pizza dough.
  • Chopped and added to cookies.
  • Added to muffins, pancakes, waffles, preferably Dr. Grandma’s.
  • Added to casseroles, stuffed peppers, meatloaf, meatballs, pasta sauce, mushroom and sprout sauce.
  • Added to sandwiches (try tuna, avocado, chicken, egg).
  • Sprinkle on yogurt.
  • Sprinkle in salads. (Use unflavored yogurt, mix in blue cheese and sprouts.)
  • Sprinkle onto stir-fry.