by Mary Jane Butters
Fresh, uncooked foods are a vital part of good nutrition. Everyone knows an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But grocery store apples can be tasteless and contaminated with sprays. Store-bought produce in general is road weary, having traveled thousands of miles. If you want to cut back on your food budget, sprouting your own seeds stretches your food dollar better than anything else. Sprouts cost only pennies per serving and can reduce your food bill by 50% or more, yet store bought sprouts can be contaminated with salmonella. To ensure your safety, it's always best to handle your own food. And since grains, seeds and legumes are easily stored for years without losing any nutritional value, they are the perfect food in times of food shortages.

If you're looking for superb nutrition that costs less than any other fresh grocery store food, make sprouting a part of your daily routine. It's super-easy. If you have some quart jars or yogurt containers, a few pounds of seed, some tap water, and five minutes every morning, you can grow your own fresh vegetable garden anytime, anywhere. Sprouting doesn't require soil or sunshine. Sprouts mature in three to five days. They equal oranges and tomatoes in Vitamin C and a hamburger patty in protein. Sprouting doesn't create any waste. They're digested with little effort, they keep you regular, and they're low in calories.

The art of sprouting goes way beyond the familiar mung bean sprouts sold in grocery stores or alfalfa sprouts found on deli sandwiches. You can easily sprout adzuki beans, soy beans, lentils, almonds, cabbage, clover, mustard, radish, sesame, flax, wheat, rye, quinoa, garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, on and on.

Keep in mind that sprouting doesn't necessarily mean a garbanzo bean or almond with a long tail on it. It is sufficient enough to soak them overnight in water and then start rinsing and eating them. It's as easy as that. With most sprouts, they'll be soft enough to eat after the first couple of days and full of flavor and nutrition! And they're always in season.

If you're new to sprouting, start with garbanzo beans (the chickpea variety), adzuki beans, shelled sunflower seeds, and almonds. Since irradiation will probably affect their ability to sprout and any fumigants applied might be harmful, it's best to find them grown organically or at least know the source of their origin. Local is always best.

Put 1/2 cup of each variety in its own empty, clean quart yogurt container or something of similar size that still has a lid. Fill the container with water and thoroughly rinse the seeds. You can do this in a colander if you want. Fill the quart container one more time and then let it sit on your kitchen counter. It works great to do this just before you go to bed. Most sprouting manuals tell you to keep sprouts in a dark place. It isn't absolutely necessary. Besides, it's just too easy to forget to rinse them if they're tucked away somewhere.

The next morning, use the lid to hold back the sprouts and drain the water off. Rinse them with fresh water a couple more times and then leave them in the container rinsed and moist with the lid on for the day. The minute you get home, you'll need to rinse them again. Rinse them again before you go to bed or whenever you think about it. The next morning, rinse them again and then put them in your refrigerator.

Now, you can start to eat them. Over the next few days, you'll need to continue to rinse them while keeping them stored in your refrigerator. Flax seeds are an exception. When they get wet, they form a gelatinous coating like an egg white that won't rinse off. After you've soaked flax seeds overnight, scoop the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze them for later use in blender smoothies. If you truly want to sprout flax until a tail appears, you'll need to hatch them between layers of paper towels or cheesecloth that you rinse and drain. They're a bit of a hassle but well worth it. Flax oils are an important part of good nutrition.

For an easy routine breakfast, take some grain sprouts and add a fresh apple or banana, maybe some figs or raisins and some sprouted almonds. Eat as is or add water (hot or cool), milk or yogurt if desired.

Here's an elegant, easy "sunny spread" recipe good on crackers using sprouted sunflower seeds.

In a food processor add:

3 cups sprouted sunflower seeds

1 cup lemon juice

3 slices red onion

1/4 cup sesame butter

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

Pinch of cayenne

Salt to taste

Publication date: 03/27/03

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