Little sprouts; big nutrition
Janet McKee is holding a clear Ball mason jar filled with tiny seeds that have started to germinate at her Franklin Park home. She’s founder of SanaView where she acts as a certified high performance coach.
“I teach people about living a life filled with joy, confidence, more motivation and productivity,” she says with a smile.
A lot of her work is done at the SanaView Farm (sanaview.com) in Champion, near Seven Springs. McKee has spent a lifetime trying to help people live healthy. That jar is filled with a very important ingredient for creating a healthy lifestyle, she says.
“The most powerful nutrition you can put into your body are fresh sprouts,” she says. “It’s a miracle of nature, it has all the nutrients it needs in that seed. You’re getting this power of Mother Nature into your body in the most delicious and simple way.”
Just about every gardening catalog is offering seeds not just for planting, but specifically for sprouting and eating. These seeds have been tested differently than seeds that are planted to assure they are safe to eat. McKee uses only organic sprouting seeds.
“Sprouts are not only raw,” she says, “they are living. You get at least 10 to 20 times more (nutrients) from sprouts than you do from the grown plant.”
She has an easy process for sprouting that starts with the jar she’s holding. “It’s very important it be a Ball mason jar,” she says, “because you know they are made in our country.”
If they are made elsewhere, the glass might contain lead, which she says could find its way into the sprouts.
There are two basic types of seeds to sprout — leafy greens, like alfalfa, radish and broccoli, or the legumes, like mung beans.
“A mixture is brilliant,” she says. “Each one gives you a different nutritional profile and a variety of flavors.”
Start with a clean jar. McKee uses a sprouting lid on the jar, which is porous. It’s an easy way to complete the process of rinsing over the next several days. Screen or cheesecloth would work too.
She adds two tablespoons of the seed mixture to the jar and then covers the seed with water and puts on the lid. The technical ratio is one part seed, two parts water, but McKee says as long as there’s lots of water, that’s fine. The seeds are soaked overnight and the next morning the water is poured off. Fresh water is added, swished around and poured out, this is the rinsing process. The jar is left on the counter upside down in indirect light, never in full sun, which could cause mold to grow inside.
At dinner, do another rinsing and then twice a day over the next week, morning and night. Skip the last evening rinse to let the seeds dry out.
“At the end of seven days you’ll have an entire jar filled with green leafy sprouts,” she says. Then a regular mason jar lid is added and the sprouts go in the fridge.
She uses many seeds including kale, collards, mustard greens, kohlrabi, Swiss chard and various legumes. Broccoli is one of the most popular seeds for sprouting, as it’s so high in antioxidants and phytonutrients.
“It actually tastes a little bit stronger (than the full grown head),” McKee says. “It has a more potent flavor, which is wonderful from a culinary perspective.
“Everyone can do this,” she says. “You don’t have to be an expert gardener, farmer, nutrition expert; you don’t need a lot of time or money. It’s the most powerful nutrition you can put in your body, hands down.”
April Shelhon is the marketing horticulturist at Botanical Interests (botanicalinterests.com), a seed company selling untreated non-GMO seeds. She’s spending lots of time experimenting with seed sprouting in her own kitchen, particularly with legumes.
“Beans are a lot more digestible if they are sprouted instead of cooked,” Shelhon says, “and much more nutritious too.”
Botanical Interests is one of the many seed companies offering big packets of seeds specifically for sprouting.
The technique for legumes is the same as for leafy greens, but the seeds are usually ready sooner. With the greens, the idea is to get the seed to completely germinate; for beans and other legumes, the goal is to just see the first root (called a radical) emerge from the seed.
The sprouter has an area for soaking overnight on the bottom and then the seeds are moved to racks above for the rinsing process. With a sprouter like this one, more seeds can be germinated with different varieties used on the two levels which provides good air flow.
“A seed is a storage device, so it has everything it needs to start life,” Shelhon says. “Once it sprouts up, it’s relying on energy from the sun and the soil. It’s like a little nutrient powerhouse when it’s little like that.”
Mung beans are another popular item to use. They should be kept in the dark when sprouting to keep them as sweet as possible.
“They will never get as long as you see them at the store,” Shelhon says, “because they use gases and chemicals to get them that long.”
Another good reason to sprout your own. She also recommends gardeners try mixes of seed for variety of textures, tastes and nutritional value.
“It’s really easy,” she says. “It takes maybe three days or a week and you come out with something fresh.”
Doug Oster is the Tribune-Review home and garden editor. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodygardens.com.