Glancing at the calendar, as I occasionally do, I realized that an entire month has passed since I last posted. February has come and gone, as if it never existed at all. Dang. How did that happen? Life has been a little busy, I suppose. I recently received a little nudge from a dear friend of mine, who subtly steered me back to the blog. In doing so, she reminded me of the importance of granting yourself the time to do the things you love and love the things you do, even in the midst of an overwhelming set of To-Do’s. It got me thinking about things and pondering my priorities. When Life gets busy it is surprisingly easy to give in to the incessant demands, releasing your grip on your true priorities. However, once you realize the error of your ways it can be deceptively difficult to bring about the changes necessary to get them back in your grasp. Well, as spring sits lurking just around the corner, it seems a fine time to plant some tiny seeds of change and get them sprouting.
A few weeks back, I posted a photo on Instagram of some seeds I had just begun to sprout. My intention was to blog about the process, but then Life took hold and I did not. I managed to take a photo or two as my sprouts grew, but that’s as far as I got when Life got in the way. And when I say Life, I am referring to those things that we are trained to perceive as being more important than the things that really should be most important, like our healthy habits, our emotional well-being and our mental sanity. Anyway, there is something about sprouting that satisfies the nature nerd in me on so many levels. Holding this dried-up and shriveled little bit of Mother Nature, you would never guess the dormant possibilities encapsulated within that tiny seed coat. Add a little bit of moisture and suddenly a powerhouse of potential is released. It never ceases to fascinate my childish sense of wonder, the way those tiny roots and shoots innately know their respective purpose. One to take hold beneath the earth, providing the grounding force while the other reaches skyward to flourish and nourish other living beings. Not to mention the many nutrients within the seed that suddenly become available once it has begun to sprout.
Seeds, nuts, grains and beans are packed with enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even protein. However, it is not until they are soaked or sprouted that those nutrients become available for your body to absorb. Once they are given a good bath, a few thorough rinses and a day or two to soak it all in, those tiny seeds suddenly become powerful little packages capable of delivering a density of nutrients that you’d never suspect from a such a small sprout. They are so easy to produce (this coming from the girl who cannot grow a thing), entertaining to watch and a delightful addition to your salads or a sandwich. There are several different methods you can choose for sprouting your seeds. You will discover what works for you, but I’ll share a few that I have tried and what I have found works best for me.
Let’s start with a simple glass jar. The most economical, a good way to reuse your food jars and hands down the best vessel for sprouting if your childish sense of wonder demands constant observation of the process, as mine does. I find the glass jar also makes it easy to make small batches of several different sprouts at once. I like variety, so this method works well for me. Now, there are a plenitude of sprouting seeds to choose from, but I have my own personal favorites. I like the legumes for general snacking, like garbonzo and mung beans, lentils and peas. They are crunchy and easy to grab by the handful when you need a little something healthy to munch on. I also find the legumes tend to do well with the glass jar method. Once you decide what kind of seeds you want to sprout, take a handful or two (for the larger seeds, a tablespoon or two for the small), rinse them well and place them in a clean, glass jar. Fill the jar with filtered water, cover it with a small piece of cheese cloth and secure it with an elastic band. Let them soak overnight. After a good 8 hours or so, drain the soaking water and rinse the beans/seeds a few times. Rinse and drain your sprouts twice a day (I do it in the morning before work and again before I go to bed). It only takes a day or two for the tiny roots to emerge. People have different preferences regarding the point at which they are ready to consume. I like to eat my legume sprouts once the roots are about an inch long, which usually takes about 4 days in this climate (that is for the legumes, the little seeds take a day or two more).
It is essential to make sure that your sprouts are well-drained after each rinsing. It is important to keep them moist, but too much moisture can cause them to mold or mildew. And that’s not good for you! I have heard this as being a common complaint about the jar method, but it is not really an issue for me, living in a very dry climate. However, I have tried a couple other methods that allow for better drainage, if you find that’s an issue for you.
Although I love the glass jars for my larger sprouts, the tiny little guys don’t fare quite as well. For the little seeds such as radish, alfalfa, red clover and broccoli, I much prefer this handy-dandy plastic sprouter. It’s called the Easy Sprout Sprouter and the name says it all. It is so easy to use, it drains well and I always have success with it. This nifty little system has a cup with a draining bottom that fits inside the outer cup with a solid bottom. And it comes with instructions on how to use it. I find this method works well for the smaller seeds because it has a little insert made just for them. It makes rinsing, draining and storing a cinch. The only drawback is that the opaque plastic container hinders your Nature Nerd’s ability to observe the growing process.
My least favorite of the three methods I have tried is the sprout bag. Made from hemp fibers it has excellent drainage qualities, which reduces the chance of mold. But in this dry, desert air it doesn’t seem to retain quite enough moisture, so I find I have to rinse more often. Like the jars, I find it best suited for the larger seeds, but you can sprout just about anything in it and it’s fairly easy to use. Simply wash your seeds, place them in the bag and set it in a bowl of water to soak overnight. In the morning rinse the bag thoroughly and hang it from a hook or cupboard knob. Rinse your sprouts twice a day and be sure to hang it over a bowl to catch the water that will drip as it drains.
I have seen other sprouting vessels, too, but these are the few that I have personally used and they all seem to do a fine job. As for seeds, there are a million and one to choose from, just be sure you buy seeds that are organic, non-GMO and purposed specifically for sprouting. Living in a small, somewhat isolated town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, I have to order mine online and I am usually able to find what I need on Amazon (thank goodness for Amazon Prime!!). But sproutman.com and sproutpeople.org are a couple websites that I have found to be good resources for seeds, products and sprouting tips, as well.
Isn’t it amazing to realize that all you really need to set in motion the process of growth is a simple little seed, a vessel, some water and a bit of attentive care? That’s all it takes to get things started, the potential is already there. I came to this realization lately when I sprouted peas in a glass jar with my kinder-crew at school. I thought it would be a great way for them to really see what is happening, moment-by-moment. And boy, was it a hit! Those wee ones watched those peas like hawks. They borrowed the magnifying glass to see if they could find the tiny root that lies dormant within each and every seed. They excitedly informed me of every, single, itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny change that they observed in the sprouting peas. And when the sprouts were ready, we rinsed them, drained them and ate them…with the most entertaining of facial expressions! As we talked about the different parts of a plant and their respective purposes, one kiddo asked, how is it that a seed can grow without anything? (meaning no soil, sunlight or chemicals.) As children, we are taught that a seed needs certain things in order to grow. It needs soil in order to receive nutrients and water. It needs sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. It needs “food” in the form of man-made chemicals that make plants grow healthy and strong. And yet, as the kiddos astutely observed, those peas did not need anything to grow…except a jar, some attention and a little bit of moisture. Well, being a teacher in a Catholic school the easy response would be because God made it so. But no, that is not my way. It is a wondrous mystery, to be sure. But think about it…everything you need to begin the process of new life lies within you. The roots are already there, you can see them in that tiny seed. The leaves are there, too, just waiting to be released. And all the nutrients that the little seed needs to grow into a healthy pant are contained beneath the seed coat which holds it all together.
We proceeded to plant a few of the sprouts in a repurposed jar filled with organic potting soil. The goal was to see if we could produce some healthy seedlings that would continue to thrive and grow into mature pea plants that might possibly produce actual peas that we could consume as a nourishing food source. We’ll see how that goes, but we’re off to a good start. And I hope you are, too. The idea of change and growth can be daunting at times. But don’t forget that everything you need lies within you.
The potential for change is already there. Nurture it. Let it sprout :)