This is a guest post from Andrew at 101 Centavos. He writes about practical freedom, one penny at a time. His blog consists of unequal parts personal finance, gardening, penny stocks, saving, and home cooking.
A sprout head in the most benign sense of the word, that is. Just crunchy green goodness, on sandwiches and salads, full of as many nutrients and phytochemicals as you can stand.
And not just alfalfa sprouts. Broccoli, mung bean, lentil, peas and beans are all seeds that will readily germinate in your kitchen and provide you with cheap, nutritious greens through a cold winter.
Something wonderful happens to a seed when it germinates. All the nutrients and minerals it needs to burst forth with life are magnified. The content of B-vitamin, vitamin A and vitamin C are boosted 3, 4 and 5 times. Anti-oxidants, carotene, amino acids and trace elements, oh my!
Broccoli sprouts have been discovered to be rich in a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which some studies seem to indicate is an effective cancer-preventive agent. Gram for gram, broccoli sprouts contain 40 to 50 times more sulforaphane than fresh broccoli.
Planting regular mesclun or saladini greens in a container will take 30 to 45 days. With sprouts, you’re ready to rock n roll in 4 to 7 days.
You don’t need much, really. A pound or two of sprouting seeds from a health food store or purchased online from any number of retailers, including Amazon. Some canning jars or tall water glasses, rubber bands and some window screening.
Canning jars work very well for us. We picked up boxes and boxes of them at yard sales for a few bucks, and are using several of them as our sprouting jars. Simply put a square of window screen over the mouth of the jar, and screw the band on. Or, if you don’t have screw bands, use a rubber band.
The relatively pricey sprouting trays or containers found in department stores or online I think are a waste of money. No sense spending fifteen or thirty bucks, when you can get the same results from a few old jars.
The mechanics of sprouting
Start with a teaspoon or so of seeds, so that they cover the bottom of the jar. Let soak in cold fresh water for 8 hours, or overnight.
After the soaking, rinse out with cold water a couple of times, and drain well. I like to use a clean kitchen towel under the jars, as the screen over the jar mouths will drip a little.
Rinse out the seeds a couple of times a day if you can, if not once in the evening will do.
After a few days, store the jar in the refrigerator to preserve.
Costs and Yields
Prices on the seeds themselves range depending on the type of seed, and the mix.
At the high end, a pound of broccoli seed sells for $23. A mix of alfalfa, clover, broccoli and radish in the middle at about $13, and mung beans at the low end for $6 to $8. I personally like the mixes, since all-broccoli can be a little spicy for young kids. A rule of thumb is that the smaller the seed, the higher the price.
One word of caution: make sure that you purchase seeds that specifically say “organic” on the label. If not, they may have been treated with pesticides or herbicides. Not that we don’t ingest these on a regular basis with other commercially grown and packaged foods, but the less the better.
Another rule of thumb is that the smaller seeds will produce at a 12 to 14 multiplier, meaning that a pound of alfalfa will produce about 12 to 14 pounds of sprouts, while a pound of peas will produce a 2-3 pounds. Which a makes sense if you stop, think, and lay a single seed next to a single sprout to compare, the sprout will easily seem 12 times bigger than the seed.
As for cost, compare a $1.79 cost of one of those little clear plastic boxes of alfalfa that you can buy at the grocery store. I confess that I’m not sure of the exact net weight of the sprouts in these boxes, but let’s generously assume that it’s 4 ounces, or about 120 grams ( a cup of sprouts weighs about 33 grams).
At $1.79 for 4 ounces, a thirteen-dollar pound of organic alfalfa seeds is worth between 84 to 100 dollars at grocery store prices (1.79 oz x 4 x 14).
Subtract $13 from $91, and the cost avoidance of making sprouts at home is about $78.
How to Eat Sprouts
Not much to say here. As with all food, it’s a varied personal choice. The most popular way is to mix them into salads, but they’re great on sandwiches, wraps and burritos. As a topping for omelettes, they’re great for a change. Some folks recommend them for soups, but remember that the nutritive value decreases as sprouts are cooked.
My favorite sandwich (and somewhat of an acquired taste) is a crusty sourdough roll, spread with salted butter, a few anchovies fillets and lots of alfalfa sprouts. And a cold beer. Or better yet, two rolls, and two beers.
That’s about it. Go forth and sprout!