Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Green Sprouts Amidst Falling Leaves - Sprouting for Family Health

Autumn is upon us, and with its lovely fresh breezes and cooler evenings, inspires long walks with your earth-doggies, or dreamy couch cuddles with your purrring puss.  We've had some gorgeous sunny days here in our Blue Water Wonderland, and spent this evening meandering around our sand dunes for over an hour.  Some days, however, like last week, our skies here are dull and grey and the weather is less conducive to outdoor play.  So I have been inspired to master the art of sprouting and growing indoor greens.

Miyuki enjoying the sunset view from the peak of a sand dune.

Sprouts are little green wonders of the world.  You can grow them on your kitchen windowsill or bench, and within a few days or a week, with minimal effort, harvest a live food, full of enzymes and energising nutrients.  In addition to being a supreme source of nutrition, they assist the body to regenerate and heal from dis-ease.

You can sprout almost any seed, although some are harder, and more 'high-maintenance' than others.  So far I have successfully experimented with alfalfa, lentils (green, red and blue), chickpeas, mung beans, and most recently sunflower greens.  I have also 'sprouted' nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, which essentially just means soaking them in water for a few hours or overnight to inactivate the anti-nutrients they start out with, making them easier to digest.

Equipment required for sprouting is very simple.  I have used both hemp sprouting bags and glass jars covered with cheesecloth for my sprouts, and a shallow planter box full of topsoil from my vegie garden for my sunflower greens.  The main thing to remember is your sprouting seeds will need rinsing and draining twice daily (up to three times in hotter weather), and indoor greens like sunflower will need a light misting with water twice daily.  And to buy organic seeds that are meant for sprouting. 

My Sunflower Greens ready for harvest.

There are many great internet sites dedicated to the art of sprouting.  One such site is Isabell Shipard's site "Herbs Are Special".  Here you will find more detailed instructions on sprouting. 

So, why am I talking about sprouts anyway?  Partly because I am just so excited to see these little green wonders growing so magically on my kitchen windowsill, my toddler loves to watch them grow (checking on them many times a day!), and because I had my sunflower greens with dinner last night and they were sooo tasty (Hubby even enjoyed them)!  But more importantly, because sprouts are an incredibly economic, earth-friendly, health-promoting addition to the diet of both people and pets.  And the snails can't get them!

There are many gourmet ways to incorporate sprouts into your diet, but for our pets, it's very simple.  Simply chop them up finely, or mince them up in a food processor or blender (with a little water if needed) and mix them in with your pet's meal. 

Minced sprouts, fruit and vegies (red cabbage, celery, apple, carrot) for our pets.

Fresh sprouts will provide your pet with living enzymes (to aid digestion and other metabolic processes in the body), anti-oxidants (to protect the cells that make up the body), essential fatty acids (to build cell walls and improve skin health), chlorophyll (which cleanses the blood), protein (to maintain muscle), vitamins, minerals, and amazing life-force!  Sprouts will benefit both pets already on a balanced home-made diet and pets eating a less inspiring diet of commercial pet food.

I hope you are inspired to attempt to sprout something, or at least buy a pack of alfalfa sprouts at the grocery store and add them to your pet's meals.  I highly recommend the former option.  What a joy to know we will be surrounded by green, living, edible plants, growing in my kitchen, right throughWinter!

This morning I made my first ever trip to our local Bunning's and bought two large seedling trays and a mini-greenhouse so I can grow lots and lots of indoor greens.  My sunflower greens were so good, but were gone in a day!  My toddler even delighted in eating them, as she had been nurturing them all week!

It seems a few readers have already been inspired to get sprouting, so I thought I would share some more detailed tips on where to start. 

As mentioned above, I have successfully sprouted lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, alfalfa and sunflower greens.  Lentil sprouts are probably the easiest to start with, quick-growing, difficult to spoil, and a great addition to any green salad.

The basics of sprouting:
  • Obtain organic sprouting seeds and keep them in a sealed container in a cool place (Green Harvest's online store has a great supply of sprouting seeds
  • Get some sprouting equipment - I have used both hemp sprouting bags (which you can also buy online from Green Harvest ) and glass jars (old large instant coffee jars work well - I found lots at the local op-shop) with mesh tops (cheesecloth and a rubber band works well)
  • Measure out your seed, remembering that once soaked and growing they will take up a lot more space than they do as seeds - I usually sprout a few tablespoons of alfalfa, or 1/2 to 1 cup of lentils (I use a mix of green, blue and whole red lentils, but green alone is fine)
  • Inspect your seed and remove any cracked seeds, stones, sticks, etc
  • Rinse larger seeds in a colander, or skip straight to soaking for smaller seeds like alfalfa
  • Soak seeds overnight (generally - some seeds like buckwheat require shorter soak times) in twice as much water as there is seed, in a glass jar or bowl, covered with a tea towel
  • Rinse seeds the following morning and set up to drain thoroughly in whatever 'sprouting environment' you choose
  • Ensure air circulates in the sprouter, as your sprouts need to breathe
  • Keep them in a dark area of the kitchen (like the pantry) until the little sprout tails are visible, then place them in indirect sunlight
  • Continue to rinse and drain at least twice daily, three times a day or more in hot, humid weather
  • They are ready to eat when the sprout tails are about as long as the seed is big. 
  • Ensure they are thoroughly dry before storing in a sealed, preferably glass container, in the fridge.  Use them within a few days for optimum freshness.
The technique for growing indoor greens like sunflower and buckwheat is a little different as you need to grow these in soil.  Start with some easy sprouts like alfalfa or lentils first.  I will go into the details of indoor greens another time.

A delicious recipe for your lentil sprouts:
1 cup of lentil sprouts, 1-2 tablespoons capers (salted and rinsed, not the vinegar ones), as many olives as you like, some diced tomato, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, juice of 1 lemon, tossed and served on a bed of mixed greens such as rocket, baby spinach, chicory, endive, lettuce, or whatever is growing in your garden.

I shall have to remember to take a photo of this salad next time I make it.  It's more of a summer salad given the ingredients, but is very tasty!  You could make it more 'wintery' by using more of the warming greens like rocket and chicory, and replacing the parsley with a winter herb like oregano, leaving out the tomatoes, and maybe including some finely sliced fennel (my new favourite vegetable!).  Enjoy!!


  1. Hello Dr Renee, Miyuki and Monique. You have inspired me to add to our vegie and herb patch. The girls and I will try growing lentils and chickpeas these holidays .... and I love making stocking people with alfalfa hair - so nutritious for the whole family and so much fun to grow!!!

  2. Wow, I never knew you could sprout things from interesting! And I never thought of adding sprouts to Honey's diet - must remember that next time!

    Great post!

    ps. oh, it would be great if you could say at the beginning who is posting today coz Honey started reading this thinking it was Miyuki talking and getting very confused when she thought Miyuki was growing sprouts! :-)

  3. Sorry for the confusion Honey! Miyuki pointed that out to me after I had written it. I think I will put her in charge of the next post! (but perhaps not the growing of sprouts!) - Dr Renee.

  4. I like this post! Last year I got really into growing sprouts (it's so easy) but I haven't done it in a while. Now I want to get back into it! I never thought of adding it to Darwin's food. She currently gets 2/3 of her food as kibble and the other third as a blend of kale, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots mixed with raw ground meat. Her acupuncturist (holistic vet) recommended us feeding her that when we took Darwin in for back problems. Do you have any other veggies/fruits that would be good to add to add variety?

  5. Interesting post! I haven't thought of including sprouts in Penny's diet. I'll get the old sprouting thingy out of the cupboard and get sprouting once again. (And I'll eat them too...)
    I'm so-o-o glad you have started this blog!

  6. Hi Brooke! You can safely feed almost any fruit or vegetable to most dogs on a raw food diet, staying away from the obvious bad guys like onions and garlic in large amounts. Some pets (and people) are sensitive to vegetables in the nightshade family like tomatoes and eggplants, so stay away from these. And some pets (and people again!) are also sensitive to the brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, so if you notice any flatulence with these ones they are best avoided.
    Some people avoid grapes but these will only cause problems if the skins are eaten in huge amounts, and avocados have also been suggested as a no-go, however avocado flesh (not skin or seed!) in moderation again is fine.
    Citrus fruits are generally not tolerated well, but most other fruits are fine in small amounts, and in some cases devoured! (One of my patients enjoys blueberries for breakfast every morning!) Dogs in the wild naturally scavenge very ripe or rotting fruits that have fallen to the ground.
    Basically, provide a good 'rainbow' of vegies, fruits when you have them, and include the parts we often don't eat like the tops of your carrot bunch and the skin of the beetroot. I usually aim for a balance of one root vegetable like carrot, parsnip, sweet potato or beetroot, with at least two leafy greens like celery and broccoli, some sprouts, and a bit of fruit here and there, minced well in a food processor. I feed everything raw, but some animals benefit from some components like sweet potatoes or pumpkins being cooked and mashed.
    Oh and some herbs when you have them can be really beneficial like parsley for kidney issues, or chamomile flowers for gut upsets, or turmeric for arthritis.
    With any dietary change, transition slowly, changing just one thing at a time, and watching for any reactions.