Grown your own Multivitamins By Hannah Dare of Organico Bantry (June West Cork People)
Fresh sprouts are some of the most nutritious, tastiest and cheapest foods on the planet. They contain vitamins, minerals, protein, enzymes…and all in an incredibly easy to digest form. In fact, because of all the enzymes, eating sprouts is actually beneficial to our digestion. And amazingly, they grow without any soil, fertiliser or even sunlight – just a jar or a tray, and plenty of clean water!
Sprouts are precious in winter, when the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables is declining as their price increases. But they are also fantastic at this time of year because it’s the salad season – most sprouts have a mild flavour and are juicy and crisp, so I use them all the time in salads for some extra crunch (and add some protein also). They are easy to eat (no cooking needed, but you can add them to soups and stews and rice dishes if you like); they store for quite a while in the fridge (you can ‘bath’ them under the cold tap to refresh them every few days), and having some in the fridge means you can make a salad in minutes.
Sprouts are an excellent food for anyone on a diet or calorie counting. One cup of Mung Bean Sprouts contains approximately 30 calories, 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs and only .2 grams of fat. Sprouts also contain a high source of fiber and tons of enzymes that help our digestive process. I used a website called www.sprouting.com for information on the Health benefits of sprouts, and this is what they say (for references please see the website under ‘Health Benefits’):
Alfalfa sprouts are perhaps the most well-known as they are an excellent source of vital nutrients and are a great way of attaining the nutritional Holy Grail of 5-7 portions of fresh vegetables and fruit a day. Tiny but mighty, each stringy sprout is packed with valuable, skin-clearing nutrients such as calcium, folic acid, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium and zinc among others, as well as supplying a full range of vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K. Who needs multivitamins when you can sprinkle a few of these on your salad? They’re relatively inexpensive, too, and available from most health food shops.
Red Clover is another seed that is popular with serious sprouters. Red Clover Sprouts are very high in phytoestrogens and and may help to protect against menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Broccoli Sprouts seem to have received the most attention from researchers. One study showed that a daily portion of Broccoli Sprouts could help tame the H Pylori bacteria that is linked to ulcers and even cancer. Another showed that Broccoli Sprouts are great at fighting Bladder Cancer cells, lowering cholesterol, and if eaten during pregnancy they can even help the baby later in life (the study in question showed a reduction in Cardiovascular disease for the baby once it had grown up).
Cereal grasses such as Wheatgrass and Barley Grass are part of the general sprout category but are different in the sense that they actually grow on soil instead of just sprouting after being soaked in water, and you don’t just eat them (that’s for cows!) you juice them. Wheatgrass grows from regular wheat grains but you harvest it when it has grown to about 3 inches rather than letting the plant grow too high. All the nutrition needed to grow the plant is there in the first few inches and this translates directly to energy for humans. Books have been written about wheatgrass, it is used in supplements all the time because it has huge healing and health giving properties. It really is a natural multi-vitamin. It is used as a detox agent, as a natural skin clearer (a month or so on wheatgrass can do wonders for a poor complexion); it is great if you are recovering from an illness and fantastic for athletes.
Wheatgrass contains more than 90 elements from the soil and is one of nature’s richest sources of vitamins A and C. It contains all of the known mineral elements and is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sulfur, sodium, cobalt and zinc. Is also abundant in vitamin B 17 (laetrile) a substance that can be beneficial for people dealing with cancer. Taking Wheatgrass Juice will boost your strength, endurance, health, and experience a sense of well-being. And last but not least, Wheatgrass juice improves the digestion because it is high in enzymes.
Home sprouting of the edible sprouts is incredibly easy. Like anything related to gardening, there are tricks to be learned, but once you have mastered the basics you will find that you can keep a good supply growing very easily. Really all you need is your chosen seed, a clean glass jar with a lid, and a good supply of water. My favourite sprouts are Mung Beans, they are what is used in Chinese cooking but when you grow them at home they never seem to get as long as those. But they have a really fresh taste and are very juicy and crisp. And pretty easy to sprout. You can eat them once the tiny pointy bit has poked out. In Organico and most good healthfood shops we sell Sprouting Kits by A.Vogel (they company who makes Echinaforce) which come with instructions and make the whole process pretty fool-proof.
For Wheatgrass, you need to purchase a relatively inexpensive juicer (the hand juicer is pretty ideal for home use) and then find a good supply of fresh wheatgrass. In Organico, our very own Keith Hurley has been perfecting growing Wheatgrass over the last few months and is now selling trays through Organico and through our Market Stall on Fridays. What some people do with a tray is they juice it all at the perfect point of growth and freeze the juice in ice cubes, and then pop a cube into a smoothie or juice every morning for an instant energy boost. If you want to try it out, call by the Stall on a Friday Morning and Keith will make you a Wheatgrass Juice Shot. It’s an instant energiser (and much healthier than coffee!)!
If you want to try out sprouts, we have a regular supply from Christine Meadows (our instore Nutritionist) who is a Sprout fanatic and brings in amazingly fresh and tasty sprouts in handy little tubs. Look for them in our chilled display.
Have a healthy June everybody!