Welcome to Episode #35 of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian and in this episode we’re going to be talking about sprouting. Predominantly we’re going to be talking about just how to use very basic equipment like Mason jars that you’re going to put in your kitchen and make some fresh – and very affordable – sprouts to enjoy on your salads and in your raw wraps and even as little garnishes on your raw soups. So, stay tuned, and I will be back with you shortly talking about sprouts!
Thank you for joining me on another episode of the Raw Food Podcast. I want to start out by thanking Tony in New York for suggesting this excellent idea to chat about on a podcast. I do feel like I am ready to talk to you about sprouting. As you probably know, I have been a raw vegan since 2009, and when I began I had to keep things extremely simple just because of all the stuff that was going on in my life: we were renovating our home at the time, and I was busy, and our kitchen was sometimes not accessible. So for many years, I tried to keep things super simple, and I still really do adhere to that mindset and frame of mind. But at the same time, I am learning more about things that I feel like I can handle, and sprouting is something that is so easy. I know you can roll your eyes at me because when you have a lot of time and a beautiful house and everything is perfect, of course sprouting is easy. But when things are crazy, if you have young kids and life is so busy, sometimes these things are a little hard to manage. What I will say is if you have enough money to get a Mason jar (or even use an old spaghetti sauce jar - a jar with a lid) and you can get some seeds from your local health food store (that’s where I get mine - they’re very inexpensive), I think for $7, you could sprout. Seven dollars and maybe, even when you’re starting (for me it takes minutes - I barely have to think about it at all) but let’s say $7 and 10 minutes a day for four days, then you can do this.
All right. So of course when I talk about sprouting I am talking about how you - in your kitchen - you’re growing some sprouts, like alfalfa sprouts or clover. There are many sprouting machines and contraptions that you could buy for multiple hundreds of dollars. I thought about it, and I don’t mind spending money on that actually. We definitely talked about buying a sprouter, but I love sprouting in Mason jars. It’s so easy, it’s so simple, and so I just continued to do it that way.
First of all, why would you want to sprout? I don’t know about you, but when I buy sprouts at the grocery store - particularly alfalfa sprouts - they’re really colorless, and they go bad really quickly, and they’re just not very appealing to me at all, although I love sprouts. But when you make them at home they're very easy, and they’re way cheaper. You can make them whenever you want, and they’re really easy. Once you get the hang of sprouting, it’s like anything. When you first made a smoothie, you were all nervous and had to really think about it and measure out all your ingredients, but if you’ve been doing smoothies for a while and you’re in the groove, you know how. It’s like learning anything. It seems very complicated with many steps at first, but once you get into the groove it’s super easy.
So first I’m going to talk a little bit about sprouting seeds. When we sprout these seeds, what we’re trying to accomplish really is just to get these teeny tiny seeds - about the size of a poppy seed - to grow nice little green tails, and then we’re just going to eat the sprouts and use them like a green. I love to put mine on a salad and I like to eat them in large quantities. I don’t use them as greens in my smoothie. To me, I just think it would take too many sprouts to really make a difference in my smoothie. You could do that, but for me particularly I love to have them on raw crackers as my green or on salads, or even, as I mentioned in the intro, on soups as a garnish and a nice sort of additional flavor.
So really all we’re doing is growing green, long little sprouts so that we can eat them. There are many different types of seeds that you can sprout like alfalfa, clover, radish seeds I’ve done, quinoa you can sprout; I have tried to sprout chia seeds, but because they’re so gelatinous, I have not had success with that, so I would not try to start with chia seeds. If you’ve never sprouted before, I suggest using alfalfa seeds. They’re probably the easiest, and I find they have the best flavor. They’re definitely the ones I like the best. I’ve tried many different mixes, and I just keep going back to alfalfa. I love the flavor.
HOW TO SPROUT
In order to do this, here’s the basic concept: when you buy them at the health food store, the sprouts are totally dry, and they’re just sitting there happy as can be. But think about a sprout - a sprout is a seed and it wants to grow. How does it know when to start growing? The first process is that is needs to be wet in order to germinate (which basically just means to start trying to grow). Of course what we need to do first is just get our Mason jar. That’s just a glass jar; people use them for canning and whatnot. So you get a pretty large glass jar; in terms of size, if you were to order a large smoothie at a smoothie joint, then it would fill about the same size. It’s probably four cups or something like that. So you get a large jar, you put a couple of tablespoons of the dry seed in the jar, and then you just cover the seeds with water. The reason that you’re doing that is so that the seeds will start to get wet and start to get the message that they need to grow.
But these seeds are not fish. They can’t completely grow in water. So we need to give them the message that it’s safe to start growing, and that’s by getting them wet - totally wet, and soaking wet in lukewarm to cold water - for about eight hours. So that’s why we’re soaking them: to let them know that they’re ready to grow. But then, as I mentioned, they’re not fish, we so need to drain off that water. The easiest way to do this is - and if you Google this or look on my website, it will be easier to envision - just put a little bit of cheesecloth or old muslin or some sort of material that will help you to strain out the water while keeping the seeds in. The basic concept is you’re going to soak them for about eight hours, and then you’re going to drain off the water and let them sit there. They’re wet, but they’re not swimming in water. And then you’re just going to let them do their thing. I like to tip my Mason jar upside down and put it in a big bowl to catch any drips that come out after I’ve drained most of the water out. Then you just keep them moist as though it was a garden, so you water them a little bit and then drain out the water again every day. Of course if you look online you can see really specific steps about what you should do, and I encourage you to do that. The basic idea - what you’re trying to help happen with the steps that you’re following - is let them know they’re ready to grow by giving them a good soak and then keep them watered and let them drain so they don’t get waterlogged. And then you’ll notice very quickly that little tails will start to grow out of them and they’ll start to grow seeds.
GROWING IN DARKNESS
Now another tip that I don’t actually see people talking a lot about with regards to growing sprouts is once you’ve let them know that they’re ready - so you’ve soaked them for about eight hours, or even up to twenty-four hours - it’s actually good when you’ve got them upside down and draining to just throw a tea towel or something over your jar because, remember we’re trying to let them know they’re in their natural environment, and what would normally be happening is they’d be in earth and they’d be growing. They actually love to be in darkness. I do this all on my kitchen counter, but they don’t need sunlight, and, in fact, they’ll actually grow faster if you put them with a tea towel or something over the jar to keep them in the darkness. Because what is a sprout trying to do when it grows? It’s trying to grow through the earth fast to seek the sun. If it thinks it’s in the dark, it will keep looking for the sunshine, so it will grow faster. That’s not just an old wives’ tale. I totally have seen the difference between doing them in full sun versus in a dark place. Dark is best for sure.
I definitely think you should try that with alfalfa sprouts. I should probably write a little article or something on my website - so if you go to therawtarian.com/sprouts, I will have a little tutorial there that you can check out for yourself. But ultimately, it’s super easy, and that’s the gist of it. No matter what sprout or even bean that you’re trying to grow, it’s the same process. You’re trying to make them think they’re in the garden. So that’s basically how it works.
So that’s a little bit about sprouting seeds. Now when we’re eating a fully raw lifestyle, we can definitely have a desire for some heartier foods, and of course we get a lot of that from nuts, but sometimes you may want to eat more beans. So there has been a lot of talk about sprouting beans, and I just wanted to touch on this briefly.
So beans. Some of the main beans that come to mind would be garbanzo beans (which are also called chickpeas), and black beans, and kidney beans, and - oh my gosh, there are so many types of beans. And some raw foodists will talk about sprouting beans. First of all, some beans need to be cooked to get rid of their toxicity, like black beans should never be eaten raw or even sprouted. They will make you feel really sick and ill, because there are some toxins in it. Beans, I personally feel, are really not meant to be eaten in a raw state. I’ve definitely read a lot about chickpeas (a.k.a, garbanzo beans) and I have sprouted those myself. They will sprout. Of course because they’re larger than the teeny tiny alfalfa sprouts, beans take a lot longer time to sprout, and, frankly, I forget how many days it took my garbanzo beans to look like they would be edible - maybe like four days. They definitely sprouted and they were living, but I found them so starchy. And I have an iron stomach; I could eat anything. My stomach is the bomb. I loved cooked chickpeas before I went raw, but I have sprouted chickpeas, and I really felt that they did not taste good. They’re just way too starchy, and I just knew that they were bad for me. I ate them on some salads, and I wanted to love them, because I used to love chickpeas, and I love something hearty to put on my salad. They will sprout, and I’m not going to say don’t ever do it, but, for me, I feel like, (a) it took a long time, and (b) they just didn’t digest well for me, and they definitely tasted very raw - but not in the good way, just uncooked and too starchy for sure, kind of like one of the reasons why we don’t eat raw potato as raw vegans. There’s just way too much starch there.
But a nice compromise is I do like sprouted lentils. Again, you would just put them in a jar, fill it with water for eight hours, drain off, etc. So lentils are a nice substitute. They don’t take as long; they’re kind of a middle ground between seeds and beans. Of course lentils are a legume, but that can be a nice option. So I would say if you’re craving some sprouted beans - I’m not really a big fan of sprouted beans, and, like I said, many are actually toxic for you - but sprouted lentils might be a nice thing for you to try for yourself.
Also we have a third kind of type of sprouting, which is sprouting grains. Again, people talk about sprouting rice, wheat, corn, oats, barley, and that kind of thing, but for me, I’m not a big fan. I know a lot of us are trying to move away from greens - I mean, don’t move away from greens! - move away from grains, so I haven’t had a lot of experience, I will admit that with sprouting grains. Barley might be a nice one to try to sprout. I don’t know that they’re actually going to grow, but they’re probably going to really soak up a lot of water, get larger, maybe split, and that kind of thing. So barley may be a nice one to try. Rice is not going to sprout, I don’t think. But I must admit that I don't know a lot about sprouting grains, and I haven’t done it. I think maybe if you were going to cook your rice, it’s probably a great idea to sprout it first, but if you’re just going to take some dry rice and soak it in some water and then eat it, I don’t know that it should be eaten raw that way. I don’t know that for sure. I think further research is required on sprouting grains.
Taking a big picture step back here about sprouting in general, especially if you think you might be the type that might like to garden some day, sprouting is one of the easiest things to do. You don’t have to go outside; it is basically gardening, and the sprouts just don’t need earth, so it’s a great thing to start with. In terms of gardening, what I would suggest is always to get a nice herb and put it inside your house. If you have a kitchen windowsill that gets light, just put a nice little basil or rosemary or whatever herb you like and try to keep that in a little pot as sort of step one towards gardening. If you can handle that, step two might be to start sprouting in your kitchen. Then if you do ever want to get into gardening, I think those are two good quick wins you can do, and then you could start with a tiny raised bed or something in your garden. I love how I talk as though I’m a professional gardener, and I’m really not. But I do think that sprouting is a great way to grow your own, and you know how fresh they are and all that kind of stuff. I think sprouting is a great thing to get into, and, like I said, it’s very inexpensive, and once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy. The first day you’re going to think, “Oh my gosh, I have to soak it, then I have to drain it, and I have to keep it hydrated. Oh my god, this is so complicated.” But once you do it a few times it just becomes really easy. You just have to get over that hurdle of the first three or four times until you get the hang of it.
STORING SPROUTED SEEDS
And one thing I didn’t mention as well - what I do - I’ll keep, say, the alfalfa sprouts. I’ve soaked them for about a day in water, then I’ve drained them for another day, kept them drained for probably two or three days, and they’ll grow. Then about the end of day three, they’re ready to eat, and I like to keep them growing for another day. But they do have a bit of a shelf-life. You can’t keep them growing in your kitchen for two weeks. So probably at the end of five days, if you haven’t eaten them all, I would just throw that Mason jar in the fridge. And then you can just eat them out of the fridge when you want. Putting them in the fridge is just going to stop them from growing, because it’s cold in the fridge, number one, and number two, it’s just going to keep them fresh.
So that is a little bit about sprouting. Tony, I hope that was somewhat helpful. I definitely encourage you to try alfalfa sprouts, and if you want something heartier, sprouted quinoa’s not bad as well for a nice hearty topper for a salad, but lentils are probably the best. And you could try the chickpeas. If you do, you might like them, and you could let me know what you think. But I’m not a big fan.
So thank you so much for joining me on this episode of the Raw Food Podcast. If you have a suggestion for another episode topic in the future, I would love to hear from you. Thank you again, Tony, for your suggestion. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to hear from you soon.
You have been listening to the Raw Food Podcast with your host, The Rawtarian. Be sure to visit me at therawtarian.com where you can browse over one hundred of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying raw vegan recipes that you’ll find pretty quick to make and with just a few ingredients and that taste amazing. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for my newsletter, and once you’ve signed up for that, you’ll automatically get a PDF copy of eleven of my most favorite, most satisfying, most delicious recipes including Raw Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Raw Brownies, and a whole host of other delicious recipes that you can make at home that are raw and taste amazing. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to hear from you very soon. Until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.
This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with like-minded, qualified health care professional(s). I wish you success on your raw journey!