Sprouting 101: Demo Lentil Sprouts

Sprouts are the first sign of the germination in water of nuts, grains or seeds. They are usually tiny off shoots before established leaves develop. Depending on the seed, sprouts usually reach this stage of development within 2 to 5 days. (Lentils usually take between 2 to 3 days).
 Naturopathic Control: Sprouting 101 with Lentil Sprouts

Uses of Sprouts

  • Medicinal (see below the specific benefits associated with sprouting certain seeds)
  • Ingredient in salads, soup, stir fry and other meal options when doing the naturopathic cleansing program  

Benefits of Sprouting

  • Makes nutrients and enzymes more available for digestion than is possible from the seed, grain or nut.
  • Easier to digest than the seed. Sprouting avoids the ‘anti-nutrients’ (ie substances like phytic acid that disrupt the body’s absorption of nutrients and enzymes) in the nuts, seeds and grains. Soaking, the preliminary component of sprouting, reduces anti-nutrients by as much as 90% or more within only one day. This benefit is especially noteworthy for people suffering from digestive and or autoimmune problems. In that case, the flatulence caused by lentils for instance may be eradicated by sprouting.
  • Easy to do in your kitchen, even if it is dark; inexpensive, its need for space is limited to only a jar or small container
  • Sprouting can be done with numerous other seeds that include alfalfa, amaranth, arugula, broccoli, buckwheat, cabbage, channa, fenugreek, kale, millet, mung, pumpkin, raddish, quinoa, sesame seeds, snow peas, sunflower (un-hulled), tef and wheat grass. In fact, you can choose among these seeds according to your health (or other) objectives. For instance, fenugreek is among the best for detoxification; most alkalinizing sprouts include those from amaranth, millet, quinoa and tef; most nutritionally dense sprouts include arugula, alfalfa broccoli, cabbage, kale and raddish;  brocoli for thyroid and cancer-related problems; sunflower for protein, phytosterols, essential fatty acids and fiber; sesame seeds for protein and moderate amounts of manganese and copper; and alfalfa for vitamins C, K and B and to balance cholesterol and support the immune system (BUT controversial since they have canavanine that can inhibit the immune system). When choosing, consider the ease of sprouting the different seeds. For instance, chia, hemp and flax seeds are arguably difficult to sprout (but better for making microgreens). There are however some seeds that should not be sprouted. For instance, do NOT sprout red kidney beans (because they contain a toxic compound in their sprouts. Having said this, they are safe to be cooked after being soaked.

Sprouting Challenges

The seed can sometimes carry bacteria that cause food borne illness. In fact, they had been connected to outbreaks of salmonella and E.coli. This is especially possible if care is not taken to properly sterilize implements and hands in the germination process. Outside of sterilization, you may avoid this problem by soaking sprouts in 1:6, ie lemon juice: water solution for 15 minutes before eating sprouts. This will kill bacteria in the sprouts.

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How to Sprout Lentils
You will need:
  • Organic lentil seeds. You can get these at supermarkets and or health food stores. A friend left a store empty handed when she asked for ‘sprouting seeds’. Simply ask for ‘lentil seeds’.
  • A large glass jar with a screened ‘cover’ top (which may be a screen held in place with a rubber band)  OR  For larger volumes, a colander that fits perfectly into a solid bowl. Ideally the colander should be flat bottomed
  • Sterilizing equipment. I used a cotton wool soaked with surgical alcohol or vinegar that I rinse out with filtered water
  • Filtered water
  • Light kitchen towel or paper towels
  • Lemon as an option. You will need 1 part lemon juice to 6 parts water to soak the sprouts just before eating them. This is a technique used to ensure any bacteria are killed

Steps for Sprouting Lentils

  1. For a sprouting container of roughly 32 oz that you will grow over 3 days, 2 tbsp of seeds will suffice.
  2. Soak the seeds for 24 hours in water in any sterilized bowl. Since the seeds will expand, ensure the water level is at least 3 times higher than that of the seeds. The bowl may (not) be covered. (Some seeds require less soaking time. For instance, fenugreek seeds may require 12 hours while alfalfa seeds may require only 8 hours). 

  3. Drain off the water very well. The image below shows a bad batch of fenugreek seeds that frothed. They had not been washed and drained well. Attempts to clear up the froth with lemon juice minimized the frothing but did not encourage growth on this day 4. fenugreek sprouts gone wrong
  4. Spread the seeds out into the sprout container (ie the colander or jar) and place the colander into the big bowl. Throughout the sprouting process, handle the sprouts as little as possible. In that case, spread the sprouts by gently shaking the sprout container in which they are contained
  5. Water the seeds. To do this, submerge the seeds with a new batch of water for a few minutes. In the case of the colander and bowl, place the colander into the bowl and pour water over the sprouts until they are submerged. Otherwise, pour water into the jar.
  6. Shake gently. Shaking is a means of rinsing the seeds to ensure mold or bacteria do not form.
  7. Drain the water out (so the seeds are no longer submerged or in direct contact with water). For the colander, drain out the water from the bowl below the colander so the colander could drip dry any excess over time into the bowl. Otherwise, you can tilt screened glass jars upside down to drain out the water before sitting the jar on its side. Laying the jar on its side also extends the surface area of the lentils. -- --
  8. Cover with a light kitchen towel or even paper towel. Either way, ensure that the seeds get air circulation between each watering. This is in part to prevent molding.
  9. Water the seeds twice daily before covering with a towel. Other kinds of seeds may require more frequent watering. You will need to monitor how dry they look to determine whether they need to be watered again.
  10. After the seeds germinate and the sprouts lengthen, some seeds may become dislodged. Remove these seeds by placing the batch into a bowl of water and then skimming off the seeds.
  11.  You may eat the sprouts from day 3. However, you may eat the sprouts later if you want a less crunchy texture.         Naturopathic Control: Sprouting 101 with Lentils 
  12. Naturopathic Control: Sprouting 101 with Lentils
    Naturopathic Control: Sprouting 101 with Lentils
  13.  In the image below, the sprouts were left for 10 days, ie well beyond the normal period. They are edible even after this extended time period.

  14. Naturopathic Control: Sprouting 101 with Lentils
      If you wish to eat the sprouts later rather than sooner, you may place them close to a source of indirect sunlight for a slightly greener result. However, the color does not affect the difference in taste.
  15. To harvest, place all the sprouts into a large bowl of filtered water. Gently shake and detangle the sprouts. The seeds will fall away. Scoop away the seeds and place in your compost bin while leaving the sprouts for your food.

DIY Sprouting 101: Lentil Sprouts
If I want to store sprouts and stop their further growth, I place them in a container in the refrigerator. 
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