As winter kicks into high gear and many gardens lay dormant, the demand for fresh greens peaks across North America—along with their price. Enter sprouts, the powerhouse of the vegetable world.
Grown year round and packed with nutrients, sprouts are finished in days and often provide more vitamins and minerals than our favorite vegetables. They are also inexpensive and easy to grow.
Add to this impressive list their health benefits: some sprout varieties have been found to contain cancer-fighting agents, reducing the risk of breast and colon cancer. One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2004 (and later featured in Time magazine) linked broccoli sprouts to reduced risk of stroke, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Another, earlier study from John Hopkins University noted that broccoli sprouts have higher levels of cancer fighting compounds than broccoli heads—up to 100 times higher!
So why are sprouts often overlooked as a basic winter vegetable? A few easy steps in the home kitchen easily converts naysayers and brings satisfying results. For those interested in growing sprouts for health or just their fresh taste, here are a few things to consider.
What Are Sprouts?
Sprouts are tiny plants grown without soil. In most cases, nature packages seeds with enough energy to germinate and produce two small leaves before requiring inputs from sunlight and soil. Sprouting encourages this transformation on your kitchen counter with water along, and you consume the results. Leaves, stem, and root: all are delicious and make excellent additions to sandwiches, salads, dips, spreads, and stir fries.
What Equipment Do I Need to Make Sprouts?
A variety of sprouting equipment is available today, both online and in specialty shops. Designs range from simple containers with built-in sieves to multi-tiered set-ups for sprouting several varieties at once (or for staggering sprouts of one kind). You can also use a simple glass jar with cheesecloth secured by a rubber band over the opening or screening fastened by a metal, screw-top ring. Other necessities include clean water (non-chlorinated is best) and untreated seeds
Choosing Which Seeds to Sprout
In theory, almost any seed will sprout given the right conditions, but some are better than others for eating in their sprouted state. Seeds marketed specifically for sprouting are also free of the harmful fungicides and other chemicals that some seed growers use to treat their seeds. Ensure your seeds are meant for sprouting before you start and choose the seed best suited for your purpose. Over the past three decades, select seeds have emerged as popular choices thanks to their ability to grow quickly and stay fresh.
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