Seeing as I’m all over the map these days (literally!) and don’t have time to post as often; below is another fabulous post from my guest blogger, Sarah Berneche where she writes about her experience with the intimidating task of sprouting!
I’m not sure if it’s the advent of summer or the course I recently completed on aging, but raw food has captured my total and undivided attention. It’s not surprising that the world’s longest living peoples subsist mainly on plant-based diets (rounded out with some seafood, meat and/or dairy), but what I found most striking and significant was their collective dependence on raw food. Across cultures, whether omnivorous- or vegetarian-based, raw food is the one constant. In response, I’ve tried to include more raw elements in my diet and have started exploring ways to increase the bioavailability of my meals, including soaking my legumes and grains, learning how to sprout, and consuming more fermented products like sauerkraut (choose unpasteurized versions made without vinegar), organic yogurt or kefir, and kombucha (more on this at a later date). Personally speaking, I’m fully functional on 6 hours of sleep (no naps) and have experienced increased mental clarity and energy. Not bad.
While I know a lot of these changes are possible due to my flexible schedule, none of them are dramatic or require extensive time commitments. Today I’d like to address sprouting lentils specifically: how to sprout, the nutritional benefits of sprouting, how to store them and ways you can use them. Please note that while a diet high in raw foods comes with many benefits, adding too many raw foods into the diet too quickly, particularly foods high in insoluble (“scratchy”) fibre – like celery – can irritate the digestive tract and may prove damaging to those who have IBS, colitis and other bowel or intestinal issues. Soluble fibre forms a thick gel and is much easier on digestion; look to foods like carrots, apples, bananas, avocados, and – you’ve got it – sprouted legumes.
I have to admit I was a little weirded out by sprouted lentils before I tried them. I mean, they look kind of gross, no? And isn’t sprouting ridiculously involved? All of that changed several months ago while I caught up with friends over gluten-free pizza and wine. One of my girlfriends announced enthusiastically that 1) she’d started sprouting and 2) that it was easy. Never one to back down from a culinary challenge, I added it to my bucket list and shrugged; if people were sprouting in apartments while going to school, working and maintaining a marriage, surely I could face my fear and sprout, too.
How to Sprout
Let’s get down to business: sprouting is easy, but slightly involved. Just slightly, I promise!
What you need:
- 1/3 cup of lentils (I used your typical green lentils, but brown, black beluga or French lentils would be great, too)
- 1L glass jar or equivalent (I used a Mason jar)
- Paper towel, cheesecloth, etc.
- Rubber band
Rinse the lentils and sort for stones and other odd bits. Drop them into the jar and add about 2 cups of water. Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, paper towel, etc and secure with a rubber band. Let stand for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Drain the water from the lentils, rinse, and add back to the jar. This time, place the jar on its side out of direct sunlight and try to spread out the lentils so they have some room. You’ll want to repeat this step (remove, rinse, add back to the tilted jar) once every 12 hours or so for 4 days, or until the sprouts measure about half an inch and the green bits appear. Sprouting is pretty forgiving so you don’t have to be overly diligent about this 12 hour business. Mostly you want to keep the lentils moist (but not sitting in puddles of water.) Fresher lentils will sprout faster than older ones.
The Benefits of Sprouting
- Increases B vitamins and carotene
- Neutralizes phytic acid, which interferes with mineral (zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, etc.) absorption
- Sprouting creates Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant
- Much more easily digested (complex sugars are broken down)
- More digestive enzymes are produced, which, in addition to contributing to the above, will give you more energy!
How to Store Sprouted Lentils
Once sprouted, the lentils should be refrigerated and consumed within the week. I haven’t tried freezing them, but I’m sure you could (they might get a little soggy once defrosted.)
I was surprised to find that I actually really like sprouted lentils. They’re a crispy, easy protein source and inexpensive to make. While your roommates might think you’re secretly growing UFOs, rest assured that sprouted lentils are far from weird or gross.
You can use sprouted lentils in any recipe that calls for lentils, including soups, stews and salads. You can eat them raw or cook them lightly until heated. I like eating them raw at lunch with a plate full of raw vegetables, olives and seeds or nuts. Dressed with an apple cider vinaigrette, it’s a super energizing, satisfying and perfect meal, especially fitting for the dog days of summer ahead of us.
What do you think – will you try sprouting? Have you ever tried to sprout legumes or grains? What are your favourite foods to eat raw?
Sarah Berneche is a Toronto-based writer, voracious eater and home cook, and the voice behind The Documentarian (http://www.sarahberneche.com), a collection of food stories. She holds a B.A.H. and M.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Windsor and a post-graduate certificate in Creative Book Publishing from Humber College; currently, she is a holistic nutrition student at CSNN. In her free time, she volunteers as a fruit gleaner and event organizer for Not Far From the Tree (http://www.notfarfromthetree.org) and as a contributing blogger & editor for LEAF (http://www.yourleaf.org).
Reading this article made me realize that my grandmother has been sprouting all these years and I didn’t even realize it! In our culture, mung beans are a huge food staple (next to white fatty rice of course), and sprouting them makes them taste even better. Usually we boil mung beans, which quite honestly takes all day! But sprouting them involves the same process as what you have described in your article with the lentils – and it tastes great! We don’t however eat them raw (in our culture we cook everything) – so once the mung beans have sprouted, we throw them in a pan with a little water, tomatoes and garlic and let it all boil and then serve it up.
I can’t wait to try sprouting lentils now:)
Hey girl! That is awesome! I find that’s the case with a lot of healthy methods and foods – they’re trendy now, but it used to be just the way people did things or ate back in the day. It was common for people to grow their own organic food, and there wasn’t as many packaged/convenience foods available. We need to go back to the way our grandmothers used to do things!