Sprouting in three easy steps!

I have recently started contributing to a wicked awesome local online magazine called Rare Republic. They’re not only a magazine but a grassroots community dedicated to improving the condition of our food, its production, distribution, supply, and consumption for the entire community’s commercial and health benefit.

They asked if I could contribute a little something to the site and I of course, jumped at the opportunity. I love this community and what it stands for, so it was an honor to be asked to contribute, and with my new sprouting obsession, it was easy to do.

Check out my post here, and while you’re at it – peruse the site and join the community! Together we can be informed, stay connected and help find those answers and the solutions to some of the food issues that face us.

Happy sprouting!

Steph

Post Series: Health Benefits of Sprouting Fenugreek Seeds

I am new to sprouting, and so far have been LOVING it! This past weekend, I have started sprouting alfalfa and fenugreek.  Oriental mustard is on it’s 2nd day (needs another day or two), and at this very moment I am soaking green kale seeds.  Since I’ve started, we’ve been able to enjoy sprouts in salads every day. I’m THRILLED! Not only are they incredibly tasty and quick to produce – the health benefits are crazy yo! You can read about some of the benefits in my last post, here.  (Scroll to the bottom to see photos of the fenugreek seeds in sprouting action!)

I thought I’d start a series of posts, detailing what I’m sprouting, showing pictures and the health benefits of each seed. Many of you probably didn’t know that you can sprout pretty much any grain or seed. The main thing you want to ensure though, is that is is organic and non-GMO. You can read about non-GMO here.

So what about the health benefits? Sprouts are much more nutritious than the dormant seed or bean from which they spring from. By “awakening” these seeds, we are actually eating all of the live potential energy of the sprout.

Because of the higher water content in sprouts as opposed to dry seeds and beans, we find a higher nutritional content. Sprouts contain absorb-able protein, and contain increased calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C.

Even though alfalfa was the first seed I sprouted, I don’t feel the need to write about it because we’re all probably familiar with it. It’s so common in grocery stores and health food places, I thought I’d go off the beaten path and spark your interest in something different. Want to learn more? Read on my friends!

I was intrigued by this seed because I recently started using the leaves in recipes. It’s a very potent smelling leaf, and the spice fenugreek, also called methi and menthulu, are the small, hard, yellowish brown, angular, protein-rich seeds harvested from the pods of the plant. The seeds have a bittersweet taste and are highly aromatic once ground. Because of those qualities, fenugreek has become a key ingredient in curry powder. Fenugreek seeds are also used in other spice blends, fish and vegetables dishes, dahl, breads, stews and preserves, such as pickles and chutneys.

Like cilantro, fenugreek is a plant whose leaves and seeds can be used in all sorts of ways. It is native to India and southern Europe, and for centuries has grown wild in those and other places. It’s also one of the oldest cultivated plants known to humans and, according to the Complete Spice Book, has been grown in the Nile Valley since 1000 BC.  If you buy the dried leaves for cooking, make sure you have it wrapped up tightly in a Ziploc or in a glass jar to avoid having your kitchen cupboard smelling like it. It will overpower other spices in your cupboards. Despite fenugreeks many uses, you are unlikely to find it at any mainstream grocery store. If you’re wanting to use the leaves, try a local Indian grocery store.

So, back to sprouting and the benefits of fenugreek. If you’re looking to sprout the seeds, I suggest buying organic, non-gmo seeds from Mumms or another online seed sprouting company. Do your research because organic non-gmo seeds are DEFINITELY the way to go.

Fenugreek is one of the oldest recorded medicinal herbs, highly esteemed by both east and west, and has been regarded as a treatment for just about every ailment known to man. Fenugreek has a beneficial action on cleansing the blood.

What are the benefit of these super cool seeds/sprouts?

  • Did you know that fenugreek is regarded as a sister herb to garlic? A traditional herb for colds and flu, fenugreek has the same properties. It is also attributed with being a blood cleanser and a lymphatic cleanser.
  • Another attribute of fenugreek is it’s apparent capacity to create a protective coating over inflamed areas of the stomach and bowel including peptic ulcers. Fenugreek is a practical herb for all mucus conditions of the body, particularly the lungs, by helping to clear congestion. It is a powerful antioxidant and it acts as a mucus solvent and throat cleanser, which also eases the urge to cough. Even drinking the water that seeds have soaked in and been rinsed with, helps to soften and dissolve, accumulated and hardened masses of cellular debris. Use fenugreek for head colds, influenza, catarrh, constipation, bronchial complaints, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, pleurisy, tuberculosis, sore throat, laryngitis, hay fever and sinusitis.
  • Fenugreek has also been noted as increasing breast milk production in nursing mothers. On the other hand, pregnant women should not ingest fenugreek.
  • Fenugreek has had the reputation for enhancing libido. No wonder it has been called an aphrodisiac. I smiled, when I read in a herbal book, ‘Fenugreek, for making an old man into a young man’!. Some men use fenugreek for herniaerectile dysfunction (ED), and other male problems.
  • Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • As a diaphoretic it is able to bring on a sweat and to help detox the body. This takes place through the pores of the skin. The pungent aroma of fenugreek may be smelt on the skin and in under-arm perspiration. This is evidence that the herb is working well: shower frequently! The body odour of fenugreek is nowhere near as offensive as a body reeking of garlic. After using the sprouts for a while, this fenugreek body aroma, does not seem to be so apparent, maybe, the sprouts have done a pretty good cleanse.
  • Fenugreek seeds are rich source of minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. 100 g seeds provide 323 calories.
  • The seeds are a very good source of soluble dietary fiber. Soaking the seeds in water makes their outer coat soft and mucilaginous. 100 g of seeds provide 24.6 g or over 65% of dietary fiber.
  • This prized spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering action on sodium. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidases enzyme.
Raw hard seeds, right out of the package.

Raw hard seeds, right out of the package.

How much to seed to sprout?

  • I used 1/4 for the tray, and 1-2 tbsp for the jar method. You don’t want to over pack the jar because the seeds won’t aerate properly and become mushy and rot. Not good peeps. Keep enough room in the jar or a spread out layer in the try to allow the seeds to do their thang. Sprouted, fenugreek grows large vigorous, crunchy sprouts with an unusual maple flavour. Quite awesome on a salad. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!
Seeds in the tray, see the tail starting?

Seeds in the tray, see the tail starting?

The final product! Yummers!

The final product! Yummers!

Storing your spouts:

  • Be sure to only store your sprouts when they are DRY. Let them air out after the last rinse before putting them in a seal-able container. You can keep them in the fridge for up to 4 days, if they last that long!
Store in an air tight container for 3-5 days

Store in an air tight container for 3-5 days

Sprouting Seeds

I have a new obsession! Sprouting seeds!

Jar method

Last Christmas I was given a seed sprouting kit and was over the moon about it. The seeds however, were not good quality and they did not turn out like I had expected. I can’t remember the brand or the seed type, but they weren’t that good taste wise, and only gave enough for one jar of sprouts. Total bummer.

Thing is, when you buy kits like that, you are not entirely sure how old the seeds are and if they are in fact, organic. So no fault of my beau for picking up the nifty kit, sadly you just never know the quality with the pre-made kits.

I didn’t throw away the jar that came with the kit..I packed it safely away because I knew sprouting was in my future. Sure enough, sprouting popped back up (heh, pun intended) when I volunteered at the Guelph Organic Conference this past February.  I was able to be A/V support for a seed sprouting workshop! Sweet. Lisa Mumm, (daughter of the owners of Mumms Sprouting Seeds) flew in from Saskatchewan to speak to us. What a treat. Lisa was kind enough to bring examples of sprouted seeds to show the group. I was really stunned at how easy it is! Although I had tried it before, she showed the tray method, had a display of fresh sprouts and really broke it down as to how easy it can be, on your own kitchen counter. I was not only armed with new information, I was inspired.

So why sprout anyway? Sprouting raw nuts, seeds, beans and grains is one of the quickest, easiest ways to pack a group of nutrients into your body in just one handful. Raw nuts and seeds especially already have so many good nutrients awaiting you, when you sprout them, the nutritional profile multiplies. The quality of the protein in the beans, nuts, seeds, or grains improves when it is sprouted.  Proteins change during the soaking and sprouting process, improving its nutritional value. The amino acid lysine, for example, which is needed to prevent cold sores and to maintain a healthy immune system increases significantly during the sprouting process.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-reasons-to-eat-sprouts.html#ixzz2bmtvySKQ

According to this study from the International Journal of Applied Science, sprouts have the highest concentration of phytonutrients per calorie of any food. Phytonutrients play an active role in the amelioration of disease. Just 100 grams a day of sprouts may prevent cancer. See the research from the University of Ulster.

Variety PackTook me awhile, but eventually I dug out the jar from the boxes we had in the basement after we moved. I hopped online, went directly to http://www.sprouting.com and ordered the Variety Pack which came with a Starter kit and a whackload of different seeds.

Alfalfa Seeds

I started sprouting Alfalfa right away and we enjoyed it in a salad 3 days later. So delicious and sweet and MUCH better than the alfalfa you buy in the store. In fact I never buy store bought alfalfa because I don’t like the taste. Trust me, Mumms alfalfa seeds are the bomb. Hmm! I wonder if you could make a seed bomb from these babies? That would be a fun project.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa sprouts after 3 days

Fenugreek in the tray, after soaking and first rinse.

Fenugreek in the tray, after soaking and first rinse.

 Anyway, I am experimenting both ways with the seeds, both jar and tray. 

Today I started sprouting Fenugreek and Oriental Mustard. Fenugreek in the tray and mustard in the jar.

The mustard seeds are supposed to be hot, and I can’t wait to add them to a salad when they’re ready. I love me some spicy sprouts!  

I had a tray from growing seedlings this spring and so I just poked drain holes in it and after soaking the fenugreek, I spread them across the bottom. Don’t forget to wash all your containers thoroughly before using. Especially if you used your tray outside. You want to ensure it’s super clean and free from contaminants/dirt.

Oriental Mustard seeds after soaking and first rinse.

Oriental Mustard seeds after soaking and first rinse.

Next purchase will be the Baby Blanket. I wanted to try sprouting without it first to see how it goes, wish me luck! Basically the baby blanket is a felted grass material that holds moisture around the roots for more even growing conditions. It allows growing soil type sprouts without the mess of soil and without the difficulty of getting good safe organic soil. 

I couldn’t wait to share this experience with you, it’s so exciting to eat fresh sprouts that you are able to watch grow in your own kitchen in a matter of days. What a great kids project too! Not only is it fun, but the health benefits are insane. According to this study from the International Journal of Applied Science, sprouts have the highest concentration of phytonutrients per calorie of any food. Phytonutrients play an active role in the amelioration of disease. Just 100 grams a day of sprouts may prevent cancer. See the research from the University of Ulster.

Have you ever sprouted seeds? If so, what are your favourite brands and methods?

Raw food is a wonderful thing.. I plan to continue sprouting for the rest of the year. I look forward to learning about all the new ways I can use these lovely sprouts in my every day meals. Have you noticed any health benefits from eating sprouts?

RECIPE: Lemon Balm Tea

I planted a couple of lemon balm plants in the garden these past couple of weeks. Not only do do they smell great when the leaves are rubbed, it self-seeds readily in flowerbeds or even gaps between paving. It is a common but under appreciated garden plant, possibly because it is easy to grow – it is tolerant of a range of conditions, including drought, and isn’t affected by many pests and diseases.  Want to try planting it? Even a small scrap of stalk will readily root in a glass of water, making it a plant for garden visitors to take home and grow on a windowsill or in their own garden.

Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint as it is actually from the mint family. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto.  For companion planting: If you are growing tomatoes, plant lemon balm beside them, it will improve flavour and growth in the tomatoes.

Today I made a lemon balm tea. It is said that lemon balm has a calming effect and is a good night time tea.  You can add a little honey or stevia to sweeten it up if you need it, or it can be drank alone as it has a very light but aromatic flavour.

To make the tea:

  1. Grab a handful of leaves from the garden
  2. Wash them gently in cool water, pat dry
  3. Bruise the leaves by crushing them together or pulling apart
  4. Add to a large pitcher and add 4-5 cups of boiling water.
  5. Allow the leaves to steep in the water, keep the lid on or you will lose the aromatics of the leaves.
  6. Allow the tea to cool. When ready to drink, pour it into a mug and reheat. Add a 1/2 tsp of stevia or natural honey if you want sweetness.

You’ll notice that the tea is very light but has a slight lemony-mint flavour. It’s beautiful and so nice to have fresh tea, made right from the garden!

Enjoy!

Growin’ My Own (from seeds)

I get excited about a lot of things. I’m an excitable person. For example, I was super excited to go to Costco yesterday and buy unbelievable amounts of things. Saturday, I was excited to get the footprints off my dark hardwood floors. Last night, I was excited to fold the laundry and put it away (it had been sitting there for a week, so maybe I wasn’t THAT excited about it). Anyway, you get the point.

This past week, I have been excited to start planting a few seeds to get them ready for the garden! I picked up a couple of seed starting kits at Canadian Tire and couldn’t wait to get sowing. I have been collecting a number of seeds from Greta’s Organic Gardenseco-culture and The Cottage Gardener – Heirloom Seedhouse & Nursery over the past year in anticipation of planting in the backyard of our new home. I’ve grown many things in pots in past years and have been wildly successful, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity (and space!) to do it again.

Seed Starter Kit

This is perfect because you get the little seed cups to start with. No mess, just add water and seeds!

I purchased the following organic seeds:

  • Sub-Artic Cherry Tomato/pink
  • Mixed Radish
  • Evergreen Hardy Bunching Onions
  • Jaune Flammee Tomato
  • Black Seaman Tomato/Black
  • Golden Plum Dwarf Cherry Tomato
  • Spicy Greens Mix
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Sweet Basil
  • Thai Basil
  • Jalapeno
  • Habanero
  • Cilantro/Coriander
  • English Thyme
  • Salad Burnet
  • Garlic Chives, White
  • Lemon Balm

Seeds

As it’s still really chilly out and was snowing and freezing rain as of Friday, I am slowly starting to plant, fostering germination and then hardening off the plants in small batches. I’ll plan them in pots so I can bring them into the garage in a jiffy, JUST IN CASE Mother Nature decides to continue with this crazy weather.

I started with these four seeds for now, and as the seedlings are large and healthy enough to transplant into pots, I’ll start another batch of seeds.

  1. Garlic Chives

Sow seed 0.5” deep in pots or flats of soil mix. Germination is very slow.  Constant moisture, darkness and warm temperatures are required.  When seedlings are 4 weeks old, transplant in the garden.  Chives should be divided every 3 years.  Leaves can be snipped when plants are 6” tall.  You should not cut closer than 2” from the ground since the plants need some leaves to keep growing.

2. Red Russian Kale

Can be either direct-seeded or transplanted, and harvested either as baby leaf or in full-sized bunches.  For direct-seeding bunch kale, sow 3 seeds every 8-10” in rows 18-30” apart, thin to one plant per group.  For transplanting, start indoors four weeks before soil warms and transplant to same spacing.

3. Spicy Greens Mix

Sow every 3 weeks for a continuous supply.  For transplanting, 3-4 weeks prior to moving outdoors.  Sow in flats at 4 seeds/inch or in small –cell plug trays, barely covering seeds with fine vermiculite.    Shade if necessary to keep soil below 75 degrees F, on warm days.

4. Lemon Balm

Easily grown from seed, germination is best when seed is uncovered.  Ensure that the planting medium does not dry out while the seeds are germinating.  Enjoys well-drained soil in full sunlight.  Leaf growth may be slow the first year, and more vigorous thereafter.  Harvest before the plant flowers, for optimum fragrance.

And so the little seeds have started to germinate!

Germination!

And now the Spicy Greens Mix and Red Russian Kale are ready to move out of the germinator 🙂

IMG_0827

Left group of six: Red Russian Kale, Right group of six: Spicy Greens Mix

I don’t have these labeled, but because they are two completely different plants I won’t have a hard time telling what’s what.  If you look really closely, you’ll notice that the Red Russian Kale has a darker outline to the itty bitty leaves.

Red Russian Kale Seedlings

Look closely, do you see a purple-ish outline to the leaves? This is the Red Russian Kale.

Spicy Greens Mix

These guys are all bright green, soon to turn into lettuce!!!

And so it begins… my little herb and vegetable garden is underway.  I will be posting updates of these and everything else I plant.  I hope you enjoy this journey!

Have you planted anything yet? Are you planning on having a garden this summer? I’d love to hear about everyone else’s gardens. If you’re in the GTA I’d love to do some seed swapping too, so please get in touch!