We welcome Liz Dee back to Our Hen House today to discuss growing things — food, vegan awareness, and everyone’s favorite grow-it-yourself snack (even if they don’t know it yet!) — sprouts! Don’t miss the always charming Liz as she lets us in on one of her favorite things to make in the kitchen, and then keep reading for a delicious and easy recipe for a soup that will quickly become your go-to healthy and yummy lunch.
Sprout it Out: You Don’t Need a Green Thumb to Grow Green Things (BONUS: Easy Raw Vegan Soup Recipe)
by Liz Dee
Sprouts are, dare I say it, the new kale (bold statement, I know!). They are nutrient-dense, tasty, easy to grow, and perfect for the budget-conscious. With little more work than maintaining a houseplant, you can have fresh, health-promoting, homegrown sprouts all year round – talk about eating local! All you need is a container, sprouting seeds, water, and a little bit of magic. (Okay, nix the magic part, but it is sort of surreal to grow a salad right in your kitchen. Even urbanites with limited space can get in on this.)
As for me, I proudly sprout year round, but growing food in the freezing cold winter – from my warm, cozy home – is particularly gratifying. These days, my kitchen is a veritable salad-making factory.
But sprouts are about so much more than salads. I’m talking vitamins and minerals, people. Nutrient density, perhaps my favorite part of these crunchy little pieces of heaven, refers to the micronutrient per calorie ratio that characterizes a food. Many leading nutrition experts (like Dr. Joel Fuhrman) have shifted the paradigm from discussing amounts of macronutrients (e.g., carbohydrates, fat, and protein) to the density of micronutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals). The higher the nutrient density, the healthier the food.
When it comes to high nutrient density, whole vegan foods naturally top the charts. Leafy green vegetables are the gold standard, followed by solid green vegetables, non-green non-starchy vegetables, beans/legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Sprouting increases the nutritional value of a grain or seed, offering a concentrated source of phytochemicals. For example, broccoli sprouts have been found to have a whopping 50 times more of the cancer preventative antioxidant sulforaphane than fully grown broccoli by weight. Homegrown broccoli sprouts also hold the title for the “biggest nutrition bang for your buck,” according to Dr. Michael Greger.
As far as containers go for growing sprouts, pretty much anything works, from a jar you had leftover from peanut butter, to a dedicated sprouter. If you choose to sprout in a jar, you can get a sprout strainer lid, or just use some cheesecloth or mesh screen held in place with a rubber band over the jar. There are some great videos online that provide helpful instruction for how to sprout using a jar. (Warning: It’s kind of creepy to watch sprouts grow in sped-up time.)
Some of the seeds I enjoy sprouting include broccoli, radish, clover, mung bean, green pea, fenugreek, garbanzo, adzuki, hard wheat, and fennel. For the virgin sprouter, there is a ton of information out there about how often to soak and rinse certain seeds when sprouting. I’ve got to be honest, though: With my sprouting container, I don’t soak the seeds or keep them out of the sunlight for any dedicated period of time (although they generally don’t get much direct sunlight because my kitchen isn’t particularly bright). I rinse the seeds every day, and the sprouts always come out perfectly. (Not to brag …)
A testament to the container I use? Perhaps. My health-savvy cousin got me a sprouter last year, which makes everything a no-brainer. Be forewarned, though: At first, you may be freaked out by the little white hairs that grow on the tail of certain types of sprouts after a few days, bearing a striking resemblance to mold. Although you must be vigilant about mold and discard the whole batch if it appears, these “root hairs” are a normal part of the process. A couple of indications that you may have moldy sprouts rather than root hairs are hairs all over the sprouts (instead of just the root) and a muddy smell.
It is recommended to water the seeds with filtered water. I use a nothing-special countertop household filter (except when I’m feeling lazy and go for plain tap water). The water used to rinse and soak seeds is ideal for watering plants, so don’t pour it down the drain. It has had an incredible fertilizing effect on mine. If you are sprouting wheat, barley, or rye, you could also use that water to make rejuvelac (a fermented drink you may have seen as an ingredient – the one you didn’t have – for nut cheeses).
Sprouts are ready to eat as soon as they, well, sprout! I wait until they are about an inch long (usually within a week). Just give them a rinse, and they’re ready to devour. (Word to the wise: You may want to have some floss on hand.)
What do sprouts and vegan cupcakes have in common? When you make either of them, you usually have plenty to go around to spread the vegan love. It’s true that sprouts don’t fall quite as nicely as baked goods into the “food as activism” category. No one wonders whether sprouts are vegan, and thereby asks themselves “who knew vegan sprouts could taste so good?” However, when you share your sprouts, you are getting more greens into people’s lives, and being a generous and thoughtful vegan friend. That counts for something! Plus, who ever said, “Ugh. I ate too many sprouts – I’m going to explode”? No one ever. You might be surprised at how many of your omni friends and colleagues enjoy them. Bring an extra container in with you to the office lunchroom. You will be more popular than you already are, if that’s at all possible.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy sprouts:
- On soups, salads, and sandwiches.
- In summer rolls and nori rolls.
- Juiced (better the greens than the beans).
- Eaten plain, or sprinkled with a little lemon juice – they really hit the spot!
So sprout it out, share the nutrient-dense love, and enjoy!
Note: Be warned that the classic alfalfa sprout is not recommended due to E. coli concerns, even if you sprout them at home. Also, FoodSafety.gov advises that children, elderly folks, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouts altogether to avoid bacteria (such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli) that thrive in the warm humid conditions in which sprouts grow.
Move over, gazpacho. Raw green soup has arrived! I first tasted a raw green soup at NYC’s mainstay, Quintessence, and it was love at first nutrient-dense bite. I was inspired to try making it at home, and have since created many variations on this theme – I encourage you to do so as well. As long as you have an avocado to smooth and anchor the ingredients, the greens can be interchanged, and everything can be adjusted to taste. Top the soup with homegrown sprouts for a satisfying crunch!
[print_this]Raw Green Soup
by Liz Dee
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup celery, roughly chopped (about 2 stalks)
- 1 cup cucumber, roughly chopped (about 1/2 large cucumber)
- 1 cup kale, roughly chopped (about 4 medium-sized leaves)
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1/4 cup broccoli sprouts, plus a small handful for garnish
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust any and all ingredients to taste. Garnish with fresh, homemade broccoli sprouts. Enjoy![/print_this]
Elizabeth Laurel Dee, the Publications Coordinator for Our Hen House, is a fifth-generation candy maker with a vegan sweet tooth and co-owner of Smarties Candy Company. She practices and advocates for compassion and freedom for all beings. A firm believer in Gandhi’s idea of being the change you wish to see in the world, Elizabeth is always looking for new ways to put her master’s degree in media, culture, and communication to good use through effective animal advocacy. In addition to leafleting, she is fond of getting lost in a book, practicing yoga, and writing. Elizabeth celebrates life with a brave cat, a cuddly dog, and a kind man she bumped into one day on West 4th Street and Mercer.