Back to the Seed with Sprouting – Part I

Although advancements in medicine and research have made dramatic differences to health and life expectancy, acceptance of the positive role that diet and nutrition plays in health is also gaining momentum.  There is little doubt as to the benefits of a diet consisting of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, however, the cost of preparing a meal from scratch – as opposed to processed foods – can be significantly higher.  One relatively easy and economical way to add abundant nutrition to any diet is through sprouting.

Why Sprouting?

In a nutshell, while plants are developing, they produce increased amounts of phytochemicals and anticancer compounds so eating young plants provides the highest concentration. To boot, sprouts are tasty, nutritious and easily digestible and are a simple and inexpensive way to grow vegetables at home, in any climate and at any time of the year.

two trays of mixed sprouting seeds and broccoli seeds

Sprout History

Although in the last 30 years there has been a surge in interest, sprouts have a long history, medicinally and nutritionally and according to the International Sprout Growers Association, “it has been written that the Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago”.  In the 1700s the high Vitamin C content of sprouts made them valuable for sailors to ward off scurvy and during World War II interest in sprouts was generated with this announcement …

“Wanted! A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation and can be cooked with little fuel.”

An apt summary of the humble sprout!

close up of one bowl of mixed sprouting seeds

Variety of Sprouts

Sprouting falls into three categories: sprouts, shoots and microgreens. There are over 100 different types ranging from the highly nutritious broccoli sprouts which boasts between 10 to 100 times more cancer-fighting compounds than the more mature florets, the peppery kick of radish sprouts, fenugreen’s nutty, slightly sweet but mostly bitter taste and the gentle flavour and slight crunch of red clover. 

How to Grow Sprouts

Although there are numerous ways to sprout ranging from a multi-tiered sprouter to a hemp bag, the method I use is wide-mouthed mason jars with a sprouting lid and a shallow bowl that allows the jar to drain while inverted at an angle.  Before I purchased the sprouting lids, I simply used some cheesecloth with a rubber band. 

two mason jars with seeds soaking in water

Depending on the type of seeds used, Mumm’s Sprouting recommends adding “1-2 TBSPs of small seeds, or ¼ – ½ cup of large seeds in the jar. Rinse the seeds with water and drain. Let the seeds soak in the jar for approximately 2 hours (broccoli family), 6 hours (small seeds) or 12 hours (bigger grains or beans) in enough water to allow them to swell completely”.

I have been using the broccoli seeds or mixes of radish, alfalfa, mustard and red clover and find that 1 to 1.5  TBSPs nicely fills a 500ml mason jar when sprouted. After the initial soak,  rinse the seeds a couple of times a day and place the jar away from direct sunlight, upside down and on an angle to allow the excess water to drain out and air to circulate.

inverted jar of sprouted seeds after 1-2 days
1-2 days
4-5 days

After 4-5 days, leafy sprouts should be rinsed and then left upright for half a day in the light before being stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. During growth, some sprouts tend to clump together so they can be stirred gently with a fork.  Also, if you need to remove excess moisture, you can add a piece of paper towel and store them upside down.

close up of jar of sprouts ready for harvest

Closing Thoughts

There is something very satisfying about growing your own food and watching seeds sprout and flourish ready for harvesting. I now tend to have one or two on the go at any one time so there is a steady supply.  In terms of serving, they can be added to a leafy green salad, used to garnish sandwiches and wraps or blended into a smoothie with fruits and vegetables.

There are so many varieties of sprouts available and it is such an easy and economical way to add flavours and textures to food while packing nutrients, fibre and protein. With sprouting, a plant-based, whole food diet never looked so good!

the dragon's picnic icon

Plant-Based Ice Cream (“Nice Cream”) with Caramel Sauce

bowl of nice cream with frozen berries

Who doesn’t love ice-cream? It seems that ice cream is probably one of the most popular desserts consumed today and, as a result of refrigeration, it can now be a household staple. Enjoyed globally, each country has its own version of the frozen treat such as gelato in Italy, kulfi In India, and mochi in Japan.

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Meeting the Challenge – Cycling 100KM

Image by B. Johnston

At one time, I imagined cycling the Paris-Brest-Paris.  For anyone unfamiliar with this event, it is a 1,200km ride in France completed within a time limit of 90 hours.  You may be forgiven for wondering why anyone would voluntarily take on such a feat. However, it seems ultra events like this have gained huge popularity over the years. Despite this, these days my goals are somewhat less ambitious and, although my fitness is far from the conditioning required for the Paris-Brest-Paris, my mind can’t resist contemplating this unrealized goal every time I get on a bike.


Plant-Based Food to Fuel Endurance Challenges!

bowl of pre-workout cereal with blackberries and yoghurt
Pre-Workout Performance Cereal from The Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Brazier

As the countdown begins for my goal to cycle 100km by the end of the summer, all the necessary training is behind me. Now it is simply down to selecting the nutrition I will use to fuel the journey. Even as little as 10 years ago, the notion of fueling sport on plant-based nutrition alone was largely unheard of and certainly not taken seriously.  A lot has changed since then and now it is much more of an accepted practice and some believe it can even be beneficial to performance. 

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Tropical Vacation Granola

jar of tropical vacation granola

As we move through August, I can’t help but notice that the evenings are getting darker just a little earlier and there is no doubt that summer is slipping inevitably into fall. The older I get, it feels as though time is moving faster and faster. Apparently this may be no illusion and there are various interesting theories and scientific research which suggest this might actually be the case!


Mango and Date Energy Bites

green cutting board with selection of mange and date energy bites, shredded coconut and dried mango

When I first got involved in triathlon training, I was introduced to the world of energy gels and bars. These are items made up of mostly simple sugar and they serve to replenish depleted carbohydrate stores during extended exercise. At that time I was more interested in performance so, as they did their intended job, I did not give a second thought to what was actually in them.

As I am now trying to follow a more whole foods-based diet, when I began training for a 100km cycle ride I started to experiment with different foods for fuel. My staple had become a couple of Medjool dates which sustained me for shorter rides of under 50km. However, as my distances increased, I found I needed a little more of a boost.


Tahini as a Plant-Based Staple

two brighly coloured bowls one with homemade tahini in and the other with store bought tahini
Home-made Tahini (Top Left) and store-bought Tahini (Bottom Right)

Since moving to plant-based cooking, Tahini has become one of my staple ingredients. Previously, my only experience of Tahini had been many years ago when I tried it as a spread on toast. At the time, I found the taste extremely unappealing and did not go near it again until recently.  Little did I know back then, but it turns out that Tahini is highly nutritious and highly versatile in cooking adding a nutty flavour and creamy texture. Although I still don’t care for the taste as a spread, I now use it regularly for hummus, as a base for dressings and sauces and have even found it a tasty addition in granola.  

Not only has Tahini proved extremely useful today, I was surprised to learn of its rich history and the fact that references can be found as far back as the 13th century regarding its uses as a food dish, medicine, and currency. Although it has been a staple in many cuisines, especially in North Africa, Turkey, Greece and the Middle East for thousand of years, it did not make its first appearance in the USA until around 1940 and then only in health food stores. Now it is widely available in most supermarkets.


Is it harder to lose weight today than it was 30 years ago?

image of slim female
Losing weight in 2020 [Photo Credit: Tumisu from Pixabay]

I recently found myself watching an episode of Highway to Heaven, a series originally released in the 1980’s. There were several things that stood out. The first was the fashions of the day, which I recall only too well, including “big hair”, leg warmers and over-sized tops with shoulder pads. Cellular phones were not commonplace and some of the “political correctness” was lagging behind today’s standards. However, what struck me most of all was just how thin everyone was.

Around the same time, I came across an article in The Atlantic by Olga Khasan referring to a study published in 2016 in the journal, Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, that asserted that “it’s harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise”.


Eat or Drink a Rainbow!

five glasses of juice in different colours - yellow, orange, purple, green and pink
Eat a Rainbow Juices [Photo Credit: silviarita from Pixabay]

I personally respond to colour and so it makes sense to me that colour therapy is based on the idea that colours create an electrical impulse in our brain, which stimulates hormonal and biochemical processes in our body. These processes either stimulate or calm us. There can be as many colours in colour therapy sessions as there are colours in the rainbow.

Why are fruits and vegetables so many different colors?

Fruits and vegetables gain their distinctive colours due to the presence of various phytochemicals. Although I had never thought of food colour being related to nutrition before, it comes as no surprise that each of the colors in fruits and vegetables are indicative of various nutrients.  As a result, not only do they look appealing in presentation but by eating a diversity of these colourful foods, your body can obtain a range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that it needs to heal and thrive.