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Sprouting is the practice of soaking then draining and leaving seeds until they germinate and begin to sprout.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 How to sprout
3 Nutritional information and toxicity
4 Sprouting and the Living foods diet


Sprouting seeds or beans indoors is a very efficient way of utilizing the minimum amount of space in order to produce the maximum of nutrients all year round- in fact one does not even require a garden at all- a window ledge or kitchen shelf would be perfectly adequate. Many seeds or beans are suitable for indoor sprouting including alfalfa, mustard, green lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos) and fenugreek, whilst one of the most common is the mung bean (Phaseolus aureus), well known as the popularly sold ‘Chinese Bean Sprout’. Mung beans can be bought in health food stores or grocery stores, although care should be taken that these are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing, as these may have been treated with chemical dressings!

How to sprout

The main requirements for successful sprouting are moisture and warmth, and providing a few guidelines are followed, it is remarkably easy to obtain good results requiring very little time, effort or space. Initially a small handful of seeds should be run under a tap, then left at room temperature (approx. between 13-21 degrees C) in the sprouting vessel. Although a number of items can be utilized for this task ranging from a jam jar with a piece of net curtain secured over its rim by an elastic band to specially designed ‘tiered’ sprouters, it is highly important that the vessel is free draining, for waterlogged sprouts will quickly rot. The beans will soon swell, and within a day or two begin germination. They should then be rinsed at least twice a day, possibly even three or four times in hot weather or they may quickly ‘sour’. After around four to five days they will have grown to around two or three inches in length and will be suitable for use. If left much longer they will begin to develop leaves and can become bitter tasting, although the growth process can be halted by placing them in the fridge until needed.

Although sprouting of mung beans is generally successful once a routine has been developed, it is not uncommon for beginners to experience failures, although these are often due to the following causes which can be easily remedied once recognised;

Mung beans can be sprouted either in light or dark conditions, eg, an airing cupboard. Those sprouted in the dark (as in the case of the shop bought Chinese Bean Sprouts) will be crisper in texture and whiter, but have less nutritional content. Growing in full sunlight however should be avoided as this may cause the beans to overheat or dry out. Subjecting the sprouts to pressure, eg, by placing a weight on top of them in their sprouting container, will result in larger, crunchier sprouts similar to those sold in Chinese grocers.

Nutritional information and toxicity

Mung bean sprouts are a valuable source of Vitamins A, B, C and E, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Amino Acids and consist of 20% protein. However, they are fast growing and quickly pass their nutritional peak. All raw legumes contain varying amounts of toxins. The most toxic include haricot, broad and kidney beans (the latter should NEVER be eaten uncooked), however the risks are minimal with soya and mung beans. Toxin levels are reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (eg, stir frying), but Joy Larkom advises that to be on the safe side “one shouldn’t eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts on a regular basis, no more than about 550g (20oz) daily” (‘Salads For Small Gardens’, Hamlyn 1995).

Sprouting and the Living foods diet

Advocates of a Living foods diet use sprouting techniques. It is an effective way of making these foods more digestible, and it improves the value of the nutrients which are made available in eating them.

Each food has its own ideal sprouting time, see below for guidance.