Sprouts are different from their full-grown counterparts. Studies have shown that sprouts support cell regeneration, offer powerful antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes, and have an alkalizing effect on your body, which may help protect against disease, including cancer. During sprouting, vitamin C levels are higher than any other point in the plant's life cycle. This is also the time when plants begin to make new enzymes. Some sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables. Still, some sprouts are negatively different from their full-grown counterparts, such as Sorghum, which is perfectly safe when full-grown, but the seed coat carries potentially toxic levels of cyanide, making eating these sprouts a gamble. Because sprouts vary so much from one variety to the next, as well as from their full-grown counterparts, it is a good idea to consult your naturopathic doctor when considering adding sprouts to your diet. While you can usually purchase sprouts through your local grocer or farmer's market, sprouting at home has definite advantages. Sprouts are delicate and need to be handled carefully and refrigerated. Most importantly, they need to be as fresh as possible to provide the most significant health benefits. Sprouting at home not only allows you to get sprouts at their peak freshness every time, but it also allows you to experiment with a wide variety. Here are 5 tips to get you started having fun with and reaping the benefits of the healthiest possible sprouts, at home.
1. Research which varieties of sprouts you want to try. Different sprouts favor different growing conditions. Some sprouts grow best indoors, in soil, while others grow through soaking and moisture control methods. Sprouting times also vary depending on the type of sprout, the method, and even personal preference. Wheat, sunflower, almond, lentil, and mung sprouts are all good options if you're a beginner. Also easy for beginners are Red clover, radish mustard, adzuki, garbanzo, and pumpkin.
2. Collect your tools and get started. The jar and cloth methods are two of the most common sprouting methods, but require regular rinsing and checks for mold. The old-fashioned way - growing sprouts in soil - remains one of the easiest and least time-consuming methods. Growing sprouts in soil also produce far more nutritious and abundant food. You can also try sprouting bags or commercial made sprouting systems available at many health or natural foods stores.
3. Water makes a difference. Use bottled spring water or filtered water when sprouting. Most seeds won't sprout well in polluted tap water.
4. Freshness is key. It's best to eat sprouts as soon as they are ready, but if you need to store them, put them in the refrigerator or in a controlled sprouting environment until you're ready to use them. Stored sprouts should be rinsed every 24 hours.
5. Get creative. There are tons of ways to enjoy sprouts. Try adding different sprouts to your salads or wraps. They all can be added to more traditional salad ingredients or combined with other sprouts for a light, nutrient, and flavor-packed meal. Use sprouts as new toppings for sandwiches and burgers. Play with food styling by creating a simple gourmet meal from your choice of lean meat on a bed of sprouts salad.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel is a crunchy and slightly sweet herb that is in season and readily available from autumn through early spring. Fennel is packed with nutrients that provide strong antioxidant activity. Anethole, a nutrient compound found in fennel, has been proven in animal studies to reduce inflammation and even help prevent cancer. In addition, the fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C, which contributes to a healthy immune system and also helps protect against pain and joint deteriorations like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fennel bulb is also a good source of fiber and potassium, and may help reduce bad cholesterol and protect from stroke and heart attack.
When shopping for fennel, look for whitish or pale green bulbs that are clean, firm, and solid,
without signs of splitting, bruising, or spotting. The stalks should be relatively straight and closed. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. Pass on the fennel with signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the fennel is past maturity. Fresh fennel should be used as soon as possible but can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for about four days. Some creative ways of using fennel, the stalks in particular, is to add them to soups, stocks, and stews. Fennel leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.