Time to Sprout
2020 will be remembered as the year of the 'Corona Pandemic'; but as with most crisis, there's lots of different angles to consider when it comes to properly understanding our situation. Indeed, we can say that, from the many things that have transpired during this junction, our extreme (over-)dependence on third-party suppliers to provide essential must-haves for our daily survival has come out on top. We are speaking, of course, of basic things like fresh vegetables and produce which all but disappeared off the racks of supermarkets as soon as they were refilled, for example; yeast to bake bread at home of all things possible; or, as odd as it's been, toilet paper.
We live in a world where many of the things we consume daily and thus take for granted come from places far from ours and where the average person has lost touch with both the know-how and the means necessary to grow the majority of the foods she enjoys to consume. Needless to say, the downside of this is greater vulnerability ––vulnerability towards, among other things, extreme environmental conditions such as the ones that have been on the rise worldwide for the past few years, or some of the side effects of a world supply-chain collapse such as the one we've just gone through, for example. But another of the downsides is also the loss of power: the power to choose what we eat, how we grow it, and how we eat it and to participate in its conscious circulation.
This is how we came to think that an entry on sprouting might help bring how and what we eat back into the forefront of a much needed conversation, renew our appetite for nourishing foods and ideas, as well as our interest and love for gorgeous Mother Nature. Because, one thing one can't help but realise when growing microgreens from the comfort of his own home is how incredibly intelligent this plant world of ours is!
Nourishing Food to Nourish Our Ideas
Microgreens and sprouts are, basically, the shoots of any greens, legumes, or vegetables picked right after their first leaves have started to develop and before they grow into their fullest expression. Most of us are relatively familiar with growing some of our food 'for leisure.' We're speaking here of things like cherry tomatoes grown on a pot in the balcony, a basil plant on the window sill of the kitchen, et cetera. Still, the nutritional value of many of the things we sometimes grow at home, particularly in urban environments, can be rather on the low end of the spectrum ––not to mention that their environmental footprint isn't always as good as one would think due to their often being made to last just one season.
While growing lettuce and tomatos at home can make for excellent salad material, the process itself is relatively time and resource consuming, as well as space dependant (you must have a well-ventilated sunny/shady spot where such greens can grow). And it isn't particularly nutritious. It is healthy, for sure, it can fill our stomachs, and should definitely be a part of a well thought-out diet; but for plant-based or vegan peers such as us, the density of highly nourishing 'goods' in this type of food is relatively basic. This is where sprouting and microgreens can help make a difference.
In their seed state, most greens and legumes's bio-components ––things like vitamins, enzymes, fibre, protein, or minerals–– are in a 'dormant state.' You can consume the seeds as they are in the raw, something a very few of us actually do, but these haven't reached their highest nutritional value yet. Add water plus a mason jar, some soil, a few cotton balls, any organic type of cloth, or any other medium where moist seeds can thrive and grow, and voila! You will have gotten yourself a nutrient-rich and superfood-filled tiny banquet.
Programmed to Grow
During the process of sprouting, the nutrients within these tiny seeds multiply and not just by two. If we let our sprouts or micro greens grow all the way into fully grown vegetables, they will render a perfectly healthy type of kale, broccoli, pumpkin or what-have-you that will contain a definite amount of nutrients. This is indeed something delicious and healthy in and of itself. Yet, the bioavailability of their nutrients (of things like protein, the omega3 in the seeds, or the anti-cancerous properties some veggies posses, or their enzymes) will have reduced by comparison, due to an increase in size. That is, it will take us eating a much larger amount of kale, for example, to get as much concentrated 'goodness' as by consuming a much smaller amount of the very same kale in its sprout or microgreen state. This is so because the bioavailability of the nutrients within these tiny superfoods is super highly concentrated.
So, when you learn to sprout seeds of things like buckwheat, wheatgrass, hemp, chia, flax seed, sunflower, etc., you are essentially enabling those seeds to leave their dormant state, release and mobilise all of their plant intelligence and goodness, and then, before it spreads over several centimetres of actual plant, capturing all that goodness into a few small bites.
Not Just Good for Health
On the plus side of this equation, and beyond their innumerable benefits for health, lies sprouting's very own environmental benefits. Sprouting is, indeed, a truly environment-friendly and organic alternative to many other ways of trying to get as many nutrients all at once into one spoonful. As noted earlier, seeds are primed for growth. Inbuilt into their DNA is a very strong drive to set root somewhere and grow. They can thus virtually grow pretty much anywhere, requiring only two main components: controlled amounts of sunlight and a very small amount of water. This makes them an ideal alternative for those of us living in quasi deserted areas but wanting to access nutrient-rich sources of food, or even in so called food-deserts (places where access to a (super)market is limited or non-existent, at least without recourse to a means of transportation and long commutes).
Similarly, they require no pesticides or transportation, hence, considerably reducing the footprint that comes with consuming almost any other veggie or produce we buy at a grocery store. They also require little to no labour whatsoever, but for the work involved in daily refilling their jar or pot with a bit of water, and produce near to no waste at all, particularly if sprouted on mason jars. They are, in sum, one of the most local superfoods you can think of for anyone with access to organic seeds can start their own microgreens garden and share their concentrated goodness with those around them. And did we mention already that they are an organic source of healthy fibre???
All of these are added benefits to the innumerable health benefits that upping our consumption of microgreens and sprouts has already been proven to have. From faster cell regeneration, to higher fibre concentration and its benefits for weight control, their alkalinization of the body which essentially keeps us younger, their high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids essential for different bodily processes, and their positive effects on our microbiome, sprouts consumed as a stand-alone item as a snack or in smoothies, as garnish, or as a side to different meals has a myriad positive sides!
Connecting Much Beyond
An added benefit of starting our own home sprouting project in our own particular case has been to rediscover how incredibly intelligent and mesmerising plant life and our plant world are. There is a way in which most of us have detached ourselves from nature in unhealthy and 'unnatural' ways, particularly in overdeveloped urban environments. Starting such a simple and easy-going home laboratory of sorts can go a long way in helping us reconnect not only with an ancient source of wisdom, such as plant wisdom, but also with the child within us ––the child that is stoked and thrilled by seeing a stem grow from what days before was a mere lentil soaked in a tiny cotton-ball!
It truly is nothing short of a little miracle to be able to (re)connect differently with our food and with how we grow it and eat it. To invest time in doing the necessary research, to learn more about different types of plants, seeds, and grains and their best growing conditions... By investing a tiny bit of effort into a new, organic, world-friendly, and low-footprint endeavour such as home-sprouting and micro green production, we're opening ourselves up to entirely new and sustainable bowls of healthy, sustainable, and nutritious wisdom!