Store cupboard items can produce fresh salad ingredients within two days. That is the magic of seed germination – otherwise known as sprouting.

In contrast to last week’s rather whimsical post, this post is about real food when in these times of lockdown and/or social isolation visits to the grocery store need to be minimised even for those who are well resourced.

Dry whole lentils measured for sprouting

Measuring out about a third of a cup of dry lentils for sprouting

If you have the space, the ingredients and access to fresh water, sprouting seeds such as lentils or mung beans can easily be done at home. In addition to clean water and the seeds themselves, all you need is a wide-necked glass or plastic jar. A two-litre plastic drinks bottle can be cut down to provide a container if that is all that is available. Also needed is a cloth or piece of fabric or mesh which can be held in place over the neck of the jar by an elastic band or something similarly stretchy. A large mason jar with the fabric held in place by the screw-on ring with the lid removed could also be used.

You may want to rinse the lentils first and check for any small unwanted bits when preparing them for soaking. Place about a third of a cup of lentils in the jar. Generously cover the lentils with cool water and leave them to soak for about eight hours or overnight. Once they have soaked, rinse the lentils well, draining the water through the cloth that is covering the jar.

Once rinsed, leave the jar on its side so excess water can drain. I leave the jar on the draining board so that excess water can drain off into the sink.

Soaked lentils in a jar draining as they begin sprouting

After eight hours of soaking the lentils have swelled slightly. After rinsing leave the jar on its side so that any excess water can drain off

While they continue to sprout, rinse the lentils three times a day. It is important that there is enough room in the jar so that the lentils are not squashed together and the water can be swirled around to ensure effective rinsing of the lentils. The length of time the lentils take to sprout is partly dependent on the ambient temperature, but around two days can be expected. The cooler it is, the slower the process. Temperatures between about 18°C–27°C (65°F–80°F) are good for sprouting to take place. If it is warmer than that then more frequent rinsing will be necessary.

Rinsing lentils that have sprouted

After a day and a half of sprouting, these lentils have just had their final rinse

When sprouting lentils be sure to use whole lentils that still have their skins on rather than orange lentils that have been hulled. Mung beans are also easy and rewarding to sprout. Sunflower seeds are another good candidate although I have not tried them yet.

Tiny alfafa seeds can also be sprouted. I found them a bit tricky as they need to be rinsed carefully to avoid going mouldy in our climate at least. I have not yet tried the larger options such as chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and dried beans but they are also suitable for sprouting. Larger seeds may require longer soaking times than eight hours. Seeds can also be sprouted in a tray so as to grow microgreens – see here for more information on how to do this.

Fresh lentil sprouts

After their final rinse I left the sprouted lentils to drain in a sieve

Once they are sprouted, the lentils can be eaten raw, for example in a salad or in a sandwich or wrap. They can be added to stews and stir fries. Lockdown eating can be a spur to creativity!

In addition to being fresh tasting, sprouted lentils are nutritious. The process of sprouting neutralizes phytic acid and so nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin C are more bioavailable than in cooked lentils.

If you want to store the sprouts, make sure they are very well-drained and then they can be kept in a lidded container in the fridge for a day or two. They are best fresh, and as they can be made in small batches quite easily, it is possible to have an ongoing supply.

We first started sprouting lentils and mung beans when we went on extended camping trips into remote regions with no access to any shops. Sprouting enabled us to have fresh produce even when out in the desert.

Fresh sprouts with lunch on camping trip

Back in happier days, lunch while we were camping  in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The last tomato and cucumber we supplemented with fresh sprouts. Our small travel fridge, basically a cool box that we plug into an extra battery in our vehicle, enables us to keep cheese fresh and to keep drinks, such as beers, cool too 

Back to the here and now, we are currently on day seven of our countrywide 21-day lockdown that has been implemented in an attempt to slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. We may go out when necessary to buy food or medicine, but the regulations state we may not leave our homes to go for walks or other forms of exercise.

Such stringency is terribly hard for the many people who live in cramped conditions, especially those living with few amenities and little-to-no income.  We are humbled by our privileged circumstances in a suburb where residents have gardens.

This week, as I walked around the garden with my camera, I was gratefully aware of the forms of life that continue on through their natural cycles. Observing the plants, insects and birds even in this small space, reminded me that ultimately we are dependent on a complex network of a diversity of life forms, which contribute to our planet’s natural systems enabling it to support all who live on it.

Here is a small sample of the photographs I took this week. No captions, just images that I hope you enjoy.

Cape-honeysuckle

Long-legged fly on leaf

Flower of the Forest Pink Hibiscus

Pansy-butterfly

Collared-sunbird

Hover-fly-on-flowerPearl-Charax-butterfly

Barberton-Daisy-hybrid

Keep safe everyone.


Sources: Cultures for Health.  How to soak seeds in a jar. https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/sprouting/how-to-sprout-seeds-jar/; The Nutrition Source. [n.d.] Sprouted Lentils. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sprouted-lentils/ 

Posted by Carol

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