Is there anything more indicative of spring than seeing a tender little shoot push its way out of the earth? For us, right now, this is still a few months off, so if you want a taste of spring, add some sprouts to your diet and put a little spring in your step.
Sprouts are hot. A generation ago, the only sprouts you were likely to find were bean sprouts, the tender shoots of the mung bean, used almost exclusively for dishes like chop suey. Then along came alfalfa sprouts which quickly became the darling of delicatessens everywhere, with folks throwing a handful of sprouts in lieu of lettuce on their hummus & avocado sandwiches.
Nowadays, especially with the growing popularity of the Raw Food Diet, people are more aware of the goodness of sprouted greens, for the many varieties that are available, and are consuming them in record numbers, for their taste, health benefits and for the multitude of culinary uses. Stir-fried, tossed into salads, garnishing sandwiches and baked into bread, you will see these little wonders sprouting everywhere.
The interesting and attractive thing about sprouts is, they actually have more nutrition than the seed from which they are germinating, increasing in vitamin, protein, fatty acids, mineral and fibre content. This makes sense when you think about it: just burst from its seed, the sprout is packed with power to help make it safely into maturity.
“A sprout is at the transitional stage between seed and plant. It is, to put it simply, a baby plant. These are essentially pre-digested foods as the seeds’ own enzymes do most of the work. The nutritional changes that occur during sprouting primarily happen because complex compounds get broken down into simpler forms. This, added to development of some essential nutrients, constituents, and breakdown of anti-nutrients, makes the whole phenomenon of sprouting possible. Metabolic activity in dormant seeds is initiated as soon as they are hydrated during soaking.”-Sprouts:The Super Food
You may be familiar with the aforementioned bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, but nowadays there are so many more options for you, like pea shoots, broccoli sprouts and the offspring of that superhero of superfoods, kale sprouts. Each of these has its own distinct nutritional profile, taste, and culinary applications, adapting themselves to an intriguing variety of uses.
Getting your kids to eat broccoli might be difficult, but delicious crunchy broccoli sprouts are actually fun to eat and in fact have ten to twenty times the amount of sulforaphane, a compound containing anti-cancer properties, than whole broccoli.
Tossed into salads, stuffed into a taco or in a sandwich, what a great way to load up on health!
And eating kale doesn’t have to be the culinary equivalent of an educational toy; beautiful to look at, sort of a flowery brussel sprout of dark green and purple, kale sprouts are great stir-fried, and drizzled with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper. Cut in half and roasted in a 425 F oven for about five minutes, they come out crispy and delicious, crunchy and peppery.
Pea shoots are great when eaten raw, in a salad or tossed into soup, and they also stir-fry beautifully. Here is a super simple and delicious recipe that will allow you to enjoy the benefits of pea shoots today.
Pea Shoots with Lots of Garlic
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice cooking wine
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoon corn starch
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 cloves garlic, sliced
12 ounces pea shoots
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
Heat a wok over high heat until smoking. Add oil. When oil shimmers add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 seconds.
Add pea shoots and continue stirring until pea shoots wilt, about 2 minutes.
Add soy sauce mixture to wok and continue stirring, 1 minute more. Serve immediately.