On Sprouting and Safety
Scientists and health enthusiasts have raved about the nutritional benefits of sprouts for years. It has been said that sprouts will fight diseases because of the phytochemicals they contain. Organic compounds called saponins found in Alfalfa sprouts work to lower cholesterol and stimulate the immune system. Sprouts, across the board, are overflowing with vital vitamins and enzymes that aid the body in various ways; the benefits go on and on, yet there still remains a minor stigma about eating raw fresh sprouts even through the benefits by far outweigh the risks. Many fear the presence of food borne illnesses in sprouts, but if the proper steps are taken while growing or preparing sprouts for consumption, the risk is reduced to near nonexistence.
The most important precaution is having knowledge where your seeds or already-grown sprouts have originated from and if the seeds have been tested. Proper microbial testing must be done to ensure the seed’s and therefore the plant’s purity of pathogens. The organic sprouting seed we carry at True Leaf Market is all microbial tested for germination rate and pathogens as indicated on the packaging. If you are buying already-grown sprouts, be sure to check the packaging for verification of pathogen testing such as the International Sprout Growers Association mark.
Gathering treatment information from The University of California, the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the International Sprout Growers Association, we have provided safety precautions when growing sprouts to minimize the risk of contracting food-borne illnesses:
- Purchase Pathogen-tested seed.
- Treat seed for five minutes in a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at most drug stores) or vinegar in water. Small seed volumes used for home sprouting can easily be contained in a small mesh strainer and immersed directly into the peroxide solution. Swirl the strainer at one minute intervals to achieve uniform treatment. Always discard the peroxide or vinegar solution after each seed batch as its effectiveness will rapidly decline.
- Rinse the seed in running tap water for 1 minute. In addition, we recommend that you place the rinsed seed in a container with enough tap water to cover the seed plus one inch. Then carefully skim off all floating seed, seed coat fragments, and other debris and dispose of them. Although skimming can be a tedious process, research has tied most contamination to these materials.
- Sprout the seed in clean, sanitized containers, well away from areas of food preparation, pets, and high household traffic. To sanitize sprouting containers: Follow the directions on the bleach container (use plain, not scented laundry bleach) for sanitizing kitchen surfaces. Use 3/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water (3 tablespoons per quart) and soak the container for at least 5 minutes. Then rinse with clean water.
From my own experience, I’ve come to find growing and eating raw sprouts to be not only nutritionally beneficial but a fun hobby. I’ve sprouted Alfalfa, Broccoli, Clover, Radish, Lentils, and Peas. I’ve been incorporating sprouts into my own cooking, incorporating sprouts into soups and using sprouts as a garnish for a salad or casserole. I follow the suggested steps for safe consumption and have never had a problem, nor do I worry about having a problem. Just as one must wear a helmet to safely reap the health benefits of riding a bicycle, one must take minor safety precautions to reap the plethora of benefits of consuming raw sprouts.