Source: Purchased from Amazon
Summary: The Complete Guide to Growing and Using Sprouts covers the sprouting process from seed to soup. After a brief overview of what a sprout is, complete with a nifty diagram, and its nutritional benefits, the book covers equipment, seed selection, and sprouting methods. Chapter 5 has detailed instructions for growing specific types of sprouts: alfalfa, arugula/lettuce/mustard, broccoli and radish, chives (garlic) and onion, oat/rye/wheat, sunflower. The rest of the book, about two thirds, has recipes.
Thoughts: I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post this, but finally decided that I wanted to discuss my sprouts enough to make this book review the purpose of the post. This book was a disappointment. But that’s partly my fault because I bought it to answer one question without investigating enough to see if it addressed it. It did not. At all.
The question is an important one. Marion Nestle, who I trust on these issues, did a long post about sprouts during the German e. coli outbreak last summer: The science and politics of E. coli in sprouts. She doesn’t mention home-grown sprouts, but her bottom-line advice is:
If you aren’t absolutely sure the seeds come from a clean source, cook your sprouts.
What I hoped for from a book was some indication of what I could do at home to make sure that my seeds and process are clean, that my sprouts are safe. Because if I have to cook my sprouts, then my whole operation is likely to sputter and die. I eat one or two giant salads a day, throwing raw sprouts in with the greens, whether I’m making lettuce or cabbage salads.
The book addresses some toxicity fears. One variation of that fear is that the cyanide in almonds would be more concentrated in sprouts than nuts. As long as your eating almond sprouts by the the tablespoon or cup and not by hundreds of pounds, you aren’t getting enough to harm. But you are getting enough nutrients to benefit.
However, the book makes no mention of bacteria. It emphasizes using organic seeds and keeping everything clean, but doesn’t state that bacteria is the reason for that advice. I’m afraid that the first outbreak after you read this book and started your own sprouts would result in fears that aren’t addressed by this book. It seems like a glaring omission. So glaring, that I wonder if the lawyers told them to leave it out.
When you grow your own sprouts, you’ll see exactly what Marion Nestle is talking about. At some points during the sprout growth, when you are rinsing your sprouts or putting them away, you’ll be aware that they are warm to the touch. As seeds sprout, they release heat. So now, a sesame seed that might have had only the tiniest amount of bacteria on it, so small it wouldn’t have been harmful to consume in its original state, is now in the perfect warm and damp environment for that bacteria to grow.
My source for sprouting seeds, sprout advice, and sprout instructions is Sprout People. They do address this issue on their website. But I’m a librarian, I prefer seeing it written in a book! I got the book with the newest copyright date thinking it would have the latest thinking on the issue, but no such luck.
So, what’s a sprout grower to do? I’m going to keep growing sprouts and continue eating them raw. My sprouts are the reason that I no longer take a multivitamin and that was before last fall’s reports that multivitamins may do more harm than good (Vitamins Tied to Higher Death Rates in Older Women in Study). Obviously, there are risks in even what seem like the most innocuous behaviors. Given the opportunity, I’m going to err on the side of natural, local, home-grown, and home-made — so sprouts rather than vitamin pills.
If you want to grow your own sprouts, I recommend Sprout People especially now that they put up videos demonstrating how to grow sprouts. I didn’t use my Easy Sprout Sprouter for a year after I bought it (before I discovered Sprout People) because I couldn’t figure out how to use the thing. The videos on Sprout People’s website eliminate that problem.
The French Garden mix grows leafy sprouts that smell amazing and are terrific on salads. The Mother’s Mix blend has all the nutrients that I want — it was designed for pregnant and nursing women but has exactly the same sprouts I wanted after doing some research on peri-menopause. I generally alternate back and forth, growing the French Garden one time and the Mother’s Mix the next.
In my other sprouter, I grow the San Francisco mix of bean sprouts. I used to put either seeds or chopped nuts on my salads. Now, I add these bean sprouts instead — same crunch but more nutrition for fewer calories.
Appeal: Unless you really like your recipes in book form, I suggest using the Sprout People site instead of this book for instructions, explanations, and recipes.
Do you grow sprouts? What are your favorite resources?
Challenges: Sorry that my first book for the 2012 Foodie’s Reading Challenge was a bit of a bust. Oh well, there’s a lot of 2012 left!
There are more weekend cooking adventures to be had at Beth Fish Reads.