Monday, August 31, 2009

Sprouting Grains

So my very first project with this new "becoming Maggie" sort of theme was to sprout some wheat grains. It's something I've looked into before and was ready to buy the sprouting tray, the sprouting seeds, etc etc...until I realized I didn't need any of that. Some wheat from my my bins, a mason jar and some cheesecloth were all that were needed for this project. It was that easy.
So, here were very first jar of sprouted wheat grains.
I used a wide mouth mason jar (because getting enough air into the jar is important to the sprouts), with the lid removed. You will need the rim to hold on the cheesecloth (or a rubber band) but a rim holds tighter, so it makes rinsing and draining (of which there is a fair amount) easier. This project actually couldn't be easier, so it's fun to do with your kids. They love to see something come from much more amazing could a sprout be? I know I was excited to pull the jar out of the cabinet and see all the wormy little fingers growing out of what used to just be grain.

I will digress a little to explain why I have wheat lying I'm sure most people do not. For years I'd toyed with the idea of grinding my own wheat and making my own bread. And for years I thought about it and planned it, and then one day I convinced my husband it was time. So we headed out to the little shop and bought a grain mill and huge buckets of grains. My kids spent days playing with the grain...they still get excited when I open the big bucket. They love to dig their hands in and feel the grains...ok...I do too. (It makes me feel like a pioneer...any one every watch pioneer house on PBS? Loved it.) So this is why I have so many grains. And before you I don't make a lot of bread...yet. But I will. I do however grind my wheat for any recipe we's shockingly simple and fast. So everything we make from brownies to pie has some combination of fresh ground flour. (We've ground everything from oats to kidney beans) The kids have a blast grinding flour too...I swear why people ever waste their money on video games when flour grinders are just as appealing!! Ok, my kids are under 4...I realize this will change, but for now I revel in the fact that they think the amish lifestyle is the coolest.
So here we to sprout grains...I already mentioned the mason jar and the lid.
1) I used a about 3/4 cups of grains to start with, but frankly it doesn't matter. I wouldn't fill the jar more than 1/4 full with grains. You can see from the sprouted pictures that they really fill out the jar. (So don't overfill)
2) Cut the cheesecloth to size and place over the lid, then secure the metal band around it to hold it in place. From here I never took the lid off until I was ready to "harvest" them.
3) Rinse and drain them in the jar, then cover them with tepid water and leave them to sit for about 18 hours. (I keep the jar in a cabinet out of the way and nice and dark)
4) After 18 hrs drain the water and rinse a couple of times. Drain the water again and then put it back in the dark cabinet. Make sure lots of air can get in. You will need to rinse and drain them 2-3 times a day. This isn't an exact science, but it's to keep the mold at this is a step you won't want to skip. (Besides, this is where the magic begins and you don't want to miss it!)

5) After about 24hrs you will see germination begin with the little root tails busting through the grain. Every day that goes by you will see more and more growth. Around 36-48hrs you will see the actual sprout appear. Now, this is where you have to decide when to stop the growth. Every stage of the process brings about different chemical and physical differences, so if you want to eat them raw, use them in salads, throw them in a stir fry...or use them to make a sprouted bread. (My first attempt was an utter I won't be writing that one up yet)
I have read that you will want to let the sprouts sit in the sunlight for up to 2 hours to let the chlorophyl do it's that's what we did. Laurel found a nice sunny spot...we let it soak up the sun and then we sat down and ate our bounty. Laurel said they taste like water beans. I would say they were crunchy with a slightly sweet, almost watermelon-y aftertaste. I would be happy to use them instead of rice or couscous in a cold grain type salad. Of course they are a suitible way to include grains into a RAW-vegan lifestyle.
All in all it was an easy project, and fun to do with kids. Plus, if it gets my little ones eating new and healthy stuff...awesome. This week we'll try our hand at sprouting some other grains...maybe millet. And once I have success with a homemade sprouted bread I'll post it.

JUST A NOTE- I tried millet, which has become my new favorite grain for other things...and it didn't work. Just didn't sprout. This could be for a couple of reasons...
1) I didn't take care of it the way I did the first time with the wheat (and so millet is getting a bad rap)
2) It could be that millet goes through an extra processing step (like pearled or hulled barley) making it unable to sprout...this is a guess
3) Millet is so small that in my jar method it might not be getting enough oxygen since it really packs itself together (also a guess)

Rather than try and figure it out, I'm going to do some beans next, and then I might try millet again sometime in the future. But my warning is to start with a larger grain like wheat.

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