The Alchemical Kitchen: April 2009

By Rebecca Brenner

Grow your own high-nutrition greens in two to five days.

by Rebecca Brenner

The hints of spring have inspired sprouting in the Alchemical Kitchen. This month, as I gather my seeds, beans, and grains from the back of my cupboard, my mind wanders through all of my definitions of and associations with the word seed.

First, I think of all of the meta­phors for seeds: the dormant potential for new beginnings, a passing of information from one generation to the next, a reminder of life in the still of winter. I rinse half a cup of dried garbanzo beans, place them in a quart jar, and cover with water to soak over night. I go back to the cupboard to look for more of my tangible beginnings.

My thoughts change to the political implications: I think about the 1,095 farmers in 2007 from the Vidharbha region of the Indian state of Maharashtra who committed suicide. They were trapped in a financial cycle with a large GMO seed company. I hold close in my heart that seeds, when gathered and stored through natural and traditional methods, are free to all of us. My thoughts shift a bit closer to home-to the horrific living conditions of farm workers in Immokalee, Florida were 90% of US tomatoes are grown. How each time I run to the grocery store, in the middle of winter for tomatoes, out of want and convenience, I am supporting these conditions.

I push aside the jar of quinoa, decide on barley. I rinse and soak the barley just as I did the garbanzo beans. Another new start.

Back at the cupboard, I mull over what I can do to make a positive impact on my food community. Without fail, my mind always gravitates to localism. I’m empowered by the growth of community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets. I know that almost all CSAs and organic farms choose to grow and promote heirloom and traditional seed practices. These practices not only promote biological diversity in a time when agribusiness pushes a narrow variety of produce, but also nutritional diversity to nourish myself, my family and my community. I think of how local artisan bread and cheese producers keep alive traditions that shape the culture in which I live. I remember the local ranchers and dairy farmers who are humanely raising genetically diverse breeds.

Pulling out a jar to sprout my lentils in, I recognize that canning and pickling allow me to preserve local, heirloom vegetables. No need to run to Smith’s in January for tomatoes when I have a cupboard full of my own.

Now, where did I store last year’s pumpkin seeds? I sort through the cupboard-not there. Ah, the refrigerator. My nutritionist mind starts to spin: I recall how the germination of seeds changes their composition in so many beneficial ways, reawakening all of the seed’s potential. The content of the vitamins B and C increase dramatically, sometimes by 80%. Protein content increases by 30%. Beta-carotene, vitamins E and K, and calcium increase as well. I find the pumpkin seeds in the back of the refrigerator. Placing them on the counter, I imagine the small green shoots that will start to sprout in just a few days. I know the chlorophyll and fiber in the sprouts will nourish my digestive and immune systems.

I leave my grains, beans and seeds to soak overnight. The following morning I drain and rinse my sprouts-to-be. I place them back in their jars, cover the mouth of each jar with cheesecloth, and secure them with the metal screw lids. I set them upside down on a cooking rack where they will are bathed in moderate afternoon sun.

I shut my eyes because of the glare of the sun reflecting off of the freshly fallen spring snow.

A seed inspires so many metaphors, stories and ideas. I’m reminded that all food has a story. I know that the food I purchase and consume will shape all of my life’s experiences as well as those who produce, prepare, ship, and sell these foods. I’m thankful for the sense of beginning again that comes with this month. Once upon a time there was a girl with a seed for sprouting and seed for planting….

Rebecca Brenner, Ph.D. is a nutritionist and owner of Park City Holistic Health. For more healthy recipes and DIY projects, visit and .

Mixed Sprout Salad
1 cup each very fresh dill, lentil, and mung bean sprouts
½ cup garbanzo sprouts
2 tablespoons sprouted sunflower seeds
½ cup chopped green onions
½ cup diced green pepper or cucumber
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (optional)
Toss all ingredients together and top with Lemon-Herb Dressing

Lemon-Herb Dressing
¼ cup light soy sauce
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
1 ½ tablespoons each of fresh chopped basil and cilantro leaves
Combine all ingredients and add to above salad

Sprouted Pizza Dough
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons warm (110 F) water
¼ cup cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup sprout of sprouted grain or sprout of your choice, chopped fine
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached white flour
1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and allow to proof for 5 minutes. Combine the cold water and oil in large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, then the whole-wheat flour, sprouts, and salt. Gradually add the white flour to make a workable dough.
2.Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 5 minutes, sprinkling a bit more white flour to keep it from sticking.
3.Put dough in oiled bowl and turn it once so that its surface is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise in warm place for an hour-you want the dough to double in size.
4.Form dough into flat round. Roll it out on a floured surface.
5.Place the dough on a lightly oiled pan and cover with any toppings. Bake @ 400 F until the crust is golden brown-about 10-12 minutes.

Getting Started
You can sprout any seed, bean, or grain, but here are some that sprout easily to get you started:
Lentils and garbanzos: easy to sprout, take only 2-3 days, and are rich sources of protein. Add to stir-fry and sandwiches.
Mung beans: hardy sprouts, full of vitamin C, grow about 2 inches long and are great for stir-fry and casseroles.
Fenugreek: sprouts in 3-4 days and has a licorice flavor that works well with baking.
Radish: sprouts in 3-4 days and is an excellent spicy added kick to salads and sandwiches.
Wheat, rye, and barely: sprouts in 3-4 days and great in bulgur, tabouleh, and dough for baking and pizza.
Pumpkin seeds: use unhulled, organic seeds from last fall’s pumpkins. Makes a great snack or add to soups.
Sunflower seeds: use hulled seeds. Sprouts in 1 day. Great addition to salads.
Almonds: use whole almonds. Sprouts are ready in three days and make a great snack on their own.

How to Sprout
1 quart glass canning jar
1 metal screw canning lid
1 small piece of cheese cloth
1/2 cup of your favorite seed
1. Carefully wash and rinse seeds.
2. Place seeds in jar and fill jar completely with fresh water. Let sit over night.
3. Drain water and rinse. Keep seeds in jar without water, place cheese cloth over jar mouth and screw on the metal lid ring. Place upside down on a baking or dish rack in a sunny window.
4. Each day, for 1 to 5 days, rinse and drain seeds.

This article was originally published on March 30, 2009.