Update (4/17/09) — Please see my comment below for further clarification of my thoughts on hydroponics.
The book I got yesterday is called “Sprouts: The Miracle Food” by Steve Meyerowitz. It is subtitled with “The Complete Guide to Sprouting.” I am thrilled that it is a relatively new publication (1999). I have been reading it avidly since I picked it up yesterday.
He's got a website. I haven't been there yet. www.sproutman.com.
The book cover is beautiful. It is a photo of a patio setting filled with bamboo baskets of vibrant, luscious sprout greens. He advocates using vertical planters, such as the bamboo baskets (I suppose my Sproutmaster trays would qualify), for seed sprouts and microgreens. Then he advocates using sprout bags made from crude linen for beans, grains and nuts. He sells the linen bags and might also sell the baskets.
Reading this book and the book by Ann Wigmore are bringing questions to mind:
1) Is sprouting completely akin to hydroponic growing (growing plants without the use of soil)? I should explain that we have always, on principle, been leery of hydroponic growing because we feel that God designed plants to grow in soil, not water. Is sprout growing in another category or would it be considered purely hydroponic?
What could make sprout growing not 100% hydroponic is that it doesn't rely on liquid fertilizer for the nutrition of each sprout. Rather, each sprout is fed by the stored nutrition in its seed. Then we eat the sprout before it gets to the point of needing more. This suggests that the sprout's growth is independent of the soil.
On the other side of the coin, however, Mr. Meyerowitz advocates adding kelp to the water during the soak and once during the growing for added nutrition. And both he and Ann Wigmore claim that the sprouts absorb nutrients from their rinse water. So, looking at it this way, sprouting could be seen as hydroponic growing.
Generally, plants grown in a non-soil environment [hydroponically] are less nutritious than those grown in healthy soil. But because these seeds are so rich to begin with and soil on commercial farms today is so poor, these hydroponic sprouts are still far healthier than commercial vegetables. However, if you wish the maximum nutrition possible, and are willing to invest the time, grow all sprouts in organic soil. – Sprouts: The Miracle Food by Steve Meyerowitz, page 31
We are not exactly in the category of people who eat traditional commercial vegetables, but we do experience the limitations of purchasing non-local foods quite frequently, in addition to consuming foods that have been picked days prior to our acquisition of them. So there is lost nutrition there. In this sense, sprouting in water seems superior to what we currently do. But is it the best way to go?
That is the next question.
2) If sprout growing is a slightly better form of hydroponic growing, are the benefits of sprouting in water outweighed by the disadvantages of growing sprouts in soil? The benefits of sprouting in water are:
- time-saving — not dealing with soil for planting, harvesting or dirtying up the house;
- easier harvesting (if growing indoors);
- pests and wildlife (if growing sprouts out of doors);
- nutrition — being able to eat the root of the sprout (no soil on it)
On the other hand, if we were to grow each sprout in soil, we would end up with a more nutritious sprout but wouldn't be able to eat all of it since the root would have to be cut off. I speculate that it would too tender for scrubbing.
3) What about sprouting for gluten-free folks? From what I've read, those who have the gluten allergy still are not able to eat the sprouted gluten-containing grains. The information I've found about grain sprouting seems to feature almost entirely gluten-containing grains. Apparently, there is work to be done in this area… Or I need someone to direct me to the right place for this.
Update (4/17/09) — We have since tested sprouted gluten grains and find that my gluten-sensitive family members do great with them! Wahoo! The sprouting seems to pre-digest the berries so that sensitive digestive systems have no trouble. I do not know how people with diagnosed celiac disease would do.
These are some of the questions I have. I haven't even gotten to the numbers yet. 😉
Please see the comments section for additional thoughts since the original post was made.
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