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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These are my own further thoughts on this issue:
I didn’t intend my post above to be anything other than my personal reflections on the choices available to my family for produce. Since I have done more thinking since I wrote this post, I will add to my thoughts.
Hydroponically grown produce can be more healthy than some produce. However, I do believe that hydroponically grown produce is inferior in nutrition to produce grown in healthy, vibrant soil.
In my reading on the subject, I have run across the following claim, in favor of hydroponics, again and again. It is: a plant gets its nutrients from the soil, but once the nutrients are depleted, the soil cannot sustain the plant’s life any more. On the other hand, a hydroponically grown plant is fed a constant diet of a diverse balance of nutrients, which don’t run out. In this case, the hydroponically grown plant is more healthy.
This claim assumes that the soil quality is declining. It doesn’t address the opposite scenario.
What if the soil is not declining in quality? In God’s design, the soil quality is ever-increasing. This involves a method of farming that focuses on soil health — through continual addition of organic matter which the microorganisms break down into nutrients for the plants.
In this system, nutrients are not depleted; in fact, soil health improves over time. We know this is true. Farmers all over the world nurture soil and see it improve year after year.
And I believe that plants — grown in healthy soil — are more healthy than hydroponically grown plants.
Hydroponically grown plants are not the superior choice. But it is not wrong to grow food hydroponically.
God did indeed make plants that can grow in water. That is a testament to the versatility of His creation. But it doesn’t mean that it is the superior way. Hydroponics is a man-made system. Healthy soil nourishing healthy plants is God’s system.
If someone was starving and hydroponically grown produce was all that was available, I would be the first to say that person should eat and be thankful for the food! I think we all should consider all our options for growing food and choose the best for our situation.
I sprout. This could be considered hydroponic. (However, I don’t grow any of these sprouts to the point where they would need outside nutrition.) But even so, I consider my home grown sprouts preferable to most of the produce available in my grocery store. So you see, I am prioritizing.
I offer this as further clarification of my thoughts, today, on hydroponics. Feel free to add your thoughts!
My brother is really into the whole hydroponic thing right now and he’s been trying to get me to see the error of my ways (ie. traditional gardening). I have yet to be convinced (I am quite the stubborn little beast), but I am glad that my brother has something that has caught his interest and gives him gainful employment. 🙂
Thanks so much for this post. I heartily agree with you and was glad to read such a well thought out post. 🙂
roger recto says
Can I use a hydroponic nutrient solution water for mung sprout(togue)?
We do not use hyrdoponic nutrient solution to sprout our grains, I am not sure what ingredients are in the solution but it would be worth looking it up and trying if the ingredients are good.
~Peggy, TCS Customer Success Team