What Is Sprouting? How To Grow Healthy Food ‘For Pennies’ – Plant Based News

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Food systems are huge and complex. With conflicting interests, revolutionizing global food production and consumption is no easy task, as repeated failings at COP conferences can attest. The idea of overhauling decades-old production models in favor of novel technologies inspires fear in many governments. The hefty costs needed to invest in alternative protein research deter others.

Faced with such enormity, part of the solution, according to Doug Evans, founder of the Sprouting Company, is to think small. Really small.

“Sprouts are nature’s first food,” Evans tells Plant Based News (PBN). They are “baby vegetables that are multiple times more nutritious than their grown-up counterparts.”

What are sprouts?

Not to be confused with the Brussels variety, sprouts are fast-growing baby vegetables with an appealing nutritional profile.

According to The Sprouting Company, which sells the kit and seeds needed to start growing, sprouts are “superfood versions of already healthy vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, peas, lentils, and more.”

imageBROKER.com GmbH & Co. KG / Alamy Stock Photo Sprouts come in many varieties

The biology is simple. Seeds contain densely packed sources of energy, mostly in the form of lipids and complex carbohydrates. When seeds take in water, they use that stored energy to expand and create leaves, roots, and stems. The result is a plant packed with phytochemicals that humans have evolved to derive health benefit from.

Conventional “adult” vegetables are nutritious. Sprouts, says Evans, are even more so.

Eat your greens

“Sprouts are the most efficient delivery system for the heroic amounts of veggies we need to eat to maintain or regain our health,” Evans tells PBN.

Sprouts contain all of the naturally occurring compounds, antioxidants, and micronutrients within plants. But “these can be as high as 20 to 100 times the nutrition of mature or garden-stage vegetables,” he says.

Research studies back up these claims. One extolled sprouts as a “novel food source for healthy diets.” It noted their “low environmental impacts and a broad acceptance among health-conscious consumers.”

Moreover, this nutritional benefit is readily bioavailable and easy to digest.

“They also grow very fast,” says Evans. “You can get a fully edible crop in under a week, versus many weeks or months for mature vegetables.”

As such, sprouts could offer a compelling answer to current agricultural shortcomings on health, environmental, and economic grounds.

Why is a new food system needed?

Corn crops growing in a field
Adobe Stock A plant-based food system would be much more efficient than animal farming

Few people would dispute that the global food system is in major need of reform.

Around one in 10 people worldwide are malnourished; while people in rich countries eat an abundance of unsustainable foods. Food contributes around one quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Animal agriculture is the main culprit. Farming animals is responsible for at least 16.5 percent of global GHG emissions, as well as deforestation, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss, among other environmental ills. Meat and dairy also cause grave human health consequences.

A plant-based food system could provide enough food for a growing global population. It would save money for healthcare systems and help right other systemic injustices such as environmental racism.

Sprouting efficiency

Swapping animal agriculture for plant-based food would make food productions vastly more efficient. Could incorporating sprouts into the picture help improve efficiency even further?

Compared to conventional vegetables, Evans says that sprouts are “more efficient from every aspect.” He lists water, space, energy, and overall GHG emissions as four key benefits.

“Countertop farming is portable and uses a fraction of the water that conventional farming does. It doesn’t rely on the seasons and is impermeable to outdoor uncertainties such as droughts and flooding,” he adds.

In a rapidly changing world, food security is near the top of policymakers’ priorities.

Ancient roots

Sprouting was popularized as part of the hippie food movement of the seventies, notes Evans. “But sprouted seeds have been documented as items of sustenance and traditional medicine as far back as 3000 B.C.,” he stresses.

“Sprouts are an ancient food, but they have just what our bodies are craving today.”

Sprouts represent a return to ancient knowledge. “Nature knows best,” says Evans. “I sincerely believe the future of food goes back to the basics of fresh fruits, vegetables, and sprouts.”

Such a claim seems striking amidst the technological battlegrounds for the future of food.

Innovations such as 3D-printed eel and precision-fermented dairy are exciting consumers and investors that a more sustainable and ethical alternative to meat is possible through technology.

Evans has other ideas. “Simple methods of farming and cultivation are effective,” he says. “The more ‘advanced’ technological farming methods, genetic modifications, and pesticide use are proving to be precarious.”

Sprouting in a food desert

Evans’ own journey into sprouting came from his experience of moving to a “food desert.”

“After decades of living and working in New York, LA, and San Francisco, I moved to the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree,” he tells PBN. “All the comforts and conveniences of urban life were gone. No vegan restaurants, no fresh vegetables. I gave my predicament some thought, and the solution was obvious: sprouts.”

He ordered some seeds and started to sprout. “Within 30 days about half of my calories were coming from sprouts that I was growing in one cubic foot of my countertop,” he says.

As soaring inflation has pushed food prices ever higher in the past year, many have sought cheaper ways to feed themselves and their family. Eating more vegetables and whole foods plant-based meals can drastically reduce costs.

However, for some people, these products are not easily available. “I see sprouting as key to making veganism more accessible,” says Evans.

“Growing your own food is a fantasy for most because it typically takes a lot of time, expertise, land and money. Sprouts grow into edible food in days without soil, sunshine, fertilizer or expertise. In fact, you can grow sprouts indoor, year round for pennies a serving.”

Starter kit for Sprouting Company's sprouts
The Sprouting Company The Sprouting Company sells seeds and the kit needed to sprout

Will sprouting become mainstream?

Evans says he has spoken to a wide array of people, from plant-based doctors to paleo advocates, on the topic. “What they all could agree on is the value of supplementing our diets with sprouts.”

Yet, this “perfect solution” remains, for now, a niche.

“Although sprouting has been around since the beginning of time, it hasn’t yet become mainstream,” Evans admits.

The Sprouting Company is trying to change that. “Sprouts can transform your relationship with the food you eat. I consider sprouts the pinnacle of plant-based cuisine in both nutrition and versatility.”

Evans’ ambitions are huge. “Our intention is to put sprouting on the map globally,” he tells PBN. “Sprouts have the potential to feed the world, enabling us to eat locally in any season, and increasing the reach of fresh food in food deserts and actual deserts for millions of people.

“My mission is to see sprouts move to the center of the plate and a daily part of our diet.”

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