KetoLife: Growing Salad Sprouts for Keto

Winter is coming. And that’s not just because I’ve been reading the ‘Game of Thrones’ books. And winter up here in the U. P. (upper Michigan, USA) means snow on the ground and no fresh local vegetables. And our rural grocery stores aren’t that big on having a produce department. We can get lettuce and cabbage heads, celery and (almost expired) bagged salad, but there is not much for us Ketonians who will mostly be eating our canonical two salads per day.

For me, sprouts are the answer. Salad sprouts. Not the store-bought wilty alfalfa sprouts which Gary’s Market has recently begun carrying, but the home grown kind.

To sprout, you need a sprouter of some kind. Some people use bamboo baskets, some those mason jars with plastic screen lids. For salad sprouts, I prefer the Victorio sets of plastic sprouters. These have 4 sprouting trays, one base tray that does not drain (to catch the water) and a topper to keep the lower trays from drying out. The base and the topper are now in green, while the sprouting trays are semi-clear.

An older model of the Victorio set has a white base and no topper. I used an empty sprouting tray to sub for the topper that hadn’t been invented yet. Or else a tray whose sprouts were nearly ready, which do not dry out so easily.

What’s the nutritional information on salad sprouts? One cup of alfalfa sprouts have only trace carbs, fiber, and fat, and one gram of protein. 100 grams of alfalfa sprouts (a lot, four cups?) have 3.78 g carbs, 3.99 g protein, and 0.69 g fat, along with 1.64 g fiber. 100 grams of radish sprouts have 3.06 g carbs, 3.81 g protein, 2.53 g fat, along with .53 g fiber. My guess would be that most salad sprouts are comparable, so that any salad sprouts could be used as your daily salad veg. [Info from Dana Carpender’s New Carb & Calorie Counter 2010 and Steve Meyerowitz’s Sprouts: The Miracle Food 1997]

Sprouters sometimes use one kind of sprouting seed— like alfalfa or broccoli or red clover— and sometimes buy a mix designed for salad sprouting. My favorite kind is called ‘Broccoli and Friends’ and has broccoli, clover, red radish and alfalfa. My current supply of ‘Broccoli and Friends’ expired in 2018, but it’s still sprouting as of this morning. ‘Broccoli and Friends’ comes from Todd’s Seeds and I buy it on Amazon.

Common salad sprouts are alfalfa, radish, clover, cabbage, broccoli, garlic and onion. Other sprouts such as wheat or mung beans are not commonly used in salads. Also, Steve Meyerowitz (aka Sproutman) says that the big legume sprouts— beans, peas and lentils— should be lightly steamed before eating.

Alfalfa and clovers are also legume seeds, but they don’t need steaming. If you are Paleo and worry about legumes, know that alfalfa and clover sprouts are more like salad greens than like Bush’s (sugared) baked beans. Our paleolithic ancestors would not have turned up their noses at such fresh new tender sprouts.

SPROUTING INSTRUCTIONS:

SPROUTING LOCATION: salad sprouts need a light source, so don’t hide them away in a cupboard. I have a plastic shelving unit I keep in the kitchen, four shelves high. The top two shelves are my sprout garden. The third shelf seems to be where the mama cat wants to nurse her kittens, currently. (They are bigger kittens and can climb up.)

SOAKING: sprouting seed needs to soak for several hours or overnight before sprouting. When I have soaked mine for about 24 hours, it did not drown the seeds, so I tend to do long soaking since I do my main sprout-garden chores in the morning. I sometimes put a pinch of powdered kelp in the water to help stimulate growth.

DAILY WATERING: sprouts need to be kept moist! Dried out sprouts are not growing. I tend to water two to three times a day. If you have a water distiller or purifier, use water from that. You don’t want to use chlorinated/fluorided tap water for your sprouts! You can use a pinch of kelp in the water if you think your sprouts need the minerals.

DAYS TILL HARVEST:

alfalfa – 7

clover – 6

radish – 5

cabbage – 5

broccoli – 5

turnip – 5

kale – 6

onions and garlic – 14

mixtures – check for instructions that came with the seed, or use the time for a major component of the mixture. You don’t want the mix either under- or over- sprouted.

EATING: You can eat your salad sprouts as a salad— perhaps with a low-carb dressing (home-made) or sprinkled with Himalayan pink salt and or Spike or Mrs Dash. You can use them as only a part of a salad. Or you can eat your portions right out of the sprouting tray. You can also incorporate them into smoothies or green drinks, put them on your bunless burgers instead of lettuce, or sprinkle some sprouts on low-carb soups or stews.

SPROUTING BOOKS

Meyerowitz, Steve: Sprouts, the Miracle Food

Reynolds, Bruford Scott: How to Survive with Sprouting

Beerstecher, Jim: Sprouting, The Beginners Guide to Growing Sprouts! (Self-Published, too many exclamation points)

QUESTIONS: Have you ever eaten alfalfa sprouts or other salad sprouts? Have you ever tried home sprouting? What went well and what went wrong? Do you think sprouting is a good way for Ketonians to get good fresh salad greens?