Saturday, September 17, 2005

Healthy byte
Shoots and leaves

Kiran Narain

Throughout the world, millions of people are gradually altering their eating habits to include sprouts in their diet. More and more posh restaurants are including them in salads and nurseries are selling mung bean, spicy fenugreek and salad alfafa in packets ready for sprouting.

Sprouts contain more nutritional value, measure for measure than any other food. While certain sprouts contain more proteins, vitamins and enzymes than others, in general all sprouts contain digestive food value that is much more than their seed value. They are the freshest vegetables that we can have because they are still growing when they are cropped for eating. It has been proved that there is a 25 per cent drop in the vitamin content of the garden-grown vegetables within 30 minutes of cropping them.

You can grow sprouts by soaking the seeds of mung (phaseolus mungo), methi (fenugreek), chana (cicerareitenum), moth (phaseolius aconitifolions) and alfalfa overnight and then tying them in a wet piece of muslin. The seeds sprout in two to four days depending on the temperature. Keep the seeds moist (not too wet) till they are of the required size.

While you would be familiar with the chaat made out of sprouted moth or chana with zeera, lemon, onions, tomato and chaat masala, the flavour of sprouts of methi seeds is really new.

When eaten at the first sign of sprouting, it has the aroma of curry, but when the sprouts grow to about half an inch, the essence vanishes. A rich source of energy, protein and minerals, choline, sprouts are ideal for dieters. Successive trials of fenugreek seeds on normal and diabetic patients held at the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad and Lady Irwin College in New Delhi, have shown that 20 to 25gm of fenugreek seed preparation consumed daily will keep both blood glucose and cholesterol in control. Methi leaves do not have the same effect. The seeds should be soaked in just that much of water that can be absorbed by them. Alfalfa has a refreshing flavour, is rich in Vitamin C and B2 and is good for those who want to gain weight.

Easy to grow and ready in only a couple of days, the sprouted seeds can be stored for later use. Rinse them in cold water, drain well and then seal them in polythene before refrigerating them.

In addition to the fresh taste of sprouted seeds in salads and chaats, they add taste and flavour to hamburgers, sandwiches, baked tomatoes, capsicums and various other dishes. You can add them to omelettes, scrambled eggs and soups and banish the vitamin capsules from the dining table.