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Alfalfa sprouts are probably one of the most popular sprouts available. Most people have had some alfalfa sprouts on top of a salad at a restaurant or perhaps tucked inside a sandwich or in a pita bread pouch. These sprouts, commercially grown, are also readily available at large and small grocery stores alike. Although, I prefer growing my own.
Why so popular? Their mild taste and good looks are appealing. They add a significant amount of fresh taste to anything and look good while doing so. Alfalfa sprouts mature to a nice bright spring green color and remain crunchy and sweet.
Sprouting alfalfa is easy as it takes well to all different platforms: jars, tubes, The Easy Sprouter, trays, The Sprout Master Tray Sprouters, automatic electric sprouters, The Easy Green Mikrofarm Automatic Sprouter and clay trays, The Terra Cotta Sprouters.
Alfalfa is used as an herb - both the seeds and the dried leaves. It is a legume which means its seeds come in a pod, like a pea. As a legume it has really long roots when grown into a mature plant and those roots fix nitrogen into the soil. It is high in protein and has easily digestible fiber. That's why it is used for cattle and sheep and for high quality hay.
For sprouting, alfalfa sprouts are mild and sweet tasting. Most people don't mind its crunch and that is why it does so well in sandwiches and sitting atop salads. Alfalfa sprouts juice very well because of their high water content. They also blends very well for use in salad dressing and other recipes.
In Alfalfa Sprouts Part 1, we discussed Alfalfa Sprout in general terms. Now we will get down to some specifics.
We need some nutritional information on Alfalfa Sprouts to help discover how really good, not only tasty, these sprouts can be.
We are using a 1 cup serving (33g) for comparison purposes.
Calories From Fat: 2
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Glycemic Load: 9
Inflammation Factor: 7
Protein and Amino Acids:
Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV
Protein 1.3g 3%
WATER: This is why alfalfa sprouts are great for juicing...look how much water you get: Water 30.6g
The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Niacin and Calcium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
Alfalfa sprouts are easily digestible, too.
No wonder they are so popular.
In Alfalfa Sprouts Part 1 we discussed some general knowledge about these sprouts and in Part 2 we had a discussion on the nutritional value of the sprouts. Here, in Part 3, we will discuss the controversy surrounding alfalfa and Lupus.
I am not a medical doctor or any sort of medical practioner at all. I just sell seeds. I am not giving advice (except for one piece of advice that you will find at the end of the post - but it is not medical advice.) My research is made up of studying other websites and books, but it is not my first hand research. Only a doctor or your health care practitioner is qualified to give medical advice. This topic has come up many times in emails and phone calls, so I thought I should go over it.
A link has been found between alfalfa and Lupus. And so the controversy and some questions begin. The scientific name for Lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. It is an auto-immune disease that can affect many parts of the body but it typically attacks the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain.
In auto-immune diseases the body attacks itself. The good guys - the antibodies - that are produced to attack the bad guys - the antigens - start attacking the tissue of the body. Usually, when you cut your finger or sprain your ankle, the body sends the antibodies and lots of blood to the injured site. You may see swelling and know that the body is protecting itself. In the case of Lupus, the body starts fighting itself all the time. Lupus symptoms include pain and swelling. The body is always "on" the fight and this can cause more problems as there is no fight left to combat viruses, bacteria and other opportunistic diseases that come along.
For alfalfa, the problem is in an amino acid called l-canavanine. This amino acid is found in the seed and the sprout, but not the mature leaf. Seeds have a greater quantity of l-canavanine, the sprouts less so and the mature leaf none.
Too much of this amino acid, for some people, activates the immune system and causes inflammation. Inflammation, remember, is good when we cut our finger or sprain our ankle. It comes with fresh blood and anti-bodies, the good-guys. Inflammation all the time, an always "on" immune system is not good for the long term.
Here are my questions - most of the reports of the studies that I have read (having not read the actual study) mention alfalfa tablets a lot. Or they will say "alfalfa seed products". Alfalfa tablets are made up of mashed up alfalfa seeds. When sprouts are mentioned no actual quantity is put on it. No one says "X amount of alalfa sprouts per day will trigger Lupus - like symptoms." So are we talking about alfalfa seed, tablets with mashed up alfalfa meal or alfalfa sprouts? How much? What is the quantity? And, as far as I can tell from my reading, these findings were done in test situations. Did anyone ever enter a doctor's office and say "I have been eating alfalfa sprouts and now I have Lupus?" These are just my questions.
In Alfalfa Sprouts Part 1 we discussed some general knowledge about these sprouts, in Part 2 we had a discussion on the nutritional value of the sprouts and in Part 3 we discussed the controversy surrounding alfalfa and Lupus. Here, in Part 4, we will review basic manual sprouting techniques for alfalfa organic sprouting seeds and lightly touch on sprouting with automatic sprouters.
Alfalfa sprouting seeds are versatile and easy to sprout across all platforms - jars, trays and automatic sprouters. They are perfect for beginner sprouters because of the quick result you receive sometimes just from soaking. They are a hardy seed that produces a great alfalfa sprout.
In future posts I will go into more detail about how to sprout these seeds but let's just review some basic sprouting directions.
The Beginning of Alfalfa Sprouts
First, and to my mind the most important step in sprouting, is the soaking process. During soaking, the seed absorbs water which turns this dead dormant seed into a live sprout. The water diffuses through the seed coat into the embryo causing a swelling of the seed. You can sometimes actually see this by observing the cracked seed casing after soaking. Once you add oxygen to the soaking seed then growth occurs. Germination takes place at above 65 degrees Farenheit. This is a good time to add liquid kelp fertilizer. The seed will absorb the fertilizer as it is absorbing water.
For automatic sprouters a soaking process is not usually necessary. That is because the automatic sprouter will rinse the seeds in a recurring cycle throughout the day. So the seeds will get enough water druing the cycles to replace the soaking process.
Soak the seeds in a jar or bowl of water. You can soak seeds for about 8 to 10 hours, or overnight. You can actually soak seeds for up to 24 hours with a water change in the middle at 12 hours. Do not reuse the soaking water on your sprouts. It carries waste materials from the soaking seeds. You can use it in your garden or house plants, but please do not reuse this water on your sprouts.
Use cool water. If you live in a very cold climate, during the winter months you may want to use slightly warm water. Not hot, not boiling, just a little warm to the touch. Use the best water you have available to you. Ordinary tap water is fine. That is what I have always used along with well water when we had it. Well water is fine. Filtered water is fine. R/O water is fine. But remember, if you use filtered or R/O or some other type of water, you are increasing the cost of the sprouts. That's not a bad thing, it is just something you want to keep in mind.
The Process for Alfalfa Sprouts
If you are using a tray sprouter, then pour the seeds and soaking water from the jar or bowl into the tray sprouter letting the excess water drain out. If you are using a jar sprouter, pour the water out of the jar using a screen or lid to keep the seeds in the jar. In both cases, you should have only wet seeds in the tray or jar without any standing water.
Rinse the seeds with fresh water and drain out that water. Making certain you have only wet seeds in the tray or jar without any standing water.
You will repeat this process - rinsing and draining - two times each day: once in the morning and once in the evening. Make sure you drain out as much water as you can and that there is no standing water left.
And don't rush. I know, you are busy. If you do not give your sprouts the right amount of water, they will fail to thrive.
And be consistent. These little ones need consistency. They like a bath in the morning and an evening one, too. It makes them feel refreshed and ready to continue to grow. Sing a little song to them while they bathe. It will do wonders for them. Don't forget, you are everything to them. You are Mother Nature. They know only you. So don't rush and don't forget to water them twice each day. After the rinses, make certain that there is no standing water, just wet seeds or sprouts.
If you are using an automatic sprouter, you should follow the manufacturer's directions. Basically, you will put dry seeds in the sprouter, fill up the water reservoir and set the timer. Once everything is in place then go ahead and plug it in to start the machine.
Just About Ready to Eat Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts are ready to eat in about 5 to 7 days, 5 in the warmer temperatures and 7 in the cooler temperatures. Although there have been some weeks in Janaury and February where it has taken mine 10 to 12 days to come to maturity. There are places like Southern Florida, Southern Texas and Southern California where the sprouts are ready in 3 days, but generally, it take 5 to 7 days. With automatic sprouters the time for mature sprouts may also lessen as they are getting more water consistently throughout the day.
Chlorophyll is developed in a sprout that has been exposed to light. You do not need any special lighting, ordinary daylight that comes in a room will do fine. Don't put them in direct sunlight as on a window sill. Just a sunny room will do. It only takes a few hours, say from breakfast to lunch, to green them up. If you live in a not very sunny place, or if you have no natural light or if you are growing your sprouts in the basement then you may need an alternate light source. No need to get too fancy, an all spectrum light from the hardware store or local nursery should do just fine. Someone out there is going to try to sell you the latest and greatest lighting system. It is not necessary for sprouts and it will increase the cost of the sprouts.
Store your alfalfa sprouts in the refrigerator.