Sprouting is an ancient tradition that endured for thousands of years in cultures all over the world. Our ancestors mashed sprouted wheat to make some of the earliest forms of bread – it’s even referred to in religious texts. Egyptians made sprouted grain bread as early as 1350 BC and their dry climate meant sprouting (which requires moisture) wasn’t accidental. In neolithic China sprouted millet, rice, wheat and barley (nieh) were used to make alcohol.
Evidence of soaking and sprouting has also been found from ancient Africa, Australia, Europe, India, South America and the Middle East. This collective wisdom was passed down for centuries but is much less common today.
Before modern agriculture, crops often sprouted accidentally from sitting in fields and being exposed to the elements after harvest. Agricultural advances meant sprouted grains essentially disappeared from our diets.
Sprouting brings ancient cultural practices alive and narrows the gap between modern food choices and traditional preparation techniques. Sprouting is now resurging as food prepared in slow, thoughtful and traditional ways continues to grow in popularity.
For many people, unsprouted grains and beans cause digestive discomfort. It is widely recognized that pre-soaking beans can help ease discomfort, but what you may not realize is soaking and sprouting grains has the same affect. In fact, easier digestion is arguably the most sought-after benefits of sprouted grains.
The sprouting process naturally activates starch, protein and lipid degrading enzymes that “pre-digest” a grain, seed or pulse. The seed uses dense protein and complex carbohydrates as fuel to grow, converting them to simpler amino acid and glucose molecules. This means that some enzymes our bodies use to break down the seed have already been applied. Less work for our digestive system is always a good thing!
Sprouting does not remove gluten but for some people who have discomfort digesting wheat products, the sprouting process may aid in their ability to digest and enjoy.
Cooking whole grains, seeds and beans is often inconvenient and time consuming. Sprouting reduces cook time, in most cases by half, making preparation much quicker and easier. No pre-soaking is needed for sprouted beans and lentils because soaking is already part of the sprouting process. You can cook sprouted products straight from the bag with no thinking ahead!
Sprouting also stabilizes the natural oils in wheat and flax, which extends their shelf life (including slowing the staling rate of sprouted wheat bread). This makes sprouted flour a practical, user-friendly choice for bakers.
You may hesitate to try sprouted grains because you’re not sure how or what to cook, but you can easily incorporate sprouted whole grains and pulses into your diet in all the same ways you would use their unsprouted counterparts.
Choosing sprouted products means you get all the benefits of sprouted grains, without the extra time and effort of sprouting at home.
Sprouting enhances natural flavours and textures of grains, seeds and pulses. Sprouted foods have richer, more complex tastes and delightful textures.
The sprouting process reduces naturally occurring bitterness (saponin), particularly in wheat and quinoa. It also converts complex starch into simple sugars, making sprouted grains taste sweeter (though their glycemic index is low). Grains develop lighter, nuttier and more earthy flavours.
Many changes occur during the sprouting process that affect the texture of grains, seeds and beans. Grains like buckwheat and millet become light and crunchy and are perfect for granolas. Sprouted brown rice develops a lovely delicate texture and sprouted farro, wheat berries and hulless oats are chewy and hearty. Beans become tender and buttery after sprouting, and are wonderful whole or puréed.
When people think of whole grains in baked goods, they tend to think of a heavy dense texture. We specifically sprout and finely stone grind our sprouted whole grain flour to produce light, soft, fluffy, moist baked goods.
Although it’s been around for thousands of years, the benefits of sprouted grains and beans as they relate to our digestion and health is so complex that we don’t yet understand it fully. New research is constantly emerging and more is still needed, which is why we are in partnership with universities to further our understanding of all the benefits that sprouting can offer.
To learn more about sprouting, check out our resources section.