Once I start thinking about seeds and spring, it’s hard to stop. Maybe it’s time to pull out the sprouter and start a crop of sprouts — talk about practically-instant-gratification. In just 2 – 4 days, you can grow enough to whip up a batch of sprout burgers or to sprinkle on just about anything. Just savor the taste of all that nutrient-packed freshness, long before your spring crops will be ready to eat.
Sprouts used to be synonymous with “health food” during the natural foods movement of the 70’s — especially alfalfa sprouts. During the process of germination, seeds and grains produce vitamins (especially C) and numerous enzymes helpful in digestion and absorption of minerals. Almost any seed, bean or grain can be sprouted. Surprisingly, one seed NOT recommended by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, a cookbook that “challenges politically correct nutrition”, is alfalfa. Fallon believes that alfalfa sprouts can actually compromise the immune system. I can easily live without alfalfa sprouts, especially since I discovered broccoli sprouts which taste even better. I found broccoli seeds in the bulk spice aisle at Whole Foods. I was also anxious to try mung beans and sunflower seeds, found in the bulk food section. Wherever you get your seeds, make certain they are organic.
I used a three-tier sprouter, received as a gift, and loved watching the daily progress of my little sprouts. Giving the sprouts their bath was fun and instructive for Lily and a wonderful introduction into how plants grow. In the past, I have also used a large jar with a screen instead of a lid and had good success with that as well. Anyway you do it, it’s entertaining and a good way to channel all that spring gardening energy.
One of the best parts of rediscovering sprouts was getting to try Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers. If you aren’t familiar with Heidi or her book, Super Natural Cooking, and blog, 101 Cookbooks, be sure to check them out. Her photography is stunning and she has a way of making healthy food, like sprouts, seem cool and fashionable again. These burgers are way better than your average veggie burger. She recognized the dilemma of serving a bread-crumb-laden burger on a bun. Instead, she had the brilliant idea of splitting the burger open and stuffing it with avocado, onions, more sprouts — whatever toppings you like, using the burger as the bun. Here is my version of her veggie burger.
1 cup cooked or canned garbanzo beans
11/2 cup bean sprouts (I used mung bean sprouts)
1 cup micro sprouts (made from seeds like broccoli)
4 large eggs
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 onion, finely chopped
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup toasted whole-grain bread crumbs
1 T olive oil
Combine the garbanzos, bean sprouts, eggs and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is very thick and slightly chunky. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in cilantro, onion, lemon zest and bread crumbs. The mixture will be very moist. I covered the bowl and let it sit overnight in the fridge so the bread could absorb more liquid. If you are in a hurry, you may need to add more bread crumbs to make it easy to form a patty. In any case, let it sit for at least 15 minutes. If by chance you need to moisten the batter, you can add more egg or water.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and working with 4 patties at a time, cover and cook 7-10 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown. If you are going to split the burgers to fill with toppings, let cool slightly, then cut in half, fill and serve as finger food or have several as a main dish.
Makes 12 mini-burgers.
Watch your sprouts grow.