The sprouted seed is a culinary custom of ancient lineage in Asia, but a very recent arrival in the West. Thanks to the sprout, anyone, anytime—even an apartment-dweller in Anchorage in February—can raise a good approximation to fresh vegetables with very little effort. Sprouting often improves a seed’s vitamin content and digestibility. And with their nutty flavor and crisp texture, sprouts are simply a nice change from the usual vegetables.
Beans are most commonly sprouted, but many of our food seeds can be sprouted to advantage. Sprouted wheat and barley, for example, develop a sweetness as their enzymes begin to break down stored starch into sugars for the embryonic plant. Sprouts have a nutritional value midway between that of the dry seed, which they just were, and a leafy green vegetable, which they’re on the way to becoming. Sprouts are higher in vitamin C and lower in calories than most seeds, and higher than most vegetables in protein (5% versus about 2%) and in the B vitamins and iron.