What are Sprouts?
Sprouts are the result of carefully chosen, soaked and sprouted beans, nuts, seeds, or legumes. But first, I need to clarify. A "sprout" is such the moment the tail (root) emerges from the hull (shell/skin). This differs greatly from the "sprouts" you see in the grocery stores! For example, the "sprouts" shown in the picture here? Those are called "long sprouted" (the term you'll see us use on our site), or in actual terms are considered "micro-greens".
What's the difference?
Well, Micro-greens have reached the very peak of their nutritionally beneficial value. For most seeds and legumes, this is at about 5 days of sprouting. The roots are long and visible, the plant stalk has emerged, and the green leaves or buds of the new plant are now visible. This is where we stop germination (growth) and dry the sprouts, to retain that peak nutritional value.
Can you eat them before this point?
Absolutely! In fact, you can eat them right after their soak! (We'll go over that in a moment!) Nutritionally, sprouts begin their climb of ultimate nutrition right after soaking, and peak on or about Day 5 (or the time they would become Micro-greens), so they add wonderful health benefits right away! And, they only get better! (Remember to keep sprouts and micro-greens in the refrigerator to halt their growth!)
Why Our Birds Need Sprouts and Micro-Greens
Healthy, viable grains, seeds and legumes are just waiting to burst forth, releasing their dormant potential. With a little water, warmth and air it all happens quite naturally with very little effort on our part. (This is also a good way to check the quality and freshness of the seed you buy for your birds) If it can’t be sprouted then it probably is no longer viable or able to provide useful nourishment for your birds and they might as well be eating dirt.
Sprouted seeds have up to 600% of the nutritional value that the fully grown plants would provide (by weight). They have the added benefit of letting your bird think he’s eating seeds when he’s really not! (birds think seeds are candy) They can be used alone or as an addition to other foods.
This is how I break it down. Each seed is packed with fat. Eating that seed puts the fat in the body, which we don't want to do. Why is the fat there? Well, that fat is the seed's fuel source for sprouting. When soaked, the dry seed realizes it's time to grow, and burns the fat within, bursting forth with growth. Much like the boosters on a rocket. The fat propels the seeds growth efficiently and quickly. What's left after that fat burn, is a completely nutritious Earthy sprout! With none of the fat!
OK, So How Do You Sprout?
I do this daily and on a bigger scale than most of you ever will need to. But, the result is I have figured how to do it efficiently and economically! I have also mastered my technique, which I will gladly share! I'll save you all my troubles! LoL
You will need:
1/2 gallon size Mason jars (I recommend at least 2 jars to start with)
Screen or Sprouting lids (wide mouth. I bought my lids on Amazon, 2 for $9. I recommend plastic over metal screens, personally because the metal screens will rust over time and need to be replaced. The plastic ones will last forever.)
Apple Cider Vinegar (you'll also hear it referred to as ACV)
A dish towel on your counter top
Seeds to sprout!
How To Get Started
Take a jar and rinse with cold water. Fill the jar with 1-2" of seeds you're wanting to sprout (be sure you check the list below to be certain they are safe first!). Add 1 tbsp ACV and fill the jar halfway with warm water. Swirl the jar and let sit for 10 minutes. Put the screen lid on the jar, swish again and drain. Fill jar again with water, swish and rinse. Now fill the jar again and leave the water in the jar. You are beginning the "soak".
All seeds, nuts, legumes, beans, etc have different soak times. However, I have found the sweet spot to be a 12 hour "long soak". After the soak, thoroughly drain and rinse until the water runs clear. This time, drain completely.
Lay out your towel on the counter and place the now drained jar on its side, on the towel. (The towel serves two purposes. It will collect any moisture dripped from the jar, and it will help prevent the jar from falling off your counter top.)
For the next 4 days follow these easy steps: Every 12 hours, rinse and drain and replace on the towel. Try to rotate the jar a little each time if possible. After the first 24 hours, you will see the first buds of growth! On Day 5, (or any day before then that you want to stop) they're done! You'll notice they've grown a lot and now fill much more of the jar! They are ready to be eaten straight from the jar! Yum!
If at any point in this process your sprouts smell sour, foul, or otherwise seem off toss them and start over. What happened? The sprouts may have gotten too moist (not drained enough, too much water) or too dry (not rinsed often enough) or you may have just gotten a bad batch of seed.
What Is Safe To Sprout?
Here's a pretty detailed list that I'm often adding to and keeping up to date.
Always be sure that the seeds, grains or legumes have not been commercially treated with anti-fungals or other chemicals. Always buy Organic when you can.
• Barley: Use only unhulled barley; "whole" hulled barley and pearled barley will not sprout. Hulls are tough but parrots do not mind.
• Buckwheat: Use raw buckwheat that is white, green, or light brown; unsproutable toasted buckwheat is medium brown.
• Field corn: Long Soak for 12-18 hours. Very hard corn and slow to germinate, but a favorite of most parrots.
• Popcorn: Long Soak for 12-18 hours. Popcorn sprouts are very sweet. The use of popcorn saves washing several times as required to clean most field corn.
• Millet: Unhulled millet is the best sprouter.
• Oats: Must use unhulled oats. So-called "whole oats" or oat groats will not sprout.
• Rice: Only brown, unprocessed rice will sprout.
• Triticale: Cross between rye and wheat.
• Wheat, including Kamut and Spelt: Hard Winter wheat sprouts better than soft Spring wheat.
• Almonds: Long Soak 8-12 hours. Use only unblanched almonds. Sprouting and storage time should not exceed two days or sprouts may turn rancid. Most almonds do not actually develop a sprout as such, but merely swell. One of the tastiest soaked seeds, especially loved by eclectus parrots!
• Cabbage and Kale: Very strong flavored sprouts. Can also be grown into greens.
• Fenugreek: Slightly bitter, fenugreek sprouts are a good digestive aid, good for the liver, and good for clearing up mucus conditions.
• Mustard: Available in three forms: black, brown, yellow. Brown seeds are smaller and harder to handle in mixtures; yellow or black recommended for mixtures. Can grow as greens also.
• Pumpkin: True sprouting (developing a root) by pumpkin seeds is quite rare. Bacterial spoilage and rancidity can be a problem when you try to sprout them. Best to simply soak them and feed.
• Organic Broccoli seeds
• Radish: Very hot flavor much loved by parrots!
• Sesame: Soak 2-4 hours. Must use unhulled sesame seeds for sprouting. Sesame sprouts are delicious at one day but continue to grow while refrigerated and start to get bitter by the second day.
• Sunflower: Use hulled or unhulled, black oil or grey striped sunflower seeds. They have an earthy flavor and are very popular in the aviary.
• Quinoa: Soak 2-4 hours. Very fast sprouter. White and black quinoa are available. This has become a favorite sprouting food of many aviculturists.
• Adzuki beans: Easiest to sprout of all beans.
• Garbanzo beans or chick peas: Make enough to feed birds only one day at a time as they spoil quickly. Many birds prefer mung bean sprouts but most Eclectus parrots have a definite preference for sprouted Garbanzo beans or chick peas.
• Lentils, brown, green and red: The brown and green lentils come in a variety of sizes; the smaller sizes generally sprout faster. Red lentils are usually sold in split form and for sprouting you must buy whole lentils. Lentil sprouts have a spicy flavor and are relished by parrots.
• Mung beans: This is a favorite sprout of most parrots and people too.
• Peas-garden dried green peas: These guys get quite a tail on them and are relished by my birds even the cockatiels.
NOTE: Many people have fed all of the beans in their sprouted form without problem. However, large raw beans such as Anasazi, Black, Fava, Kidney, Lima, Navy, Pinto, and Soy can cause problems of toxicity and digestive upsets for people and perhaps for birds. Except for soy sprouts (edible raw if grown long enough), these beans should be cooked to be digestible and are not recommended for general sprouting purposes. Soy sprouts, however, are high in isoflavones, SOD (superoxide dismutase), a very powerful and important antioxidant with essential fatty acids and lecithin.
A Few Last Sprouting Tips
- Germination declines with time.
- When seeds no longer sprout they can still be prepared in other ways in our cooked diet.
- The longer sprouts grow the more flavor they have.
- Mung Bean sprouts grow bitter as green chlorophyll develops.
- Alfalfa seeds make the most delicious sprouts. A few seeds go a long way!
- Mung Bean Sprouts are typically found in a lot of Chinese Foods.
- Growing Sprouts is like a work of art, it doesn’t always result in perfection.