Concern over the safety of sprouts has become an issue for very good reason – commercially grown sprouts made people sick. This problem led to some experts' warning against the consumption of sprouts while others shrugged it off as a one-off problem.
IS THERE A DANGER IN CONSUMING RAW SPROUTS?
Sprouts, like any raw food that will be consumed without heating, are susceptible to carrying bacteria. Cooked sprouts - such as beans or grains – are not the issue since the heating process destroys these bacteria.
Keep in mind that these cases have been reported from large sprouting operations in which the product changes hands many times. Home sprouting is simply a different entity all together. Those who sprout at home have control over every aspect of the sprouting process, from growth to storage to ingredients. This basic principle is why home sprouting has not been considered dangerous.
Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to be cautious and well-educated when sprouting at home. There are some basic principles to follow in sprouting seeds that will be consumed in their raw state. They are simple, but worth noting.
BASIC RULES FOR SAFELY SPROUTING SEEDS
1. Use clean water.
Besides the seed, a sprout's only other ingredient is water. It is therefore imperative that clean, filtered water is used for soaking and rinsing.
2. Avoid standing water.
Sprouting equipment is designed with airflow in mind, and for good reason. Besides the initial soaking period, it is important to keep sprouts moist, but avoiding standing water in the sprouting container.
3. Rinse frequently.
Seeds, especially legumes and grains, add starch and other components to the soaking and sprouting water. It is therefore important to rinse sprouts thoroughly at least every 12 hours. If using beans that will not be cooked, rinsing every 6 hours, especially during warmer temperatures, is recommended.
4. Be careful during warm, humid periods.
Both humidity and warmth can breed bacteria, but so long as seeds are rinsed frequently and proper airflow is available, humidity should not be a problem.
5. Keep seeds dry during storage.
It is best not to wash sprouts just before storing in the refrigerator. Instead, wait until sprouts are nearly ready for another rinse before putting them into the refrigerator. Likewise, allow airflow to the sprouts during the storage period, to prevent moisture from building up.
6. Consume stored sprouts within a few days.
Finally, you do not want to consume sprouts that have been languishing for weeks in the refrigerator. A good turnaround time is 5-7 days. Plan on sprouting small batches of seeds, so that only a small amount will be stored at one time. If possible, plan carefully so that fresh sprouts are enjoyed immediately.
With the right practices, homegrown raw sprouts are not only incredibly healthful, they are also perfectly safe.