My orchids are dark speckled and bruised from the cold. The flowery Lantana shrubs are like coarse twine unraveled in a pile on the ground. The tall ornamental grasses, which I love for their swaying grace, stand in stiff bunches like little scarecrows scattered across the lawn. My herbs…oh, let’s not even go there (I think thyme and cilantro are barely holding on). Then there’s the pile of dead and crispy Christmas trees strewn around the fire pit. We like to collect the discarded trees at the end of the season and use them for firewood throughout the winter, but right now, as I look out across the pathetic winter landscape of our backyard, they only add to the overall state of things. Brown.
My windowsill, on the other hand, is more alive than ever- with lentil sprouts galore!
Tricking yourself into thinking its springtime is one way of looking at it, but sprouting lentils is also a great way to add a super fresh, nutrient packed component to a meal or salad.
Lentils help cleanse and stimulate the kidneys and adrenal system, strengthen the heart and circulation and increase energy and vitality. When lentils are sprouted, their nutrients become more easily digestible, and after just 3-4 days of sprouting, their soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and regulate insulin levels, increases 300 percent!
The sprouting process is super easy, and though today we’re talking about lentil sprouts, you can use this process to sprout many other seeds and beans (alfalfa, clover, mung, garbanzo, lentil, sunflower). They all have very unique and wonderful flavors, but right now it’s the peppery crunch of these little lentil guys that I can’t get enough of.
You can choose any variety of lentils you want – brown, green or red – but just make sure they are whole, not split or in “dahl” form. The first thing you’ll want to do measure out about a cup of lentils and inspect them for stones or damaged beans. Then rinse them really well in cool water and place them in a large bowl of water to soak overnight (8-12 hours).
The next morning your beans will be nice and plump. You can strain out the excess water, rinse and strain again and then transfer the seeds into a large jar, filling it no more than 1/3 of the way with seeds so that there’s adequate space for growth.
Now, cover the opening of the jar with some cheesecloth and hold it in place with a snug rubber band. For the next few days all you’ll have to do is rinse the seeds with fresh water by filling the jar and draining through the cheesecloth twice a day.
After each rinse, give the jar a few firm shakes and turns upside down to get all the water out of there. You want it moist in there, but you don’t want a puddle of water at the bottom where slime can build up and potentially spoil your sprouts. If you start to notice any slime, just give a few extra rinses and get it all out.
After 24 hours in the jar, you’ll start to see the beans split open and may even see some tails forming. Just keep monitoring the lentils growth and keep giving them the fresh rinses + draining for 4-5 days. Once that green leaf pokes out and starts to unfold, they’re ready to harvest.
You’ll notice that they’ll be very tightly packed in their jar(s) so you’ll have to use a little force to get them out. I like to use tongs and grab from as far down as possible.
Once they’re out of the jar, I like to place them in a strainer and give them one last rinse and shake. Then I line an airtight container with a couple paper towels and spread them evenly across the bottom. They’ll stay good like that in the fridge for a week or so. If you’ve sprouted way more than you can eat, just give some away in plastic baggies lined with paper towels!
There are a million ways to eat them.
Soups or salads: (lettuce, arugula, pink unripe tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, lentil sprouts)
Curries or stir-fry dishes: (lentil sprouts sautéed in sesame oil, garlic and tamari. Served with wilted spinach and wild rice and topped with sesame seeds.)
Spreads and dips…like this guacamole: (puréed avocado & lentil sprouts with lemon juice, red onion, salt, pepper, jalapeño and topped with extra sprouts and scallions.)
They’re also a fantastic crunchy element in sandwiches or even on pizza. However you choose to eat them, I think it’s worth doing if only to add a little extra green to your windowsill. Try it out and let me know how it goes!