Photo credit: —Erin Collins via Flickr Creative Commons
Flash in the Pan
When I met Debrilla Ratchford she was selling sprouts at a farmers market in the parking lot of Albuquerque’s University Hospital. A former flight attendant, Ratchford holds the first patent on rolling airport luggage. Few could deny that patent #4,094,391 has made their lives easier. And she hopes to make an even greater impact with her new occupation.
Most of today’s health problems, including so-called diseases of civilization like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are diet-related, and the farmers market where I met Ratchford was purposefully set up so that hospital patients, visitors, and employees would have to walk through it on their way in. Legions of fat, sick people waddled and wheeled past Ratchford’s stand en route to expensive medical interventions for problems they could have avoided by eating fewer corn dogs and more veggies.
I bought a bag of Ratchford’s “seven bean sprout mix,” which includes mung, adzuki, and soy beans, four types of lentils, and wheat berries. Lightly salted, they were al-dente and earthy, with a vibrancy I normally associate with sushi and raw oysters.
Local produce can be hard to find in winter. Gardens die, farmers’ markets close, local growers hibernate, and local food snobs are forced to choose between their principles and bodily needs. But it doesn’t need to come to this. Fresh produce is available from sprouted seeds any time of year, and it’s as local as your kitchen sink.
Dormant seeds are equipped with the energy supplies and building blocks they need to grow to the point where they can get what they need from the sun, air, and soil. These nutrients can be locked in forms that are difficult for the human body to digest. When dormant seeds absorb water, their metabolic activity increases. Complex proteins, starches, and lipids are broken down into simple compounds that are easier for baby plants and humans alike to digest. Vitamins, chlorophyll, and other nutrients are synthesized, while phytates are neutralized. Phytates, which are present in lentils and grains, inhibit nutrient absorption.
Different sprouts offer different benefits. Bean and alfalfa sprouts are especially high in protein, and adzuki bean sprouts contain every amino acid but tryptophan. Alfalfa sprouts are high in chlorophyll and minerals. Sunflower sprouts are a good source of omega-6 fatty acids. Broccoli sprouts contain practically everything good but winning lottery tickets, including sulforaphane, which acts on DNA to stimulate production of certain enzymes. This action has been shown to fight cancer in humans, and research suggests that it’s good for the heart, brain, lungs, prostate, and other organs.
Enzyme activity is one of the main characteristics of living foods. Since enzymes start dying at 120 degrees, living foods are by definition raw. But living food means not that the whole organism is alive, only that biological activity continues within the plant. After a lettuce plant is plucked for salad, the organism as a whole might be dead, but leaf cells are still alive. If you expose those leaves to carbon dioxide and light, they’ll spit out oxygen. Sprouts take the concept of living food to the extreme, because the entire organism is alive when you eat it.
“When you eat a sprout, it’s one living being communicating with another,” explained Ratchford. “When you eat a cooked food, it’s dead. There’s no communication.”
Sprouts don’t require fancy gear to grow. Simply soak seeds overnight in plenty of water. Within minutes of submersion, little bubbles of waste gas start streaming toward the surface. In the morning, drain and rinse the seeds and keep them loosely covered in a dark place, rinsing three or four times daily. A colander works for large seeds, like Ratchford’s mix, allowing for easy rinsing under the tap. Cover the sprouting seeds with a damp towel between rinses. Bean sprouts are ready when white shoots are just emerging from the bean seeds. Sometimes the shoots wrap around the beans, making them look like sperm doing yoga.
Split lentils and peas won’t sprout, because the seeds are broken. Whole lentils and peas, as well as most other seeds you might sprout, are available from websites like sunfood.com and sprouthouse.com, and sometimes your local bulk bin. While bulk bins are inexpensive and convenient, specialized sprout seed sellers test for diseases like E. coli, which caused a recent deadly sprout-borne outbreak in Europe. Ideal conditions for sprouting also tend to favor bacterial growth, which is why clean seed and frequent rinsing with clean water are important, and why the young, old, pregnant, and people with weakened immune systems are advised not to eat sprouts. Those same hi-risk groups are also advised against eating sunny side up eggs.
A finished sprout is a miniature plant, complete with roots, stem and leaves. If you’re growing your sprouts at home, especially leafy sprouts like alfalfa, radish, broccoli, and clover, you might want to finish the job with a few hours of sunlight to encourage the little plants to synthesize some green chlorophyll for your aesthetic and anti-oxidative pleasure.
Because the metabolism of sprouting begins as soon as water is absorbed by the seeds, it isn’t necessary to finish full sprouts before enjoying the benefits. Soaking beans or lentils before cooking not only reduces their cook time, it also makes them more nutritious—even if they get cooked long before they sprout. Along these lines, Sprouthouse.com has several sprout mixes designed to be soaked overnight and eaten for breakfast, like cereal, the next morning.
Fully sprouted seeds can be cooked as well. And while they lose some of their live enzymes, cooked sprouts are still good food. The Vietnamese beef soup called Pho is usually served with a pile of mung bean sprouts, which are added to the hot soup at mealtime, while the Thai noodle dish Pad Thai incorporates a mountain of stir-fried mung bean sprouts.
So before you fork over your hard-earned green for that jetlagged California chlorophyll, remember, you have options. Sprouts, even partially sprouted sprouts, are the locavore’s secret weapon of winter. And all you have to do is add water.
Mary Lou Arriola prepares beef for drying
Dried apples are a healthy treat and apparently fun to make
Photo credit: —Cosmos Dohner
More re-skilling in food preparation
Ready Placitas’s dehydrating food class on January 13 was a smash hit complete with foods to sample: carne seca, dried apples, tomatoes and bananas. We had such a great event that learners were asking for more classes.
This time around, we'll get together again on February 13, in the same warm and cozy dining room for "Healthy Heart Cooking," presented by Nicole Lujan, Extension Home Economist/4-H Agent from Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service. There's the chance this event could go hands-on with us apprentices helping prepare dips, appetizers, and desserts
Call the Community Center at 867-1396, and let Janice or Mary Lou know that you will be joining us. After business hours, contact Cosmos at 217-9384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Extension offers “Kitchen Creations” cooking classes for diabetics
A two-week free cooking school for people living with diabetes is being offered on February 18 and 25 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Sandoval County Extension, new location, in the old county courthouse, first floor, 711 Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo, New Mexico. There will be a diabetic educator to answer all questions. Favorite traditional recipes will be offered in a hands on environment. Materials, meal plans, and recipes will be provided.
The class is limited and you must pre-register by calling (505) 867-2582. If you are an individual with a disability and need an auxiliary aid or service, please contact Nicole Lujan, Home Economist at 867-2582 by February 10.
Southwest Homeowner Gardening classes offered
The popular Southwest Homeowner Gardening Series will run for eight weeks on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. at the Extension office located in the old county courthouse in Bernalillo, 711 Camino del Pueblo.
Topics include fruit trees, soil composting, small fruits and berries, principles of Xeriscaping, vegetable gardening, vermicomposting, trees, shrubs, vines for the southwest and herbs. Classes will be held on February 8, 15, 22, 29 and March 7, 14, 21 and 28.
The cost is $15 per person or $5 per couple if pre-registered or $5 per class payable at the door. Call the Extension Office to register at 867-2582 or toll free (800) 678-1802. Pre-Registration is required. You can mail your payment to Sandoval County Master Gardeners (SCMG), P. O. Box 400, Bernalillo, NM, 87004.
Advanced technology available at Sandoval Regional Medical Center, a teaching hospital
—Dr. Brad Cushnyr, Medical Director, UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center
In a few months, the UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC) will open its doors. In addition to offering Sandoval County residents the highest level of care, some of the most sophisticated technology that exists will be available for patients. This technology will be available to patients because of the academic and research needs of the UNM medical students and the physicians working on their residencies and fellowships. UNM currently has research projects in partnership with institutions such as the National Institute of Health. The machinery required to conduct these medical studies is research grade, and, as a result, the high level of the technology being installed is unprecedented for a community hospital of this size. The cost for the MRI alone is several million dollars.
SRMC is installing a Philips Ingenia 3 Tesla MRI, which is a state of the art MRI scanner. Three Tesla field strength surpasses the standard 1.5 Tesla because it results in greater resolution and shows greater detail. This is very important for all types of imaging but especially for imaging of the joints, brain, and spine. SRMC is getting the very latest in technology with this machine that features digital coil elements and smart scanning technology, which results in more consistent production of high quality images.
Additionally, SRMC will have a Philips Ingenuity 128 slice CT scanner and a Philips 64 slice CT scanner. Both of these machines have the latest in low-dose technology, which is important because lower radiation doses lower the risk of cancer. It is vital that we retrieve these images for patients with the least amount of exposure to radiation possible. In addition, the 128-slice scanner allows super fast imaging times. This results in fewer artifacts from motion in the images, which is very important in many types of imaging, especially cardiac imaging. The 128-slice machine also generates very thin slices for more accurate evaluation of the patient’s body.
SRMC looks forward to providing patients with friendly service in a high-tech environment. By offering our patients the latest technology and access to the most recent cutting edge research, SRMC will be able to provide patients health care they will not receive at other area hospitals.
Visit UNMSRMC.org for more information