Alfalfa sprouts, natural source of vitamins. A must for vegans Alfa Grow alfalfa at home sprouts is a precious food in the kitchen and for health and physical well-being. Alfa Alfa or alfalfa is a perennial herbaceous plant which, as the name suggests, boasts great properties being rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins and enzymes. For millennia it was the “secret” longevity elixir, staple food for animals. They are now in common use in the kitchen used to enrich salads and dishes of all kinds and in vegan recipes.
What is Alfalfa
The use of Alfalfa dates back many centuries, even millennia.
Originally from the Media region, in Persia, it was introduced first in Greece, then in Europe and Italy. In the Middle Ages, it fell into disuse and then reappeared in Spain, thanks to the Arabs, and again throughout the continent. This is why many might know it with the name of Erba Spagna. For experts in the sector, the official name is Medicago-Sativa, also called Alfalfa or Alfalfa (erroneous, although very common, is the alpha-alpha name). This Arabic term means “father of all foods.” Belonging to the legume family and the sulla, the threshold, the white lupine, and the field bean, Alfalfa grows everywhere.
Sowing and cultivation
As we will see later, Alfalfa provides excellent quality forage and can improve soil conditions, restoring fertility. Also, to stop the monocultures of corn and other cereals, Alfalfa is ideal since it can survive for 4 or 5 years on average, despite periodic mowing, and protects the soil pests. This is very important for preserving the genuineness of the soil since it allows not to use chemicals.
It is advisable to plant alfalfa seeds in spring or, even better, a little before autumn. This is useful to ensure that with the arrival of winter, the root is already well established in the soil and does not risk being exposed to excessive rain or frost.
However, before planting the seeds, the soil must be prepared by plowing at least 35 cm deep. Some recommend fertilizing with phosphorus products and dung, even before sowing, or even before pressing, to allow the substances to penetrate deeper into the soil and transfer more quickly to the plant’s roots.
Once plowed, you can proceed with sowing, taking care not to go too far below 2 cm when placing the beans in the ground.
The Medicago Sativa plant grows in any soil, as long as it is not overly refractory and acidic fields (the ideal pH is around 7). Finally, the best time to mow is when the plant is in full bloom.
Having profound roots, which even reach 15 meters, Medicago Sativa goes and assimilates minerals that other plants could not go; moreover, it uses underground water resources, thus not fearing drought.
Let’s see what the nutritional principles of Alfalfa are.
- Soluble and insoluble fibers
- Mineral salts (Boron, Calcium, Cobalt, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Copper, Sodium, Silicon)
Eight digestive enzymes useful for the assimilation of food
Vitamins (provitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, U)
The benefits of Alfalfa and its use in homeopathic medicine
essence in a bottle with purple flowers
Although there are no official verifications, which could confirm the therapeutic efficacy of Alfalfa, it is used in herbal medicine. The favorite parts are the flowers and leaves, more generally the whole plant, except the roots.
For those who need an anti-inflammatory or a healing agent, Alfalfa is undoubtedly a valuable aid: one of its principles is saponin. Some might object, considering this a toxic substance. In reality, for saponin to become dangerous, its molecule must not split (impossible, since digestion extrapolates the nutritional values that are functional to the body). Even oats (commonly eaten by adults and children) contain saponin!
Alfalfa is useful for those who suffer from high cholesterol or blood sugar, thanks to the presence of soluble fiber. These increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the colon, avoid the exaggerated absorption of fats and sugars, prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
There is no lack of insoluble fibers, such as cellulose, which improves intestinal transit, avoiding constipation, and diverticular inflammation.
Another chemical constituent present in Medicago Sativa is a phytoestrogen (coumestrol to be precise). Its use is recommended for all menopausal women who do not want or cannot rely on traditional hormonal therapies. Phytoestrogen is a natural substance similar to estrogen (female hormones) and can decrease hot flashes, cholesterolemia, and breast cancer incidence in postmenopausal women. In the eastern populations, where legumes are daily, a low level of osteoporosis or cardiovascular diseases was found, unlike the western communities.
Alfalfa in the kitchen
The parts used in the food sector are the sprouts, rich in all the properties described above, especially vitamins and fibers. If fresh, they can be kept in the fridge for a few days.
They can be added to salads (by placing them in a bowl in tufts, without cutting them), blended with other ingredients for sauces, centrifuged and seasonings, combined with soft cheeses or tofu, and often combined with other sprouts, such as soy.
In vegetarian and vegan diets, alfalfa sprouts are widely used due to their countless properties: they amply compensate for the nutrients usually found in animal derivatives, which are not covered in these diets. However, to keep all their substances intact, it is advisable not to cook them but to consume them raw.
To grow sprouts indoors, it is not strictly necessary to purchase a sprouter. It can be easily replaced by some tools commonly available in every kitchen and with some tricks within everyone’s reach.
Before being placed in the chosen home sprouted, the seeds to germinate must be rinsed and left to soak in a container with water for 6 to 12 hours, depending on their size. You will notice that legumes will double in volume after soaking. No water must stagnate remain in the sprouts to avoid the formation of mold and rot.
It is advisable to cover the sprouts with a cloth or a lid and place them in the dark to facilitate germination (recalling the conditions of absence of light in which the seeds are planted in the ground). Which they usually tend to grow a little longer. Before consuming them, it is good to expose them to sunlight for a few hours, to increase vitamins and beneficial nutrients.
If you have the opportunity, prefer to use glass, terracotta, or stainless steel containers to cultivate sprouts rather than plastic. In the case of plastic, make sure it is suitable for contact with food.
The glass jar method of growing sprouts is particularly suitable for smaller seeds, such as rocket, Alfalfa, millet, amaranth, cress, flaxseed, and sunflower. The seeds can be poured into the jar and covered with two or three fingers of water (for more mucilaginous seeds, such as rocket seeds or flax seeds, you can omit soaking) for 6 to 12 hours. The jar must be placed in the dark, covered with a cloth, but without a lid. After the necessary time, its mouth must be covered with a fine net, like those used for sugared almonds, to be fixed with an elastic. This will facilitate the shoots’ rinsing, to be carried out two or three times a day. Sprouting occurs in 3-5 days. More information on this can be found in this article.
Suppose you do not have a sprout but have a steaming basket at your disposal. In that case, you will still have found a solution suitable for growing sprouts starting from the largest seeds, with particular reference to chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, and azuki beans. Leave the chosen legumes to soak for 12 hours, drain and arrange them on the bottom of the steamer basket, which you will place above a pot so that the remaining water can fall to the bottom. Rinse the sprouts twice a day, for example, in the morning and the evening, placing the basket under the light jet of tap water. It is good to put the basket with the sprouts in the dark or cover it with a kitchen towel to facilitate sprouting.
A further solution for the cultivation of sprouts, suitable for those who have space available and love to grow and enjoy it in quantity, is the use of perforated boxes for fruit or vegetables, which can be recovered at no cost at the time of purchase of such products at a market or supermarket. Before arranging the seeds in the sprouter, they must be left to soak for 6-12 hours as usual. Thanks to the perforated bottom, it will be convenient to rinse the sprouts daily, placing a bowl under the boxes to collect the water, reused to water the plants. In the image below, the boxes were used for the cultivation of sprouts and wheatgrass.
The simplest method for home-grown sprouts, which involves the use of tools always available to everyone and avoiding plastic, consists of the use of two soup plates. A wet and squeezed cotton napkin will be spread on the first dish to arrange the seeds already left to soak and drained. The second plate will be turned over and used as a lid. The sprouts should be rinsed twice a day under running water using a sieve and then placed back on the plate’s bottom.
The colander method for growing sprouts provides that they are soaked in plain water as usual. After the necessary time, the nodes must be drained and placed on the bottom of the colander, which will have been covered with a thin kitchen towel or with gauze. The sprouts must be rinsed every day under running water and will be ready when they have reached a length of 3 or 4 centimeters. To avoid plastic, you can use a stainless steel colander.
It is advisable to use plastic trays suitable for contact with food, such as containers for the sale of fruit and vegetables or for storing food under vacuum. Their bottom must be perforated to allow the water to drain. In the case of trays equipped with a lid, it can be placed under them to collect any water drops. Watery stagnations must not remain in the trays so that the shoots do not rot, and mold does not form. The trays can otherwise be arranged on a shelf, on top of plates or trays, or top of the sink.
If you already have one of the classic cake stands at your disposal, obviously made with materials suitable for staying in contact with food. The splashback will have to be modified to insert a colander inside, on which the sprouts will be placed. To turn a cake stand into a shoot, follow the images at this address.
Bowl with lid
A container with a terracotta lid at your disposal so that you can avoid the use of plastic containers. We proceed using the same method used in the case of growing the sprouts in a dish. A well-wrung wet cloth will be placed on the bottom of the container, on which to lay the selected seeds, after having rinsed, left to soak, and drained. The rinsing must be carried out twice a day with the help of a colander or a sieve.
Using a tightly meshed strainer is useful for growing sprouts from tiny seeds, such as rocket, cress, millet, amaranth, and flax seeds. Given their small size, their soaking can be very short, even just a couple of hours. The seeds can be drained directly into the colander to be used, on which they will remain during germination. The colander, depending on the size, must be placed on a glass or a bowl. Rinse the sprouts twice a day, bypassing the colander under a trickle of running water or using a container with a nebulizer. It is a straightforward method of growing sprouts, in which children are also involved and which guarantees excellent results.
Hand-cranked salad spinners are usually equipped with a base container inside which there is a perforated basket, similar to a colander or colander. Given its characteristics, the salad spinner can easily be transformed into a sprout, placing the selected seeds to germinate inside the basket after rinsing, soaking, and draining. It is a particularly suitable solution for legumes and cereals. It is useful to cover the centrifuge basket with a damp cloth, as described for the plate and colander method. Covering the centrifuge with a lid or a cloth will allow you to keep the sprouts in the dark to speed up their growth.