- Companies making sprouted grain products currently use both wet and dry approaches once grains are sprouted. Drying directly after sprouting means the sprouted grain can be stored until it is cooked or milled into flour. Companies taking the wet approach mash the sprouted grains into a thick puree, which goes into bread and other baked products.
- A 2017 GlobalData consumer survey noted that 60% of US shoppers think sprouted grains and seeds have a positive impact on health.
- A report carried out by Technavio predicted that the global whole grain foods market will grow by 7% each year until 2021, noting that sprouted grains would be a popular trend.
Interest in sprouted grains has shot up in recent years, fuelled, no doubt, by the fact that these young, germinated wholegrain seeds possess more nutrients and are easier to digest than those left to mature.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nutritional and digestive benefits, an increasing number of products containing sprouted grains are finding their way onto supermarket shelves, with producers like Everfresh Natural Foods, Bol Foods, Rude Health and Sprouted Genius continuing to innovate in this area.
While restaurants may not have shown the same hunger for sprouted grains as their retail counterparts, the sector has weaved them into dishes in ways that producers of packaged products may not be able.
Chef Nina Matsunaga recalls how sprouted grains, seeds, legumes and beans were part of the everyday diet in Germany, where she spent the first 18 years of her life, which is why she has been keen to include them on the menu at her restaurant, The Black Bull in Sedbergh.
Here, the chef throws grains and seeds she's germinated in her own kitchen into a bread mix; serves them lightly marinated in vinegar alongside cured beef and fermented yoghurt, or features them in vegan salad.
Others including sprouted grains in salads are Tom Aikens, who places them in a kale salad with cashew cream, apple, poppy seeds and shiitake mushrooms at his Chelsea restaurant Tom's Kitchen.
While any kind of grain, seed or legume can be sprouted, Matsunaga warns that they will only sprout if the conditions are right – and once they have sprouted have a short shelf-life. However, kitchens with a capacity to germinate grains safely and in the right conditions will find themselves with an unusual ingredient that adds flavour, texture and nutritional benefits to a wide range of dishes.
Damian Wawrzyniak, chef-owner of House of Feasts, Peterborough, describes a sourdough bread made with sprouted seeds and grains: "To make the bread, I use a sourdough starter that's nearly three years old, and add buckwheat flour, water, nigella and sesame seeds, and buckwheat grains to it before leaving the mix to ferment for 72 hours. As the seeds and grains sprout, they make the dough much bigger and make it more moist. Once the dough is ready, we knead, prove and bake it as usual. The result is a loaf with a lot of flavour, which comes from the sprouted seeds. We make it with buckwheat flour because it's gluten-free. The sourdough bread is served with our starter, Royal Smalec, which includes three cuts of pork, rustic pate and pickles."
Nina Matsunaga, head chef at The Black Bull, Sedbergh, makes a tofu and sprouted grain salad: “We take mustard, blue grass and buckwheat seeds and germinate them up to around seven days until they sprout. In the meantime, we make our own tofu using steeped soy beans. We take the milk out, cook it and coagulate it with lemon and salt. It's pressed over a day to make a firm tofu. When it's ready, we sear it off on both sides so that it's soft in the middle but firm on the outside. To prepare the salad we put a heap of the sprouted grains and micro herbs over on top of the seared tofu and add whatever seasonal vegetable we have in. We've had a lot of chard and fresh spinach coming in, but more recently it's been corn on the cob. It's dressed with a Japanese-style dressing of yuzu, soy and sugar. The sprouted grains bring some flavour – although I don't think you can tell every different sprouted grain apart – and health benefits, but also a kind of heavy, soft texture that you can't get with other salad ingredients.”
Dayashankar Sharma, head chef at Grand Trunk Road, London, describes a kebab he makes with sprouted lentils: “I use a mixture of yellow and green lentils which are soaked for five hours before being spread out on a thick cloth and left somewhere warm for up to 13 hours to sprout. Once sprouted, I put the lentils in a mixer, just to grind slightly – you don't want them to turn into a paste. Then, to make one portion of the kebab starter, I heat half a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a little oil until they crackle, then add half a chopped onion and saute it for a few minutes, before adding a teaspoon of chopped ginger, a teaspoon of green chilli, half a teaspoon of turmeric powder, half a teaspoon of chilli powder and salt. This is cooked for about two minutes before adding the sprouted lentils. I also add half a boiled, grated potato to help bind the mixture together. Once it's all mixed together, I chill it down. When it's cold, you form the mixture into round patties before shallow frying them in some oil until they're crisp and golden in colour. Lentils are a good source of protein and make a great protein-rich starter for vegetarians.”