Steve was pronounced “Sproutman” by Vegetarian Times Magazine in a 1979 feature article that explored the why’s and wherefores of his 100% sprout diet. While over 2 decades time, most diets change, Steve is still a big “believer” in healthy diet and lifestyle. Steve got interested in natural foods after a 20 year effort to correct chronic allergies and asthma with conventional medicine. He made dramatic changes in his diet and within two months of eating a strict “living foods,” vegetarian diet, his lifelong symptoms vanished. He continued to practice a 100% raw foods diet (nothing cooked, packaged, canned, frozen, or processed) for five years. During that time, he also experimented with other extreme diets such as fruitarianism (just fruit), juice fasting for as long as 100 days, and briefly, breatharianism (no food, no water). Steve’s innovative kitchen gardening techniques and the cuisine he developed from them, gave rise to a “School for Sprouts.” He began teaching indoor gardening 12 stories above the streets of New York City. He called his no-cooking school, The Sprout House, since so much of his cuisine included vegetables from his kitchen garden-sprouts. Steve invented two home sprouters, The Flax Sprout Bag and a tabletop greenhouse called, Sproutman’s Kitchen Garden Salad Grower. He also supplied his growing kits and a full line of organic sprouting seeds via mail order. Steve has since sold the mail order business and he and his family now breathe fresher air in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. Much of the information from his teaching years have been related in his books. He has the most popular books on sprouts, including Sprouts the Miracle Food, Sproutman’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook, and Wheatgrass Nature’s Finest Medicine, to name a few. But he also has other books on subjects such as fasting and raw juice therapy. Steve has been featured on PBS, the Home Shopping Network, TV Food Network, and in Prevention, Better Nutrition, and Organic Gardening magazines. In 3 minutes on QVC, 953 people ordered his Cookbook and Kitchen Garden Salad Grower.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me and it is all about food. I cannot say that enough and remind all of us about everything that we connect with and how food is such an essential part of that. It’s so important not to take it for granted. So, what is it that’s all about food? Well, aside from breathing, what can’t we live without? Food, water, food, we need it for energy and sustenance and it’s something we really can’t go without for a long time. Unless, of course, I’m not going to go into fasting today and water fasting, but people with a certain amount of girth on them can go for a while with just water and no food. Food is connected to gosh, so many things and especially during this time period we’ve got a lot of holiday things and things to celebrate and be grateful for. I think it’s important to really think about before you put that nourishment into your mouth, think about where this food came from and really go, go back to where it really came from. It’s really quite convoluted when you think about our food today. There’s all this vertical integration and so many different businesses, companies involved, and yet we tend to, especially when we’re hungry, and on the road, and eating fast food or whatever, just grab the food and bite it and guzzle it down and never even think twice about it. It’s really fascinating to think about ,if we’re going to talk about plant food, because that’s what I like to talk about, plant food. Just starting with the seed and acquiring the seed is a project too. I like, as a personal project, to save some of the seeds from my own food because I think that’s part of something that’s in our nature, to save seeds because it’s an investment in our future.
We start with a seed and grow that seed in the soil and there’s many people today that are involved with growing food in this country. There are the small farmers, there are the large farmers, and then there are many micro workers that come up through all kinds of challenging situations just to be involved in the planting and the harvesting of our food, all of the political ramifications that are involved, with their personal lives, and the benefits and the mistreatments that occurs to them. Also, if the food is planted with pesticides and herbicides, those people that are involved in planting those foods are exposed to those toxins and that’s just the planting of the food. Then there’s the growing and the nurturing and the fertilizing and where does the fertilizer come from? Most often in conventional farming fertilizer comes from the petrochemical industry and so as we see the cost of our food going up, lots of it comes from all the connection that we have with oil and that’s not just the transportation and the fuel cost, but the fertilizer cost. To get the fertilizer to the soil is a whole industry in itself. So every step of the way is an industry or many industries that are involved. So let’s go further. The food is harvested and there are many people that are required to harvest the food, but I wanted to say that people that are involved in the growing of the food when pesticides and herbicides are used, those people are exposed to a lot of toxins. One of the reasons why I encourage eating organic and why I like to eat organic is because it’s good for me and the people that I’m feeding and the people I care about, but the people that are growing the food, the ones that are exposed directly to those toxic chemicals, it’s very damaging and I don’t want to participate in that, I don’t support that. I don’t want to benefit from someone else’s exploitation. We are all connected. The food is harvested and it can go into a variety of different avenues, and it’s just a very long, long interesting process and I encourage you, before you take that bite, to just think a little bit about where your food came from and we’re not even talking about industrial farming of animals, that’s another story, but I’ll save that for another day.
So it’s spring and things are growing and people are starting their gardens and it’s a beautiful thing. What I want to talk about today with a very, very special guest that I’m very excited to bring on. We’re going to be talking about sprouting. Gardens of mini vegetables were part of Sproutman’s lifetime fight against allergies and asthma after 20 years of disappointment with orthodox medicine. He became symptom free through his use of diet, juices, and fasting. In 1980, he founded “The Sprout House”, a “no-cooking” school in New York City teaching the benefits of a living foods diet. Steve is a health crusader and author of ten books including Power Juices Super Drinks, Wheatgrass Nature’s Finest Medicine, Juice Fasting and Detoxification, and Food Combining and Digestion. His most recent book is The Organic Food Diet How to Shop Smarter and Eat Healthier. He has been featured on PBS, the Home Shopping Network, TV Food Network, and in Better Nutrition, Prevention, Organic Gardening and Flower & Garden Magazines. His sprouting inventions, such as the “Hemp Sprout Bag” are sold nationwide. He has the website sproutman.com. Please welcome Steve Meyerowitz, the Sproutman. Hi Steve. How do you pronounce your last name? I didn’t quite get that right.
Steve Meyerowitz: Just like you said it, “Meyerowitz.” There’s an extra syllable in there but I have to give that one to my ancestors.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve been always wanting to miss that one extra syllable but I want to give every one of your syllables its worth.
Steve Meyerowitz: Well you’re better than me, I usually skip it myself.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, Sproutman, I like Sproutman better. You are a superhero in my book, you’re definitely a superhero. I’ve known about you for a long time and so it’s sure exciting for me to be able to speak with you one on one. You have some wonderful books and you’ve really been ahead of your time, or ahead of our time because the information that are in some of your books that have been reprinted and reissued is information that’s still new to many people and have kind of been repackaged by many many others.
Steve Meyerowitz: A lot of what you were talking about is still valid today and it was the impetus for me to move in a direction of organic foods and growing my own food. It’s because of those qualities used and as we learned with the smoking industry, it took us decades to change our habits and to change that industry, which still today markets to our teenagers. Changing the whole petroleum connection with agriculture and changing our diet to a more plant based healthier diet, getting the pesticides and preservatives and artificial flavors and colors out of our food system because they don’t belong there. They’re not good for human bodies. All that packaging and all of the canning and microwaving and frying that we do in our culture is so unhealthy and unfortunately, there is a segment of our society that is just immovable issues like this. We’re just going to have to be patient until the supermarket shelves spark the change and they have. We have seen changes. You can go into all the big supermarket chains in the U.S. and find organic food sections now and that wasn’t the case back in the ‘70s when I started out. I had to go to health food stores and pickings were slim and the price was expensive.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s so bizarre how one of the things that I don’t understand is how we call food that’s grown with pesticides and herbicides conventional food, or conventional farming, and yet it’s not conventional, it’s sci-fi farming. That’s not how we grew food for millions of years.
Steve Meyerowitz: That’s right and there’s so much politics and lobbying, lobbyists are behind this, so much money because why should we be allowed to identify the genetically modified products on the labels? We put every little calorie on the labels because the Food and Drug Administration feels it’s important for people to know. It’s also important for us to know if it’s been farmed with genetically modified plants. That’s not happening yet because the lobbyists are too powerful and too wealthy. Everyone is out there for themselves, we all have to educate ourselves, and we all have to look at labels. When we walk down those market aisles, we have to make intelligent decisions, not fast decisions, but considered decisions to get the best quality food and therefore have longevity and good health.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I really believe that if we put this information out there enough, enough, enough, in these venues like we’re doing right now and wherever we can in books and articles and just talking to our friends and family, the more we put it out there, the more people are going to move in this direction. We’re seeing it, it’s just slow and not fast enough for me.
Steve Meyerowitz: That’s why I’m grateful to you Caryn for putting on this program every week and helping spread the good word, we need it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, say Hallelujah. I want to thank the listeners who I get feedback from time and time I really appreciate it, you can send me emails at email@example.com for comments any time during the week. Or, if you have a question any time during this show, today happens to be April 20, 2011, if you’re listening to us live or if you’re listening to us in the future, hello out there in the future, you can still communicate with us via email messages. The whole downloading of podcasts thing is fascinating to me, the way people can listen to it. We’re now on iTunes too, so go to the Progressive Radio Network website (prn.fm) if you’re into listening that way, it’s just amazing. So we’re doing what we can, we’re doing the best we can and for those that want to hear this information, here it is. You had your own story, you weren’t feeling well and you had allergies and asthma and all kinds of stuff and you ended up developing a way to feel better. Now you’re promoting all this information and you have been for decades which is great and you sell products and write books. Your specialty, I’m assuming, are sprouts.
Steve Meyerowitz: It’s my claim to fame. It’s sort of like an actor that is typecast so even though I have a book on a wide range of health and diet topics, my nom de plume is Sproutman and it’s my trademark name and it’s catchy and that’s what people think of me by. Through all these years I started teaching sprouting in 1977 and I don’t mind it. The reason why I don’t mind it is because what I’m teaching and when I talk about sprouts, sprout is a very simplistic 5 letter word, but really what I’m tailing about is bringing in high quality living food into the diet on a daily basis. It’s food that you can grow on your own in your kitchen without soil and without a green thumb, the ultimate in local agriculture. I really believe that with the population doubling by 2055, the population is supposed to be 15 billion. Between 1950 and 2000, in that 50 year range we, a little more than doubled. We’re almost 7 billion on the planet right now. The planet is that because we have to feed all these people and because we have to house them, we have less and less arable land for agriculture, so we’re building condos and shopping malls on former farmland. Food is coming from farther and farther away, as you related earlier, where part of the cost of food is the cost of petroleum. So basically, the international food distribution network is going to control what we eat, the variety of what we eat, and price of food projects.
Caryn Hartglass: Or the lack of variety of what we eat.
Steve Meyerowitz: Exactly, so I’m proposing let’s become a little more food independent. Let’s become a little more self sufficient. You don’t have to have a green thumb like I said. Gardening without soil, gardening these seedlings which essentially grow in one week’s time is a very easy thing to do and the nutrient density of these vegetables at this early stage of life is 50 to 100 times higher than the nutrition that’s in the same vegetable when it’s mature, even if it’s organically grown. We’re talking about a seedling of radish that’s 5 days old versus a 65 day old radish plant.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really incredible because it’s just a little tiny seed and all we do it put it in water. Where is all that nutrition coming from?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well it’s the miracle of germination, Caryn. It is this thing where you have everything necessary for the growth of mature vegetable is embedded inside that seed and once we moisten it, it starts this activity, this voracious activity. It’s literally a protein factory racing to grow a mature vegetable. When we actually get it at the first leaf, that’s the seedling stage. At that point, the nutrient density is greater than at any future point in the plant’s life. That’s why we can have things like vitamin A in radishes. In the mature vegetable in the garden we have 8 international units, but in the 5 day old seedling, it’s 391, 40 times more.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s not toxic like you get in a pill.
Steve Meyerowitz: It’s non-toxic, right. Interestingly enough, this is one of the reasons why we take supplements, we take herbal supplements because we want the concentration of the medicinal properties in that herb whatever it is. Echinacea for colds, or ginseng, or St. John’s wort for mood and temperament. These plant compounds, not just the A, B, C, D vitamins, but the plant compounds, the antioxidants and the final flavonoids and the trace minerals and the carotenes, phytosterols, all of these plant compounds are actually medicinal in nature. That’s why we take herbal medicine, to get those phytochemicals and that’s why we take supplements because we want a concentration of nutrients, and that’s why we take juices, because when you juice a pound of carrot, you can drink the result which is a glass of carrot juice. No way you could consume, physically consume a pound of carrots but you can drink easily and digest easily the result of the juice from a pound of carrots. So it’s a nutrient concentrate and that’s what we have in these baby plants, it’s that nutrient concentration that makes them not only so nutritious but also medicinal in their properties.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember somebody saying that it’s not natural to eat sprouts because in nature we wouldn’t naturally eat sprouts. I don’t know if that matters or not but what are your thoughts?
Steve Meyerowitz: There’s always another perspective on every topic. There are plenty of people out there who are opposed to drinking too much water. I’m really big on drinking a lot of water, I have a book called Water the Ultimate Cure, we’re approximately 67% water in terms of our weight. Water is absolutely necessary for cushioning our bones and for delivering nutrients to our tissues. Yes, there are people out there who will say that it’s a fallacy to drink the old standard eight glasses of water a day. There’s always somebody who’s got something to say contrary. Eating these seedlings, we have abundant seedlings, and we’re eating them for our health and wellness. There’s a lot of things we do for our health and wellness that could be criticized, such as eating animals. Why not let them live? Plants are much lower on the scale of consciousness, although I agree, plants are conscious. You can actually see the effect on plants with different kinds of music. They’ll respond to classic rock and they’ll respond to Mozart. We have studies on this, so they have a consciousness but they are happily serving us to further our health and nutrition because, let’s face it, we’re higher up on the evolutionary scale.
Caryn Hartglass: Sometimes I think that the plants are the ones that are guiding us and making us do what we do in order to keep them going, but I don’t want to go down that path today, that’s another discussion. So sprouts. We haven’t proved in the last couple decades getting more organic foods in supermarkets and non dairy milks, soy foods, or getting popular placement in supermarkets more than before, and all of that’s really good. We even see boxes of sprouts in some stores, especially the mung bean sprouts, because of the growing Asian communities that consume a lot of that type of sprout, but sprouts, their image hasn’t really changed much in the last few decades. It’s still in that hippie dippie groovy kind of space. Why is that Sproutman?
Steve Meyerowitz: The industry, the sprouting industry, is not a wealthy one. It hasn’t had a PR program. Actually, I’m involved in helping the industry start a PR program and June is going to be the National Sprout Month, so we’re going to start to add some emphasis because these essentially baby vegetables, there’s a couple way to think about sprouts. You have the bean sprouts that you mentioned from the Asian world, countries, mung beans and soy beans are really big. We can sprout lentils, which are really easy, and green peas and sometimes chickpeas although they’re a little finicky to sprouters. So there are those bean sprouts which are essentially beans with a tail, but what I really have been promoting all these years are the micro greens, are the baby vegetables that are anywhere from three to twelve inches tall and are bushy and have big green leaves. I’ll name some: sunflower, which is in the micro green family because it’s anywheres from eight to twelve inches tall and it has a leaf spread from left to right of approximately an inch.
Caryn Hartglass: And they’re delicious!
Steve Meyerowitz: Yeah! And then we have pea shoots which are also ten to twelve inches tall, buckwheat greens, which again about one inch leaf spread and same height. I suppose wheatgrass can fall into this category but it’s not a salad green. We also grow many things that we’re familiar with in the backyard garden such as broccoli and radish and cabbage and kale and alfalfa and clover. Those are not actually common in the backyard, alfalfa and clover are the kind of things farmers grow to feed their cattle and also to enrich the nitrogen content of the soil. So, if it’s good for the soil then it’s gotta be good for people. The problem is that the alfalfa that farmers grow in the fields is a little to fibrous for people to enjoy, although the animals are quite happy because they have a different digestion, they have multiple stomachs, and pockets in their stomachs and their digestive tracts so they can handle that excess fiber, horses and cows. But if we grow them to the seedling state, that alfalfa, that clover and buckwheat is also a cover crop, those leaves are very delicate, very succulent , they have neutral flavors to them, sort of like a Boston lettuce or a bib lettuce taste. So they’re fabulous. Let’s think again of what we’re doing here. We’re brining the feeling of springtime into our salads and onto our dinner plates, even if it’s in the middle of the winter, even if you live in the northeast like I do, you’re able to have these fresh garden greens in the middle of December, January, February, when it’s a northern climate digging out of snow. What could be more local about agriculture than growing it in your own kitchen?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m so happy to be talking to you because I feel like sprouting is one of the last things that are missing in my life. I’m going to make a personal commitment to myself after this show to really go for it. I have sprouted for many years, kind of an on and off thing, I haven’t been consistent about it and I’ve tried a variety of things and I’m going to ask you in a little bit about some of the things I had trouble sprouting, but I’ve always enjoyed it, enjoyed having it, and I really have to get more committed to it. This idea of the micro greens I really like because I’m a big salad person, I’m always pushing the greens, I know how important they are. It’s a little inconvenient to have to go out and get them all the time, I’m always running out to get more greens, and they’re expensive.
Steve Meyerowitz: Let’s talk a little bit about that and about how to do it, because it doesn’t have to be complicated, I’ve kind of devoted my career to spreading the word and getting people set up so that they can do this and making it easy, making it do-able, making it practical to sit into what has become a very busy life for most Americans. Households now have two working adults in them and everybody’s busy, so I’ve got a couple of approaches that keeps this things down to just a couple of minutes a day, I keep it really simple. Again, as I said earlier, you don’t need to be a gardener to do this, you don’t have to have a green thumb. It’s just a simple routine, just like brushing your teeth, it’s something that you’ll do every day and really all we have to give these seedlings is water.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not like flossing is it? I brush my teeth but I don’t like flossing.
Steve Meyerowitz: Well that’s the backyard garden, much more complicated. Here are some of the basics. We just have to wet them and we have to rinse them twice a day and that can be at breakfast time and dinnertime. As long as it’s somewhere in that range, you’re fine. The amount of light that we have in the average kitchen is just fine because these baby leaves are so tiny, they don’t really require a lot of light to grow up. Very few of us actually need to have special grow lights to grow these things. Only the apartment dwellers in big cities that have basement apartments with no windows, those are the only types. If you’ve got windows in your kitchen that’s all you’re going to need. It doesn’t need direct sunlight, indirect light is all that’s required. You’re probably going to want to have it in your kitchen because you need a water source nearby, so even though you don’t have to grow them next to the sink, it’s the most common place where you locate your sprouting equipment, your growing equipment.
I’ve got two different kinds of sprouters that I’d like to tell you and your audience about because they’re both easy to do. One of them is my sprout bag, which is an invention of mine that started in 1979. I developed the sprout bag because jars were turning out to be problematic. You mentioned before you had some missteps in your sprouting career earlier. This happens to a lot of folks and it happens because of jars in many cases. The thing about this is there’s a myth that you can sprout with a jar. I’m not quite sure how that myth started, but the only thing good about jars is that they’re commonly available in the kitchen. However, what’s bad about them is they don’t provide enough airspace to the sprouts to breathe and they don’t provide very good drainage. People overfill them, they don’t really have big enough jars, so the sprouts get very compressed in there and when they get compacted like that they don’t breathe very well and moisture gets stuck in there. What happens when you have watery tension and lack of good air circulation is those are the perfect conditions for the development of mold. People get mold and they say well I’m not quite sure where I went wrong here, but I’m jumping off ship because I don’t want to eat anything with mold on it. Honestly, the kind of mold that grows on sprouts is very similar to the mold that grows in cheese and the mold that grows on bread, which is not going to kill us. It’s not pathogenic, it is unsightly and unappetizing and I’m not recommending anyone eat it, but it’s not going to make you sick in any major way. Having said that, the way to avoid the mold is to use a sprouter that is designed for this purpose, for growing. A jar isn’t that. No one ever designed jars to be gardening tools.
So my sprout bag, it’s like a tea bag. You put the beans inside, you put the seeds inside, and you just dip it. You dip it at breakfast and you dip it at dinner and I’m talking about half a minute each time, the whole thing should take a minute of dipping a day. You can hang the sprout bag on a knob or a cup hook over the sink. It’ll take about ten minutes for it to stop dripping. You can keep it hanging the rest of the day and if you don’t want to keep it hanging you don’t have to do that either. Set it in a bowl alongside the sink, or you can set it in the dish rack. As long as it stops dripping, it just needs a little home, or, as I said, just keep it hanging. In the evening, once again, another dip. So if you can use a tea bag, you can use a sprout bag. The sprouts will breathe on all sides, and they will expand, they’re not going to be compressed and limited by a jar. The bag is fabric actually, I use hemp fabric, it’s very eco friendly, and when the sprouts expand, the bag expands. There’s no contraction there and the only thing about the sprout bag is, it’s not a very light friendly environment and neither is a jar by the way. Even though you have glass on the perimeter of the jar, the sprouts on the inside are all yellow, they don’t get light because it’s blocked by the other sprouts. Whether you grow them in jars or in sprout bags, those sprouts are all jumbled, so when you want to grow micro greens, you want them to grow straight, you want them to stand up tall.
Caryn Hartglass: Strong little shoulders.
Steve Meyerowitz: Just like vegetables do in the backyard, they grow straight up, they reach for the sunshine. That’s really what we want these mini vegetables to be doing. Now we’re talking about a tray type of sprouter where the sprouts, their roots lock into some holes in the bottom of the trays, and then the shoots grow straight up. I have two different types of barrel sprouters and these barrels, it’s called the Freshlife Sprouter. You can see a million pictures of these if you go to my website sproutman.com and the barrel sprouter, the Freshlife Sprouter, allows you to plant a little greenhouse. There’s a cover on it, but there’s about eight to ten inches of growing space in there. One of the versions of these Freshlife Sprouters is one where we water it ourselves, and the other version is where there’s actually a little fish tank motor and a water reservoir and it pulls up the water from the reservoir and sprinkles it on the sprouts for you, for all those people who are too busy and at work all day and don’t want to think about it. I thought that would be the best idea because so many people were telling me I’m going to forget, I’m not going to remember to do this, I’m too busy, so here’s a sprouting appliance that actually waters for you.
Caryn Hartglass: Brilliant.
Steve Meyerowitz: But that’s for the micro greens so they can stand tall and you have that eight inch growing space. You can use a sprout bag to grow some greens, it can be done if you can take a look at the pictures on my website of all the greens that I can grow in the sprout bag, but it’s basically not designed for the straight and tall sprouts. It’s basically a jumbled kind of bean sprouter which you can grow alfalfa in and clover in and radish, you can get some greens in there, but for the really tall micro greens, the ten and twelve inchers, you want a vertical tray type system like my Freshlife Sprouter.
Caryn Hartglass: This is very exciting and I am definitely going to look into this right after the show, but right now we just need to take a quick break so Sproutman will you stay with us because I’ve got some questions to ask you when we get back.
Steve Meyerowitz: I’m here.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great thank you. We’ll be back.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food and I am talking with Sproutman, Steve Meyerowitz. Steve. Sproutman. Mr. Meyerowitz. I’ve had some success with some sprouts. Like you said lentils are really easy and they certainly are! The bigger ones I’ve found some reasonable luck with and what I usually do is I have a good sized jar and rinse them, put them in the jar, pour off the water, put some cheesecloth on top with a rubber band, and then turn it on an angle into a jar. The sprouts tend to grow upward into the jar and drain so that they don’t get too moldy and that works pretty well for, like I said, lentils and some bigger beans. Oh it also works for alfalfa. The two that I have had disasters with are sunflower sprouts, which I love and have not been able to make them work, and broccoli sprouts. I was surprised with the broccoli because they are so much like the smaller sprouts.
Steve Meyerowitz: Yeah like alfalfa.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and yet I cant get them going and they’re one of the ones that have really gotten a lot of press in terms of nutrient density and all kinds of anti-cancer fighting properties and I would really like to bring up my success with broccoli sprouts.
Steve Meyerowitz: Well, you know here’s where the limitations of jar sprouting starts to become more realized. The jars are basically an unfavorable, or an unfriendly environment, for gardening and you may not see that with seeds like lentils and and mung because they’re so carefree, they
grow no matter what, but when you start getting fussy seeds like broccoli that have lower germination percentages and need a much cleaner environment in terms of drainage and in terms of air circulation, that’s when the jars become the limiting factor for success for growing. So first of all we want to get the best seeds we can because sprouting is seed intensive gardening. It’s not unlike the garden seeds that we buy for the backyard garden. Its actually a little higher up the evolutionary scale in terms of seeds because sprouting seeds require higher germination percentages than regular garden seeds. So, if you think of a hundred seeds and you have eighty of them- lets talk about broccoli again- if you have eighty broccoli seeds that are sprouting and twenty broccoli seeds that don’t sprout and you put those one hundred seeds in the garden, you really don’t care about those twenty because they’ll rot and mold in the soil and you’ll never notice it. When you’re in the kitchen garden without soil though and there are twenty seeds out of one hundred then that will create rot and mold and that’ll make headaches for your gardening so you want a ninety percent germination minimum for broccoli. You’re only going to get that when you buy your seeds that are selected for sprouting and there are several brands out there- you don’t have to buy my brand, I’m not the only one, I have competitors- but the important thing is that you buy a brand that proclaims itself to be a sprouting seed and it will, like garden seeds, list a germination percentage on it, list an expiration date, identify the farm lot that it came from. One of the problems that people make is they go to the health foods store in the bunk bins and they buy seeds there and that seed there usually isn’t sprouting grade. If you think about it when you’re going to plant a backyard garden, you don’t go to the grocery store to buy that seed- you go the the garden store and you have to go to the sprouting section when you want to buy sprouting seeds.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I’m not quite sure how they make the seed differently but-
Steve Meyerowitz: It’s a cleaning and selection process actually, so when you have one hundred seeds and only eighty of them sprout, we go through a cleaning process to remove those twenty that don’t sprout.
Caryn Hartglass: Interesting.
Steve Meyerowitz: And so we now have a smaller more exclusive group of seeds and they cost a little bit more but you’ll have much more success. As long as you buy your seeds form a package that says sprouting seeds on it, then that’s great and if you cant find a line of sprouting seeds in your local health foods store, then shop online whether you go to sproutman.com or if you just Google sprouting seeds you’ll find a list of specialty houses that specialize in this kind of thing. Those are the best sources to get the best results in your kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: And the broccoli sprouts- does it work better in the barrel form that you were talking about or in the tray?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well it works in both places, but it is easier to grow it in the barrel form. It is easier to grow it vertically because if you think about it they’re little green vegetables and they do have green leaves on them and they want to grow straight up. This is one of those seeds where you have a choice. You can grow it in either place quite successfully but some flower unfortunately- you have to grow that vertically because they have lots of shells on them, like the black shells of the sunflower seed, and if you grow them in a jumbled grower like a sprout bag or a jar, they get all entwined with itself and it will be quite a labor to remove the shells. If you grow them vertically though, they just fall off naturally and drop to the bottom.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I’m going to do it
Steve Meyerowitz: And you have to get quality seeds because the sunflower seed is actually kind of perishable, so that’s when the expiration date comes in handy and it’s interesting to see that the sprout will last for weeks. I’ve had some sunflower sprouts in my refrigerator for almost a month and you can’t possibly do that with common lettuce or any produce. You can do it with these because these are living plants. They still are breathing even in the refrigerator and I take them out every few days and rinse them and clean them and freshen them out but they are actually living in your refrigerator. They are not dying in your refrigerator which is the situation we have when we buy lettuce. That lettuce is dying the moment the farmer harvested it.
Caryn Hartglass: How do you store them in the refrigerator?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well, I store them in those green bags that are quite popular now or in some kind of container that has air space. The important thing is that you don’t want to suffocate them in a plastic bag because these are breathing plants. But, I was about to say, even though the plant itself has this great longevity in the refrigerator, the seed is quite perishable. It’s the opposite because it has a lot of moisture in it. It’s very sensitive and you only get about six months storage. You want to store it in a cool, dry place so make sure to take it out of the plastic bag when you get the package from the health foods store and put it in a glass jar. That’s really what glass jars are good for storage. Seal it with a moisture proof lid and put it in a cool place, even in the refrigerator. That’ll give you the maximum longevity on sunflower seeds and you can do that with all the sprouting seeds, although some have much better longevity than others.
Caryn Hartglass: Now there have been some discussions of sprouts being dangerous and I’m sure you’ve heard about some of them, like buck weed for example. You talk about growing buck weed and making them nice and tall and leafy, and I’ve read that they can create a toxin in them when they get a little older.
Steve Meyerowitz: Well, you know this is a photosensitivy that only happens when you exceed the maximum dosage which is really not possible to do by eating them. You actually have to choose them or blend them and have them in volume on a daily basis and even then, you have to have a kind of skin sensitivity to them. Even though, you know, this really does exist in practical terms, it almost never happens.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh okay, that’s good!
Steve Meyerowitz: You know its sort of like an allergy. Not everyone is going to react on the skin to the buck weed sprouts. You have to be exposed to sunshine and you have to be overdosing the stuff and the only way you can overdose it is again through the juicer or the blender. You can’t eat enough of buck weed sprouts to achieve that dosage. Its a little bit like – you know we where talking earlier about water – you can drown yourself by drinking too much water, but its not common and not everyone is going to react the same way.
Caryn Hartglass: You know its unfortunate the things that stick in peoples minds because for some reason we can talk about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, etcetera, and yet people continue to eat what they want to eat. Yet, when there’s some little scandal or something, that sticks in peoples minds. There was a scare a while ago in the 90’s, I think, about alfalfa sprouts and how they were dangerous.
Steve Meyerowitz: Oh, yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: Do you remember what that was about and should we worry?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well you know there was a couple scares you know there was a salmonella scare but you know no food is immune to salmonella and E. coli.
Caryn Hartglass: And I just want to stick in here that mostly all of this comes from animal agriculture from confining animals in small spaces and excrement and filth and these things grow.
Steve Meyerowitz: Well you are right, you are absolutely right because it’s possible to get the dung from a rodent caught up in the combine when they are collecting the seeds from alfalfa. So, you know the industry is now very careful about testing for that and about cleaning. We’ve reduced those incidences but no food is immune. We’ve had it in the past year on spinach and tomatoes and melon and apple cider. We don’t hear about it as much on eggs and poultry and beef because first it’s old news and the industries have such good PR. When sprouts, which are healthy foods, come down with an outbreak on salmonella, it’s big news because its supposed to be health food. How can health food be unhealthy? Well unfortunately no food is immune to pathogens but there’s never been a case of salmonella or E. coli with home growers so you can rest assured. I know on my brand of sprouting seeds they’re all organic and they’re all tested for salmonella and E. coli, and you know that’s 99.9%. There’s no 100% guarantee but we test every batch. Nobody in the industry wants to be sending out pathogens.
Caryn Hartglass: You’ve got a new book coming out, what is it about and why’d you write it? What can we look forward to in it?
Steve Meyerwitz: Well the books we were talking about, its a new edition called ‘Sprouts the Miracle Food’. This book is a nutrition book. Its got the most nutritional information about sprouts in print and its also a gardening book, so all of the steps about the gardening and all of the different sprouting devices that I recommend to use are in this book as well as how to make your own sprouter at home. It has from making your own greenhouse to making your own kind of colander or tray type of growing unit. My other book on sprouting is called ‘The Kitchen Garden Cook Book’ and its got the most recipes in print, working with sprouts. The certain thing I want to tell your listeners about is Sproutman’s color sprout chart which is a turn the dial, interactive kind of chart that hangs on your refrigerator and its a ready reference for how many days the sprout is going to take to mature and how many table spoons or cups you use and what it’s going to taste like and if it should be grown vertically in a tray method or if it should be grown in a jumbled method like a jar or a sprout bag.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well we have about a minute left and can you just tell me why, I think sprouts are really tasty, why do they taste so good?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well we’ve got so many flavors really to choose from when you think about, like the sunflower and the broccoli, we also have chives like garlic chives, china rose radishes which are absolutely spicy and delicious for people who like that, Chinese cabbage, fenugreek, and a lot of things like garbanzo sprouts, sweet green peas, and adzuki beans. You know, it can actually get to be more extensive than the kinds of produce that we find in the produce market.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, well you know I’m glad to hear that there’s going to be a sprout month that’s in June. Is there a website or anything or any kind of PR that’s happening about that?
Steve Meyerowitz: Well, you know probably the best resource for that…
Caryn Hartglass: … sproutman.com
Steve Meyerowitz: Yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and sprouts are great! They’re nutritious, they’re healthy, they’ve got a great crunch, they’re crisp, and as you just were describing, there’s so many different kinds with all kinds of wonderful flavors. We can also grow them ourselves! For the people that are concerned about the nuclear problem in Japan and radiation in food and produce, we can grow our own stuff in our home and feel pretty confident about its safety!
Steve Meyerowitz: Yeah, its time to stop treating our stomachs like a compost and start treating them like a garden!
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I like that! Okay lets get into the garden… Thank you so much Sproutman for helping save the world from ourselves!
Steve Meyerowitz: You’re welcome, stay healthy!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you too! That was Steve Meyerowitz, go to sproutman.com for more information! I am Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food! Thank you for listening and next week we’ve got a great show. We’re going to be talking to Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, and Brian Wendell, with their new documentary, Forks Over Knives. Thanks for listening!
Transcribed by Meichin 10/15/2014 and Cassandra Maldonado 7/21/2014