We’ve all heard about different kinds of superfoods. There’s wheatgrass, then there’s chlorella, kale, spinach, quinoa, chia seeds…
But have you heard about alfalfa sprouts?
These come from germinated alfalfa seeds. Despite their tiny size, these sprouts contain a ton of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can provide plenty of benefits for your body. These sprouts are quite common in Oriental dishes, but just recently, alfalfa sprouts are gaining popularity in the United States.
Many people are beginning to trust these tiny sprouts. In fact, studies show that they are very effective in fighting against two of the most common health problems in the country, which are diabetes and cancer.
No wonder people are turning to alfalfa sprouts as added garnishes to practically anything—salads, soups, sandwiches, stir-fries, burgers, you name it.
A lot of people are even growing their own little alfalfa gardens. It’s easy and simple, and doesn’t require much maintenance. And what’s best about growing your own alfalfa sprouts is they’re guaranteed fresh, natural, organic, and healthy.
Alfalfa Sprouts Precautions
Of course, as with a lot of other produce, there are a few precautions that you should take note of with regard to alfalfa sprouts.
For example, young children, pregnant women, nursing women, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems should avoid consuming raw sprouts.
This is because sprouts have a likelihood of getting foodborne illnesses. They might contain some forms of deadly bacteria, like E. coli. There are also some reports of people suffering from infections with salmonella and listeria after taking in alfalfa.
Mike Doyle, the director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, even said that he considers “sprouts to be among the most risky foods sold at retail.” This is because these sprouts are grown in an environment that’s practically ideal for bacteria.
How to Eat Alfalfa Sprouts
Now I know that all that sounds scary, right? Well, they are, and those sadly happen. However, there are ways to ensure that you are consuming and handling sprouts the right way. As long as you prepare alfalfa sprouts correctly, you will immediately reduce the likelihood of you getting foodborne illnesses.
If you prefer to take in your store-bought alfalfa sprouts raw, then the first step is for you to wash your hands with warm water and soap before actually touching the sprouts. This ensures that your own hands won’t be introducing any kind of bacteria to the sprouts.
If you’re certain your hands are completely clean, remove the alfalfa sprouts from their container and place them in a clean colander. Run the colander under cool running water for about 1 minute. Toss the sprouts so all are evenly rinsed. This rinses off the surface dirt.
According to Food Safety, washing your hands before and after handling alfalfa sprouts and rinsing the sprouts completely will make sure that no bacteria will be passed on to other foods that will be mixed with the sprouts.
And before actually layering these raw sprouts in your sandwich or your wrap, make sure to properly drain them before eating them. Lay them out on a clean paper towel to ensure even drying.
To make sure that you are getting fresh alfalfa sprouts, check if they look crispy and if they have buds. Avoid soggy or dark-colored sprouts to avoid possible food-related illnesses. Make sure to dispose of your leftover alfalfa sprouts within four days after purchase.
Homegrown Alfalfa Sprouts
If you’re tending to homegrown alfalfa sprouts, first, mix 3 tablespoons of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Then soak your sprouting equipment in this solution for around 5 minutes. As they are soaking, go ahead and thoroughly clean your own hands before handling the alfalfa sprouts or the disinfected equipment.
Afterward, in a small saucepan, pour in food-grade 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and bring up the temperature to 140℉. You can monitor the temperature using a cooking thermometer.
Put the alfalfa seeds in a metal strainer, and then submerge the seeds in the peroxide. Do this until the temperature returns back to 140℉.
Take out the strainer from the pan and rinse the seeds under cool water for around 1 minute. Don’t forget to wash your hands again before handling the disinfected seeds.
Go ahead and sprout the seeds as you normally would. Don’t forget to skim off any hulls or floating empty seeds from the water’s surface in the sprouter. Once you’re done with sprouting, follow the steps of washing alfalfa sprouts above.
I understand the cleaning process can be long and tedious and a bit complicated, but this is the only way to ensure that you will not be getting any diseases from the alfalfa sprouts.
Cooking Alfalfa Sprouts
Other experts believe that cooking the alfalfa sprouts ensures that the bacteria, if any, will be eliminated. But that means the sprouts have to be thoroughly cooked. According to the British FSA, thorough cooking means “until they are steaming hot.”
However, some recipes suggest adding the sprouts to the dish at the last minute. You can then cook them for no more than 30 seconds. Unfortunately, this quick cooking method will not bring the alfalfa sprouts to the temperature required to kill bacteria, which is 165℉.