Lentils, also known as lens culinaris or lens esculenta, belong to the family of legumes (more specifically the pea family). This annual plant got its name from the shape of its seeds, which resemble the shape of a lens. Lentils are one of the most ancient food crops and are grown all over Europe, North Africa and Asia. But most lentils grown as food crops stem from Canada and India.
There are many varieties of lentils but they can be grouped in three different categories:
- Brown lentils
- Green lentils
- Red/yellow lentils
Even though it is possible to sprout all three categories of lentils, it is only possible to sprout whole lentils, not split lentils. Brown and green lentils are easier to sprout for beginners. Red lentils require a little more attention as they become very soft during the sprouting process.
Health Benefits of Lentil Sprouts
Lentils are a true superfood with significant health benefits. They are packed with fiber, potassium, folate, protein, iron, magnesium, zink, vitamin C and vitamin B.
Normally, lentils have to be cooked to be digestible for humans as they contain phytic acid. The process of sprouting however, neutralizes the phytic acid in lentils, which makes them digestible in their raw form. Sprouting also increases the bioavailability of certain nutrients, specifically vitamin B and vitamin C.
Sprouted lentils are a great way to improve the quality of your diet. Regularly including sprouted lentils to your meals is associated with a variety of health benefits such as:
- Anit-viral and anti-inflammatory effects
- Protection against heart disease
- Reduced risk of colorectal cancer
- Improved digestion and gut function
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Better blood pressure regulation
- Improved blood sugar management
Because of their very high protein content, about 25%, lentils are a great alternative to meat. Since they are also high in iron, lentils are an interesting food option for vegans and vegetarians.
Lentils also contain so-called “anti-nutrients”. These are compounds which can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. One of the most commonly known anti nutrients is lectin, which is part of most legumes and is also present in lentils. Another one is phytic acid. Both anti nutrients can be significantly reduced by soaking and sprouting lentils.
How To Grow Lentil Sprouts At Home
Growing lentil sprouts at home is one of the easiest things and therefore a great way to dip your toe into the world of sprouting. There is virtually nothing you can do wrong and lentil sprouts grow incredibly quickly.
All you need to grow lentil sprouts at home is a large glass jar with a sprouting lid, some water and a stand for your jar that allows excess water to drain. Since lentil seeds increase significantly in size when soaking and sprouting them, you won’t need very many seeds. Since sprouts are consumed in their raw form, it is important to use high-quality organic seeds.
Fill about 2 tablespoons of lentil seeds into your glass jar and fill it halfway with water. Leave the lentil seeds to soak for 12 hours, then drain all the water. Rinse the seeds with fresh water a few times and then drain again fully. Now place the jar upside down on the stand, allowing excess water to drain out and air to circulate. Rinse and drain your lentil seeds twice per day in the morning and in the evening. After 2-3 days you will see little white tails appearing, this shows that your lentil sprouts are ready to be harvested.
For a complete guide on how to grow sprouts at home, look here.
How Do Lentil Sprouts Taste?
The taste of lentils depends a little on the variety. Red lentils can taste different to green lentils. But overall they have a very subtle and light flavor, with hints of earthy, buttery and a little peppery notes. They have a nice crisp and crunchy texture.
Because the flavor of lentils is very subtle, they interfere little with the taste of a dish. This makes them perfect to use in a variety of dishes, in order to add more protein and an interesting texture. If you use them in stews or stir-fries, it is recommendable to add them at the very end so they don’t lose their crunch but also their nutrients.
Lentils combine well with tomatoes, fresh greens and herbs and are a great addition to: