Sprouting seeds is an easy way to provide vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to your bird and your bird will love them. Don’t be intimidated by all the different directions for sprouting. There are thousands of different recommendations out there. The good news is that they all work so feel free to experiment. The key thing is to “Just do it!” Vitamins, Minerals, and trace elements are released during sprouting. Basically, sprouting is the beginning process of the seed turning into a plant. However, sprouting isn’t limited to seeds. Seeds, grains and legumes can be used as sprouting sources. They will begin to swell when soaked in water. The germination process will begin and the nutritional value of the seed will change. One particular change is the protein level increases.
Sprouting seeds and seed-sprouter equipment (though not necessary) can be purchased at most health food stores. Seed-sprouters are basically jars with a lid that allows airflow (wire mesh). Simple dinner plates can be used instead of seed-sprouters as described in the directions below. Some good sprouting sources for beginners are sunflower seeds, mung beans, lentils and wheat berries. Other sprouting sources are amaranth, azuki, alfalfa, barley, buckwheat, canary grass, corn, popcorn, millet, oats, rice, rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, almonds, broccoli seeds, cabbage seeds, kale seeds, fenugreek seeds, teff, pumpkin seeds, radish seeds, quinoa, clover, garbanzo (Chickpeas) beans. As mentioned previously, there are several methods for sprouting. The key elements of the simple process are described below.
- cover sprouting seeds in tap water
- soak in tap water for an appropriate time (see below)
- rinse with tap water
- place on plate and cover with another plate
- wait until seeds grow small tails
- rinse with tap water twice daily while waiting on small tails
- drain off water on paper towel
- ready to eat
One word of caution, sprouts have a very short shelf life and can be dangerous if they mold.
The process is very forgiving and that is why there are several descriptions of the process that all work. If you use small sprouting seeds then step 2 can be a few minutes. For example Buckwheat only needs to be soaked for 15-30 minutes while Barley needs to be soaked for 8-14 hours. Step 5 also depends on the sprouting seed and may not take as long as 24 hours. For example sunflowers usually sprout in about 18 hours while Alfalfa can take 6-8 days. As soon as the seeds starts to grow a little tail then it can be fed to your bird. If you wait too long, it will grow a big root and lose its nutrients. The small tail or “short sprout” is a sign that it is ready to be fed to your bird. A “long sprout” is typical of a sprout for human consumption. Also some sprouters prefer to rinse with an antibacterial solution such as Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) or a very diluted bleach solution instead of regular tap water. In my opinion this isn’t necessary but it doesn’t affect the process. You can refrigerate sprouted seeds for a couple days. However, it is recommended that you rinse them daily until they’re used to remove the harmful by-products of the sprouting process.