Sprouting beans, seeds, and grains is an amazing, easy way to unlock their hidden nutritional value. The sprouting process is quite simple, and allows for easier digestion and easier assimilation of countless nutrients. Besides adding a small handful to a bright, summer salad, sprouted garbanzo beans can be used in a variety of dishes, either cooked or raw. Hummus with raw tahini, garbanzo bean burgers, and raw falafel are just a few of my favorites.

To sprout garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, select a large glass jar or plastic food container that will allow for the beans to expand to up to three times their original size. Place dried (preferably organic) garbanzo beans in your sprouting vessel, and fill with about three times as much filtered water by volume. Cover the jar with a layer or two of cheesecloth, strapped on tight with a rubber band. Let the garbanzo beans soak at room temperature for 8-12 hours, away from direct sunlight. After their initial soak, drain the water off completely, and replace the jar in its cool, dark resting place.

Although unseen at this point, the miracle of life is beginning to unfold in your kitchen. The garbanzo beans are beginning to sprout, and a great number of biological changes are underway. During their nice, long bath, the chickpeas took in a great deal of water. This causes the bean to think that it is being planted in the ground, and germination begins. Enzymatic inhibitors shut down, and the enzymes present in the garbanzo bean turn proteins into amino acids (garbanzo beans contain all 8 essential amino acids!), complex carbohydrates are broken down into simpler, more digestible starches and natural sugars, and nutrients like vitamins B, C, and E are produced in great numbers.

After draining the soaking water from the garbanzo beans, they should be rinsed and drained once or twice daily. After about two or three days, small sprouts should be visible at the top of each bean. They may not be visible on every bean, but that’s okay. At this point, if desired, you may let the beans absorb a few hours of sunlight to promote additional vitamin C and chlorophyll production.

When the beans have sprouted sufficiently, give them another good rinse, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. This will greatly slow the sprouting process, and will allow you to keep the garbanzo beans for up to a month.

As with all food, be sure to follow stringent sanitation practices. Cleanliness is especially necessary when dealing with raw foods and sprouts. Wash your hands with soap and hot water before working with the beans at every stage of sprouting. Rinsing the garbanzo beans once or twice daily is essential, both for sanitation, and for keeping the beans from drying out. Make sure your sprouting container and all surfaces that your beans come in contact with are clean and away from potential contaminants. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly just before use. Look your sprouted beans over, checking for mold or signs of rotting. If, after rinsing, you notice a foul odor or anything “off”, toss them. As the old adage says, “When in doubt, throw it out.”