Alfalfa is not used for cooking because the leaves are really bitter, but if you ingest alfalfa leaves, do not worry because it is safe. However, alfalfa sprouts are an edible food used as an ingredient in many dishes. Alfalfa sprouts refer to the immature shoots of an alfalfa plant.
Section: M. sect. Medicago
Species: M. sativa
Binomial name: Medicago sativa
Alfalfa Sprout Trivia
- The Arabs believe that alfalfa is the father of all foods.
- In India, alfalfa sprouts are used as offerings to the goddess Mariyamman.
- Alfalfa plants may contain potentially toxic nitrate concentrations that could lead to nitrate toxicosis, resulting in depression, dyspnea, tremors, ataxia, rapid heartbeat, and terminal convulsions.
- Prolonged and excessive intake of alfalfa seeds is deemed unsafe because it could lead to reactions that are similar to the autoimmune disease called lupus erythematosus. Eating mature alfalfa also results in making the skin extra sensitive to the sun.
Alfalfa Sprout Buying Guide
Alfalfa sprouts are available in the stores all year long. When buying alfalfa sprouts, make sure to inspect if they are clean. Check the appearance of the leaves and the stalks, they should look fresh and not wilted or dry. Buy enough to eat until the next grocery day, since alfalfa sprouts are not meant to store for longer than five days. When you get home, make sure you wash these with clean water. Alfalfa sprouts are known for carrying food-borne illnesses such as E. coli, listeria, and salmonella.
Alfalfa Sprout Production & Farming in Texas
Put tap water in a glass jar and put alfalfa seeds in it. Soak for 24 hours and rinse every 8 hours. Every time you remove the water, debris and bad seeds are removed as well. After draining the water, place the glass jar in a dark place. Rinse and drain it once a day. You will notice germination has started 24 hours after it was left in the dark. Transfer the sprouts in a smaller container and put them where there is light, preferably by the window or under a grow light. Just don’t put this under direct sunlight. You will notice the seeds sprouting and growing. When it has grown to your desired length or size, wash them and store them properly, so that you have fresh alfalfa sprouts to use.
When growing your own alfalfa sprouts, make sure to thoroughly disinfect the seeds.
Texas grows and sells alfalfa as well as alfalfa sprouts and alfalfa seeds too – in commercial farms, home gardens, urban gardens, even in kitchens and window gardens. Also, many of the food on the menu in many Texas restaurants have alfalfa sprouts. Hardies, a premier fresh food distributor in Texas via its Dallas, Austin, and Houston stores, sells alfalfa sprouts. Other farmers and growers like Walnut Creek Farm in Alvarado, and many artisanal and small businesses grow and sell alfalfa sprouts in groceries, supermarkets, and farmers markets.
In 2011, there was a massive recall of alfalfa sprouts in Texas because of signs of salmonella contamination.
Full-grown alfalfa crops are attacked by pests. But this is not a problem for alfalfa sprouts because they are usually grown indoors in a controlled environment and they don’t stay long enough in the growing beds for pests to be a problem. This is why pesticides aren’t necessary when growing alfalfa sprouts.
Alfalfa is native to Western Asia. Food historians believe alfalfa was first domesticated in Turkey and Iran. Spanish explorers introduced alfalfa to the New World in the 16th century. Alfalfa sprouts became popular in North America in the 1970s. Today, alfalfa sprouts are grown and consumed worldwide. If you are in Europe, Australia, or South Africa, remember that in these places, they call alfalfa “lucerne”.
Alfalfa sprouts sold in supermarkets or groceries are placed in a transparent plastic clamshell container.
Enjoying Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts are healthy and good for you. However, people with a compromised immune system, such as pregnant women and the elderly, should avoid eating raw alfalfa sprouts. Always make sure the alfalfa sprouts you are eating are washed thoroughly.
Known as Rajko in Hindi, alfalfa sprouts are widely consumed in India, raw or cooked. They make a side dish with it and beets and mix this into dal dishes. Alfalfa sprouts are eaten as a spread on toast. These are also blended into tahini for hummus, or steeped in boiling water and strained to make a light tea.
Alfalfa sprouts are highly perishable which is why you must store them correctly and safely. Before storage, make sure to thoroughly rinse alfalfa sprouts under cool water. Dry with paper towels and let it air dry for a few minutes. If they are wet before they are stored in the refrigerator, they will spoil easily. As soon as they are all dry, put them inside a resealable refrigerator storage bag and place them in the crisper. These will stay fresh and in good condition for four days.
You can use alfalfa sprouts hot or cold. If you are making a sandwich, try replacing lettuce with alfalfa sprouts. If your sandwich has avocado, that’s better because alfalfa sprouts complement the taste of avocado. The taste of mint, dill, coriander, and chives, avocado, apples, tomatoes, bell pepper, broccoli, kale, nasturtium leaves all complement the flavor of alfalfa sprouts. It is also a good companion of cheeses (goat, feta, cream, and mozzarella). If you are making a stir fry dish, alfalfa sprouts are a good addition to the mix. You can also use this when making soups. It is also great in coleslaws, spring rolls, tacos, omelets, and pizzas.
When cooking alfalfa sprouts, make sure that these are cooked long enough to kill any possible bacteria.
Alfalfa sprouts contain antioxidants, vitamins C and K, copper, folate, magnesium, and manganese. The vitamin K in alfalfa sprouts helps the body absorb calcium which helps maintain strong bones and teeth. Alfalfa is a low-calorie food, ideal for those who are on a low-calorie diet. Alfalfa sprouts can help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and among women help relieve symptoms of menopause. Alfalfa sprouts are rich in saponin which helps the body lower bad cholesterol while stimulating the immune system at the same time.