You may have passed by the Arizona Sprouthouse booth at St. Philip’s Farmers’ Market many times and not thought twice about stopping. Wheatgrass and sprouted beans are only for über-hippie-vegans, right?
You might reconsider that notion when you learn about the nutritional powers of these little sprouts and grasses. Plus, thanks to their sharp, spicy, vibrant flavors and satisfying crunch, many Arizona Sprouthouse regulars snack on them plain, straight from the bag. Once you try them, you might just be sold.
Diana Elbirt, the proprietor of Arizona Sprouthouse, says that sprouts and grasses “offer food with enzymes that we’re lacking in the food chain, so there’s a lot of illness because people aren’t getting the enzymes they need.” She and her business partner started up in 2011, and have been shocked by the demand they’ve seen. Their farm is located in the Tucson Mountains, and all products are certified naturally grown.
Both sprouts and nutritional grasses have enzymes because they are still “alive” when you consume them. And although all vegetables have enzymes, the second you start to cook with them, those enzymes start to dissipate, says Elbirt. In addition, grasses have chlorophyll, which she says is great for the blood, and sprouts are protein-packed.
“Our customers are either tackling health issues or they just want to stay healthy, or they like the taste,” says Elbirt. “I like warm foods, so I add them to noodle and rice dishes, but many people eat them in salads and others juice the grasses. Some people even cook with them—like sprouted lentil burgers or mung bean pancakes. I’ve learned a lot from my customers.”
In addition to the overwhelming demand from individual customers, Elbirt sells to a variety of local restaurants. Primo, at the Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, and Maynards both buy her microgreens; Urban Fresh and Sky Bar juice her wheatgrass. Brooklyn Pizza makes fresh subs with her sunflower sprouts.
In addition to wheatgrass, Elbirt grows barley grass and pet grasses, which help dogs and cats with digestion. She carries a wide variety of soil-grown microgreens: sunflower, pea shoots, buckwheat lettuce, basil, cilantro, beet, kale, and kohlrabi. In the sprouts department, she offers alfalfa, broccoli, radish, mung bean, and lentils. Mixed bags of microgreens are one of the most popular items. “It’s kind of like a salad in a bag,” says Elbirt. “That’s the cool part because people want to eat fresh food. But it’s crazy how busy we are.”
Elbirt makes clear that although she’s a proponent of sprouts and microgreens, they are only part of a holistic diet. “I eat meat—I don’t sit at the juice bar all day,” she says, “but people are starting to see that their bodies crave diversity.” ✜
Arizona Sprouthouse sells at St. Philip’s Farmers’ Markets on Sundays. Prices range from $2 to $9 per bag. TheArizonaSprouthouse.com.