Sexy sprouts elevated to fine-dining superstar
Carmen Wakeling, CEO of Eatmore Sprouts and Greens, leads the way in bringing this yummy super-food to trendy restaurants, chic hotels and your home dinner table.
Carmen Wakeling has been passionate about sprouts since back when they were just ‘a hippie thing.’ She discovered them as a high school student in the 80's, when she worked on a Vancouver Island farm that grew sprouts -- then the darlings of vegetarians.
Flash forward to 2015 and Carmen, now the CEO of Eatmore Sprouts and Greens, presides over a thriving business that distributes sprouts and greens across Western Canada, from that same Vancouver Island farm.
Her sprouts, no longer just the domain of “crunchy granolas” routinely grace the fine-dining plates of Vancouver’s most sought after restaurants and hotels.
But Carmen’s route to sprouts' nirvana was anything but direct.
After high school, she became interested in the connection between growing food and human nutrition. In those years, her passion was in helping people recover from illness so she decided to go into nursing.
One day during her nursing studies, she came to the realization that she wasn’t giving patients the kind of care she had envisioned.
"I want to change people’s lives through nutritious food," she told her family, "not through chemical medication.”
So she changed course and soon after, she and her husband Glenn were able to purchase the farm that became Eatmore Sprouts and Greens.
After purchasing the farm, Carmen drew on her nursing training, scientific background, and gardening experience to develop a deep understanding of her product, innovate, get the proper certifications, and build a successful sprouts business.
The best part for Carmen, is that sprouts are not seasonal, “so we can provide nutrition year-round.”
To make sure her own family has year-round nutrition, Carmen-the-mom, keeps all nine varieties of Eatmore Sprouts on-hand at all times.
In general, she uses sunflower greens instead of lettuce to make salads, but she also learned from a Vietnamese employee that they are delicious when sauteed in garlic-butter.
For Carmen, using sprouts in the kitchen means getting creative and giving the body what the body needs at specific times. That’s why she loves when chefs just sprinkle some garlic or alfalfa sprouts on top of fine-dining dishes, or when they put sprout-filled bowls on the table, so people can help themselves.
Carmen realizes some restaurants just put out bowls of sprouts because chefs know sprouts are super healthy and nutritious, but they don’t know exactly what to do with them.
Putting a bowl of fresh sprouts on the dinner table works great for busy families too. “It’s so fun, and it also allows kids to have input into what they’re going to eat,” she says.
But increasingly, she says, cooks are learning how to incorporate them in recipes, and the result is not only an increased interest in the product, but also fascinating new dishes such as sprouts sausages.
“Chefs are teaching me how to use our product!” she laughs. Among the things she has learned from them and from her own experience is that sprouts should be incorporated into sandwiches or hot dishes right before eating. They should also be kept far away from the kitchen’s heat.
Alfalfa sprouts are not as good-tasting when cooked. Mixed beans, on the other hand, are great when added to stews and and other hot preparations because they change the starches and fill the plate with freshness and crunchiness.
Similar to the mixed beans, Carmen says, the sunflower greens cook well and give dishes an amazing nutty taste.
Carmen says these are the tips you should share with your family and guests when offering them bowls with a variety of sprouts.
Non-recipe to boost your guests’ creativity
Put on the table:
Hard boiled eggs
Assorted sprouts: alfalfa, pea shots, deli sprouts, garlic sprouts, sunflower greens, mixed beans, clover sprouts, broccoli sprouts
Meats such as ham and roast beef
Other veggies, some grated, some roasted, some raw.
For the dressing:
Equal parts Essential Balance oil (or oil of your choice) and balsamic or aple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard.
Add fruit, jam or hot sauce as you like.
Method for the dressing:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If you want the dressing to be creamy, then use a hand blender and zoom.
Method for eating:
Ask people to load up a plate and enjoy!