As mentioned above, in times of drought and famine, when fresh vegetables are not available, vitamin C can be obtained by germinating pulses or cereals. Davidson and Passmore (1986) have described as follows a frequently used recipe that has prevented many cases of scurvy in India:
A sufficient quantity of whole (unsplit) dhal or gram (say 1½ to 2 oz per man) is soaked in water for 12 to 21 hours. A container big enough to allow for expansion and holding sufficient water should be used. Then pour off the water, remove the grains and spread on a damp blanket in a layer thin enough to allow access of air, and cover with another damp blanket. Keep the blankets damp by sprinkling with water. In a few hours small shoots will appear, and when these are ½ to 1 inch long the process is complete. Vitamin C content is maximal after about 30 hours of germination. Pulses normally contain little or no ascorbic acid. One ounce (30 g) of dried pulse may on germination yield 9 to 15 mg of the vitamin, an amount sufficient to prevent scurvy.
Carpenter (1986) reported on Russians sprouting beans and peas during World War II. After 2 days of germination, a vitamin C content of 35-40 mg per 100 g of starting material was achieved. By comparison, 100-150 g of lemons would have to be squeezed to obtain the same quantity of vitamin C from juice. However, cooking reduces vitamin C content drastically and drying and subsequent storage reduces it almost to zero. Germination would thus have to take place at the community or household level rather than centrally. Several major issues need to be considered:
• Is the practice of germination culturally acceptable?
• How are germinated pulses/cereals prepared before consumption?
• Are germinated pulses/cereals consumed by all members of the family?
Also, since germinated pulses tend to be bitter, this intervention might be successful in some refugee populations and not in others. For example, it has been successfully used by refugees in Thailand, whereas preliminary studies in Somalia have shown difficulties with acceptance.