7 Easy Steps to Grow Your Own Sprouts
Sprouts are just your everyday seeds, beans or grains taken to the next level in terms of nutrition and deliciousness just by soaking, rinsing and allowing a few days to germinate (sprout) before eating. While you can find many sprout varieties at most health food stores, growing them yourself is fun, easy and much less expensive.
Sprouts abound with antioxidants; they’re full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. And talk about good for you: ounce for ounce, they provide more nutrients than any other known whole food. Sprouts also contain beneficial enzymes, requiring less digestive energy, so they actually invigorate you while your body processes them.
Your homegrown sprouts are up-to-the-minute fresh (they grow until ready to eat) and delicious. Grow them right in your kitchen using just seeds, jars and screens. Here’s how!
Any seed, bean or grain is sproutable, but some take a bit more know-how. Easy and tasty seed choices are alfalfa, mustard, radish and clover. Or start with legumes! Lentils, mung beans, garbanzos and green peas are all good choices to start with.
Choose your seeds based on taste preference. If you like the small spouts like alfalfa, which are often used in salads, sandwiches and spring rolls, start with seeds. If you prefer legumes (beans, lentils, peas), which make a killer stir-fry, hearty salad or wonderful soup, start there. Sprouted legumes require much less cooking time than dried and are also more tender.
The legumes you use should be “seed quality,” which are generally recommended for sprouting, as compared to “food quality,” which are intended for cooking. Seed quality legumes are cultivated for sprouting, while food quality are meant for cooking in their dry, unsprouted state, and tend to have a lower germination rate.
Fortunately, it’s becoming easier to find seeds, beans and grains specifically grown for sprouting. These can be found in most health food stores, often right in the bulk bins or specialty shops and are also available online. My favorite online and source is NewNatives.com. Once you have your seeds in hand, store them in airtight containers until you’re ready to use them. Glass jars work well for this purpose.
- Wide-mouthed mason jars sized from 1 quart — 1 gallon are recommended, depending on the amount of seed you plan to use.
- Nylon or fiberglass screen to cover the jars
- Rubber bands, or you can use the outer piece of the top to the mason jar to screw over the screen.
- Dish rack or flat, shallow containers for the jars to drain into.
During the germination process, sprouts, like most seeds, prefer a dark, temperate (60 F to 85 F) location, away from drafts and direct heat. An empty cabinet, box or dish rack covered with the cloth all work well.
Step by Step Sprouting
1. Measure out your seeds or beans. In general, 1 oz. of seed yields about 1 cup of spouts, so ¼ cup (for a 2-cup yield), seems to be a good starting point for small seed sprouts since they have a short shelf life. Soaked beans and legumes expand to approximately double the amount as when dried, so plan accordingly.
Place seeds in a mesh strainer or in your spouting jar and rinse in warm (80 F) water, then drain.
2. If you used a strainer for rinsing, pour seeds or legumes into your mason jar. Fill ¾ with water, cap with mesh screen and lid or rubber band and let soak overnight (if prepared in the evening) or for the following times:
- Small seeds: 3-8 hours
- Larger seeds or legumes: 8-16 hours
- Grains: 10-16 hours
*Refer to the Sprout Chart below for more seed-specific soak, rinse and germination details.
3. After soaking, drain the water and rinse the seeds thoroughly. The soaking water is said to contain natural toxins released from the seeds during germination, so a 2- to 3-time daily rinse is recommended.
4. After each rinse, place the jar upside down and tilted at a 45 degree angle in the warm, dark germination spot you’ve selected. The goal is to keep them damp but not soaking in water until they sprout. The warmer and darker the location, the faster they’ll sprout.
5. Let the spouts germinate for the suggested number of days (see chart below). Sprout most seeds 1 to 2 inches, grains up to 4 inches, and beans ¼ to 1 inch. You may want to vary growth time depending on plans for use. Shorter sprouts are great for eating whole; you’ll want then longer if you plan to juice.
6. Small seed optional (skip this step for legumes). Once seeds have sprouted, place the jar in strong, indirect sunlight for 2 to 3 days afterwards to develop some nutrient-rich chlorophyll.
7. When the jar is full and the sprouts or legumes are ready to use, store in an airtight container (a capped sprouting jar is fine) in the refrigerator for use. Note: be sure sprouts have drained for at least 5 hours before storing; too much moisture can cause spoilage.
It is recommended that small seeds be hulled, as in shells of the seeds removed, before placing in the refrigerator. It’s easy to do by soaking in a large bowl of water where hulls will float to the top for easy removal.
Once you get the hang of it, sprouting can be rather addictive. You’ll find new ways to enjoy sprouts just so you have an excuse to keep them growing. A complete sprouting chart is available at GrassRootzCafe.com.
Santa Cruz earth mama, change agent and local living advocate, Elizabeth Borelli, is truly convinced that the road to sustainability begins in the kitchen. She offers back-to-basics resources, money-saving recipes and simple health tips designed to empower readers to take control of their health through better dietary choices.
Photo credits: kygp