Growing Sprouts at Home

Seeds that have begun to germinate or sprout contain vitamins and active nutrients in dramatically greater quantities, and in a more digestible form, than dormant seeds. Sprouts are particularly rich in B complex, C, and E vitamins. Since sprouts can be eaten raw or only lightly cooked, all of those magnified, living nutrients make it directly into your plate, with lots of cooking energy savings to boot.

Uses for sprouts:
-           Raw or lightly steamed in salads or on their own with dressing
-           Like any other vegetable in stir fries, curries, soups, etc.
-           In sandwiches/wraps/burritos
-           Blend into batter for pancakes, waffles, breads, etc.
-           Blend into breakfast smoothies
Sprouting is by far the cheapest and easiest, not to mention miraculous, way to get extremely nutritious, tasty “live” food year round in any climate. Sprouts are not fussy – the humblest grain, seed or bean will sprout in your kitchen with no more space and equipment needed than a jar. If you’ve been intimidated by the idea of sprouting before, you will be amazed at just how simple it is once you try it. You might even feel like you’ve discovered “free” food. Within just a few days that handful of dry grain or beans will grow to several times its original size and present you with 10 times the nutrition (not calories).

Materials: To get started you’ll need a roomy jar (glass is best), a sturdy rubber band and a piece of screen/mesh/cheesecloth/lace curtain/pantyhose big enough to cover the mouth of your jar – this will be held in place by the rubber band to allow for quick draining during the sprouting process. Depending on your screen material you may be able to fit a canning jar metal ring over it instead of the rubber band. It’s best to sprout just one type of seed per jar as different seeds will have slightly different growth rates. You’ll be rinsing the sprouts each morning and evening, and during the intervals the trick is to sit the jars upside down at an angle, for simultaneously better drainage and air circulation. This setup prevents excess moisture from drowning the bottom layer and the top layer from drying out too quickly. To prop the jars at roughly a 45 degree angle and to catch water I find it convenient to use a sturdy bowl or a tray with tall sides; for 2 or more jars at a time a salad bowl works well. If you know for certain you’ll be sprouting on a regular basis you could of course buy a multi-level sprouter for $20-$60, but many people still prefer the glass jar method, and it avoids issues with small seeds clogging water drainage in sprouters.

1.       Pick over the seeds to remove any stones and weird-looking or broken grains (leaving these in may cause mold). For a quart/liter jar, use ½ to 1 cup dry seeds (they will expand 2-6X by harvest time).
2.       Wash well and soak in plenty of warm water for 10-12 hours (some seeds should not be soaked at all or only need 30 minutes – please see chart). For convenience soak right in the jar with the screen in place; if all goes well you won’t need to remove the screen until you’re ready to eat the sprouts! 
3.       Rinse the sprouts each morning and evening for 2-5 days, depending on the seed type and ambient temperature by filling the jar with room temperature water and vigorously swooshing & draining completely.
4.       Rest the jar upside down at a 45 degree angle in your tray/bowl in a warm place out of direct sunlight. Make sure sprouts are not crowding the mouth of the jar too much; air circulation is as essential as drainage.
5.       Taste your sprouts at each rinse to determine your favorite size. The cool thing about this living food is that you can cook them at any point after the initial soak, or eat some raw/lightly blanched after the root pokes out while letting the rest keep growing – that’s days of edibility without refrigeration!
Sprouts do not need darkness to grow but they do need to breathe! Being out of direct sunlight is enough. It’s not a good idea to hide sprouts in the pantry or closed cupboard because they need good air circulation and also if you put them too far out of the way there’s a risk of forgetting to rinse them! If you want green sprouts, they’ll eventually need light to develop chlorophyll (but not direct sunlight as this may overheat them). However, some people prefer the taste of mung beans that were grown in relative darkness; one way to achieve this is to use a non-transparent jar, or put an old sock on the jar’s bottom.
You don’t need to buy special sprouting seeds, any food seed will do, but sometimes you may get an old batch with a low germination rate. If that happens and there is a significant amount of unsprouted or barely sprouted seeds after 4 days, separate the “ready” sprouts by placing the mass in a large bowl with water: the grown sprouts will float to the surface.
Exceptions: Mucilaginous seeds (e.g. chia, flax) that form a jelly-like coat when wet are an exception to this sprouting method. They should not be soaked or kept in a jar or sprouter; these seeds will mold because they can’t drain properly in a non-porous container or if spread too thick. Simply sprinkle a single layer on a paper towel or unglazed clay tray and moisten from a spray bottle twice a day. Hulled seeds (sunflower, almond, pumpkin) are brought to life by soaking like any other seed, so in a sense they too are “spouts”, but they are not likely to grow a root even if you wait for days – so simply enjoy them after soaking for 2-8 hours (depending on size of seed).
Storage:  Properly stored sprouts will keep well in the refrigerator for weeks, although longer sprouts with leaves may not last as long. Once sprouts have reached your desired size and are dry to the touch (i.e. it’s been 6-10 hours since the final rinse) you can transfer them to a dry, tightly closed container (e.g. Pyrex) or salad spinner to keep in the refrigerator. It’s best not to refrigerate wet sprouts (or any produce for that matter) – that is why we wait for the final rinse water to dry before refrigerating.
There are literally hundreds of seeds you could use for sprouts, available from organic seed companies. Below I list a few delicious, quick sprouting possibilities that you might already have in your pantry. Note that other bean varieties are not usually sprouted because they will have to be thoroughly cooked anyway and simply soaking them accomplishes as much nutritionally as sprouting (neutralizing enzyme inhibitors and removing some of the hard to digest starches).

Sprout Possibilities
Special seeds

Chia, flax
Don’t rinse/soak these mucilaginous seeds; spread in a single layer on a paper tower, spray with water 2x/day. Takes 1-2 weeks to reach maturity (with nice green leaves).
This tiny seed won’t need more than 30 minutes of soaking; short sprouts have a nice crunchy texture
Hulled raw oats
Soak only 30-60 minutes; continue sprouting as in the standard method
Buckwheat groats
Soak only 30 minutes, rinse very thoroughly until water is clear
Soak only 30 minutes; sprouts are ready in just a day or two, but can keep growing longer for softer texture
Yellow mustard (from Indian store) is the best kind to sprout as it’s non- mucilaginous; soak normally; green sprouts are ready in 5-6 days; like alfalfa and fenugreek, they are 35% protein-rich.
Can buy cheaply at an Indian store. Sprouts quickly, but like the fenugreek seed, sprouts are a bit bitter. You may wish to get rid of hulls by agitating the mass of grown sprouts in a big bowl of water.

millet, brown rice, wheat, rye, barley
You’ll need the hulled grains if you intend to eat these rather than growing grass for juicing.

Adzuki beans (red)
Will pale to a light pink as they take up enough water. Some adzuki have a tough shell; if after 12 hours many beans are still hard and dark as before soaking, change water and soak for another 12 hours.
Mung beans
Same as with adzuki – you’ll know they’re properly soaked if they become plump and paler green. Your sprouts are likely to be short and curly. Don’t expect to get long straight fat sprouts in a jar (a different method is used commercially to make those).
French, brown, red – try any color; follow the basic method
All types are good for raw sprouts (except pigeon peas, which should be cooked)
Peanut (raw, hulled)
The root will still be very small after a few days (more like a bulge), but it’s ready to eat
Ready to eat as soon as the beak-like root is prominent, but can be grown for a few days longer
Any other bean
BUT unlike those listed above, other bean sprouts need to be cooked well, same as after soaking

Growing baby greens at home
You can grow your own baby greens any time of year in any container/flower pot/planter/tray. It’s arguably even lower maintenance and provides a more continuous supply of food than sprouting in a jar. Fill your container with an inch or two of soil (more if fine too).  Closely scatter seeds (pre-soaked overnight) on moist soil and cover with enough extra soil so that the seeds aren’t showing through. Cover your container with plastic wrap to keep seeds moist and warm. Put in the warmest place in your house. Water every day or every other day to keep moist, but don’t overwater if the soil seems soggy or moldy. After a few days you’ll see shoots coming up; remove plastic cover and put your “garden” in a place with lots of light (but still warm). Continue to grow until shoots are 3 to 6 inches tall. When it’s time to harvest some for lunch, simply cut the sprouts near soil level, rinse, and enjoy! If you have young children, they’ll love getting involved in growing and eating sprouts and learning to tend a sprout garden of their own.
Examples of seeds that have particularly tasty baby greens and are quick & easy to grow: sunflower in hull, radish, daikon, fenugreek, arugula, mustard, garden cress, buckwheat in hull, wheat, rye.

Photo of Cress sprouting on a keyboard, Some rights reserved by wetwebwork


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