Growing your own "baby plant garden" is easy and provides a wealth of concentrated nutrients - something we can all use when the weather turns chilly! Sprouts have been grown by civilizations around the world for more than 5,000 years. Considered "super foods" today for their dense nutrient content, sprouts are really easy to grow and quite economical; one pound of sprouting seed can generate about five pounds of sprouts!
I love to watch these little seeds push out their twisty green cotyledons and sprout into tasty microgreens. There's deep satisfaction in knowing that my sprouts are freshly homegrown with love and free of pesticides or more plastic waste from the grocery store. Sprouting at home can be done all year long, with just a few jars, sprouting screen or cheesecloth, and a nice spot on the counter with indirect sunlight. There are some wonderful tools out there like the Sprouting Kit and Sprouting Bag you might want to check out too.
The sprouting seeds . . .
Red Clover is one of the most common sprouts commercially available in grocery stores. It's very similar to the timeless Alfalfa and almost identical in flavor – sweet, nutty, and mild, but a bit easier to grow, and with a lighter green leaf.
Of course, Alfalfa is an excellent sprout to try as well. Alfalfa is by far the most famous sprout in the US and contains more chlorophyll than spinach! Alfalfa sprouts have a mildly nutty flavor and a crispy texture.
If you're a beginning sprouter, start with the tried-and-true Red Lentil. Lentils are among some of the easiest seeds to sprout and just a few tablespoons will fill a quart jar in just 3-4 days. Red lentil sprouts make a great addition to all kinds of recipes from sandwiches to hummus, even pesto! They add a little extra culinary flair and a big protein boost.
Buckwheat is a fast seed to sprout, but it's also one of the most difficult to grow. Its flavor is delicate and delicious, and it’s a good source of vitamins A, B, C, and E, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Niacin, and Potassium.
Radish sprouts are quite spicy and make an excellent choice to liven up a salad, sandwich, or even tacos. They contain a considerable amount of protein, calcium, and Vitamin C. They are a great addition to coleslaw, omelettes, and stir-fries.
Broccoli sprouts are a source of Vitamin A, selenium, and beta-carotene. They also contain powerful antioxidants found in many cruciferous plants, but at a much higher concentration in these baby broccoli plants. You can add broccoli sprouts to salads, soups, pizza, wraps, and practically anything for added flavor and texture, or you can enjoy them all by themselves with a bit of dressing.
Time to get sprouting . . .
Given the proper moisture, a seed will germinate. Rinsing is essentially a two-step process of rinsing and draining. Regular rinsing will add moisture to the sprouts while draining regulates the amount of moisture sprouts have available until their next rinse. Rinse 2-3 times each day, using lots of cool water (60-70°). After this step, it is crucial to drain as much water as you can from your sprouter for proper germination. Sprouting seeds sitting in too much water is the most common cause of sprouting failure! This process will work well for almost every seed, although some super mucilaginous seeds like Chia require a different method to sprout.
Step 1 - Add 3 tablespoons of sprouting seed to your clean quart jar.
Step 2 - Fill the jar with cold water and stir to ensure that each seed is soaking, not just floating.
Step 3 - Allow the seeds to soak overnight.
Step 4 - Attach your sprouting screen to the jar lid and drain as much water as possible. Rinse in cool water again and drain well.
Step 5 - Place the jar upside down in a bowl, resting the jar at a diagonal so the seeds stay relatively spread out in the jar but can continue to drain. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight.
Step 6 - Rinse and drain your seeds thoroughly twice a day for 5-6 days. I like to rinse when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed at night.
Step 7 - For your final rinse, fill the jar with cold water and allow the seed hulls (if any) to float to the top. Scoop the hulls off the surface and compost. You can pour the sprouts and water into another bowl and gently tease the little sprouts apart with your fingers. Skim any additional hulls that float to the top. Drain, rinse, and drain again thoroughly. Use a salad spinner or cloth towel to remove any excess moisture. You can also let the sprouts drain upside down in the jar for another 8 hours.
Step 8 - Once your sprouts are mostly dry they are ready to refrigerate. You can keep them in a closed jar or sealed plastic bag.
1. Good air circulation is very important while sprouting!
2. Drain the water very well each time you rinse! Sitting water will lead to failed sprouts or mold growth.
3. You don't need bright sunlight or much light at all for that matter until the cotyledons (first leaves) appear. Direct sunlight can fry your little sprouts, so any indirect light will work just fine.
4. Sprout at a room temperature around 70 degrees if possible.
5. Don't refrigerate very wet sprouts. This will lead to sogginess and lessened freshness.
Sprouting times vary for each seed. Below is a list of some of the most common sprouting seeds and the typical amount of time until you're eating yummy sprouts. Of course, tasting along the way will help you determine when your sprouts taste best.
For more information about sprouting seeds, watch our video lesson on YouTube!