Sprouting At Home
Some of us will plant for winter and some of us may not. If you have decided to sit out this winter, there is still a way to get the benefits from fresh living food at home, with very little effort. And you don’t even need to leave your kitchen!
Consider the sprout. To some, alfalfa sprouts and their crunchy cousins may be little more than your find on a sandwich made someone named MoonBeam, out of back of an old school bus painted with flowers. But it’s time to give the sprout its due respect!
They can be grown easily and quickly in any climate and don’t rely on soil or sun. They require few resources and create no waste. Plus they have tremendous health benefits. Sprouts contain antioxidants and enzymes that support healthy cell regeneration and protect against free radical damage When you consume a sprout, you are essentially consuming the entire plant and getting all the benefits of that entire plant. And they don’t require cooking.
What’s not to love about something good for you, so easy to grow and eat? If you’re caught up on the hippie-food factor, just rename them as fancy haute micro-greens and you’re all set.
I prefer to sprout beans or grains that I consume to make the nutrients more absorbable and to reduce lectins and phytic acid. Try sprouting a variety of seeds and nuts for adding to salads and stir frys. Sprouts make a fresh and delicious addition to a sandwich.
Supplies to Grow Sprouts
There is all types of fancy equipment specifically designed for sprouting like sprouting trays that make sprouting easier and allow for more growth at once. But I chose a more affordable route
All you really need are:
- A wide-mouth quart size or half gallon size mason jar
- A Sprouting Lid or a piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band. I bought my lids on Amazon for about $8
- Amazon Sprouting Lids
- A bowl or stand to help the jar stand upside-down at an angle
- Organic Sprouting seeds – Make sure they are specifically labeled “sprouting seeds” and “organic” I buy mine from Sprout House on Amazon. The Sprout House I recommend buying a variety pack so you can step beyond the alfalfa sprout. We love trying new sprouts.
Here’s How to Sprout
Sanitize your jars and prepare the seeds in a very clean area, make sure your hands are clean and your work surfaces are clean
- Wash the seeds or beans. Place one or two tablespoons of seeds in the jar (make sure they don’t take up more than a quarter of the jar; they will expand a great deal) and cover with a few inches of water and secure a sprout lid or cheesecloth with a rubber band on top. Let soak for 2 to 12 hours at room temperature. Check online for soak and sprout times for the different seeds, nuts or grains.
- Soak & Sprout Chart
- Drain the seeds and rinse them, then drain again. Find an area out of direct sunlight and place the jars upside-down, but at an angle to allow drainage and air-circulation through the mesh. You can get a custom rack or try a dish rack or just a bowl. I just use a large cereal bowl, as you can see in my photos above.
- Rinse and drain the seeds between two and four times a day, making sure that they never dry out completely.
- As soon as they are big enough, harvest! This generally takes from three to seven days – and as little as one day – depending on what you’re sprouting. Lentils and mung beans, for instance, may just take a day or two. Sprouts are at their best when they’re still on the relatively small side and just starting to turn green.
- Give them a final rinse and allow them to drain very well in a colander, removing any unsprouted seeds. Once they are dry, store them in a covered bowl and enjoy. All sprouts can be eaten raw, and all but the most delicate, for example alfalfa can be gently cooked as well. Mung spouts are great additions to stir frys!
Sprouts have gotten some negative attention for their potential to carry bacteria that cause food borne illness. In the past, they have been connected to outbreaks of Salmonella and E. coli. So are sprouts too dangerous to eat?
Before you run away…
The bacteria that causes illness is often found on the seed itself and proper preparation and sprouting methods can help avoid problems. It is also possible to find seeds that have been tested for bacteria, which MAY help reduce the likelihood of a bacteria that causes illness.
The jar or vessel used for sprouting should also be washed or sterilized before each use and care should be taken to wash hands and any surfaces near the sprouts. Following the proper rinsing schedule also minimizes risk.
One source recommends soaking sprouts in a lemon juice and water solution (1 part juice to 6 parts water) for 10-15 minutes before consuming since the pH of the lemon juice helps kill any bacteria on the sprouts.
The bottom line is that sprouts do carry the potential for food borne illness but they also have a lot of health benefits. Studies show you are more likely to get sick from eating meat or eggs, but illness definitely can be caused by sprouts. We all have heard you can also get sick from eating at well known fast food restaurants. To be on the safe side consume sprouts within a few days, fresh and straight out of the fridge. Some health organizations also recommend consuming them cooked to reduce the risk of infection. I certainly consume raw homemade sprouts, and have never had an issue. But, please decide what is a responsible choice for you and your family.
Happy Home Gardening!