Perhaps you think you have a black thumb. Perhaps you want to try growing your own vegetables but don’t know where to start. Perhaps you live in an apartment and just don’t really have space. Perhaps you’re working such long hours you don’t have time to think about gardening. In all of these cases, you still know that the freshest and best greens are the homegrown ones. What to do?
If you have a little counter space, a couple of Mason jars, and are willing to spend about $10 for a couple sprouting lids, you have all the equipment needed to grow your own sprouts for salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries. There’s no soil needed. No digging. No pots. No waiting (well, waiting a few days). Best of all, sprouted seeds have as much or more nutritional value than their full-grown varieties.
Here’s the basic recipe:
- Mason jar (pint or quart. It depends how much you want to sprout. I use quart jars.)
- Sprouting lid (You can use stainless steel mesh or plastic. I use stainless steel ones and get mine here. )
- Bowl to hold the jar while the seeds sprouts
- 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite sprouting seeds. (See the next section for suggestions.)
- Make sure your Mason jar is clean.
- Measure out the desired amount of seeds and put those in the jar. (See the next section for discussion.)
- Fill the jar halfway with tepid water. If you can, use unchlorinated water. This will help your germination rate. I am on well water, but have tested this with municipal water, and most seeds seem to manage just fine with it.
- Put the sprouting lid on, with the curved side facing inward towards the seeds. (This helps with airflow, but it’s not the end of the world if you put it on and the lid is convex.)
- Let the seeds soak in the jar overnight, up to 24 hours.
- With the lid still on, drain the water from the jar.
- Fill the jar halfway again with water, swishing the seeds vigorously, then drain again. This is the rinsing step. You’re both watering and cleaning the seeds to prevent mold growth.
- Place the jar in a bowl upside down at a 45 degree angle. (Just set it in the bowl tilted. You want the excess water to drain and for air to be able to circulate in the jar.)
- Repeat the rinsing step (7 and 8) twice daily until your seeds have sprouted. They’re “done” when you see them have their first two little mini leaves, and they’ve mostly shed their seed hulls. This step can take anywhere from 2-3 days (alfalfa sprouts) to 2 weeks (broccoli sprouts in a cold room). Be patient.
- When the sprouts are done, put them in a colander (fine mesh) and give them a hearty rinse to get the seed hulls off. Some hulls are near impossible to fully get rid of out of your sprout bunch (like cilantro sprouts or wheat berry), so accept that you’ll end up eating some and don’t worry about trying to get them all off.
- Finished sprouts will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. For storage, you can use a plastic Zip-loc bag with holes punched in it (you want that airflow to prevent the sprouts getting soggy). I store my sprouts in their sprouting jar with the mesh lid back on it. I’ve found that prolongs the shelf life.
What seeds can you sprout?
These are my favorite seeds to sprout. They have a delightful, mild flavor and add a nice crunch to anything you like. Salads and sandwiches are the best uses for these. Alfalfa sprouts have a high germination rate, and a little goes a long way. It takes my household of three about 4 day to eat a batch (1 tbsp.) of seeds. They’ll expand quite a bit upon sprouting. They don’t hold up well in stir-fries directly, but you can top your stir-fries with them after cooking is done.
These have a similar texture to alfalfa sprouts, but are very sweet. The seed hulls are pretty crunchy, and hard to rinse off all the way. They are not quite as versatile as alfalfa sprouts, but still great for topping a salad. Some people put these sprouts in smoothies as well for some extra greens.
These are my second favorite seeds to sprout. They’re much larger, so I’ll put 2-3 tbsp. of seeds in the jar per batch. They take longer than alfalfa or wheat berries (closer to a week) to finish sprouting. They’re wonderfully crunchy, and essential for pad thai, pho, or other Asian noodle dishes. I also enjoy stuffing them in tortillas with my taco meat for some crunch as well. The flavor is also pretty neutral, like alfalfa.
Cilantro sprouts are much more temperature-dependent than the previous 3. I’ve found they do best when the room is warmer (above 65F). The germination rate isn’t as good with these as alfalfa, and the seed hulls are annoying to eat and hard to rinse off. That said, I do enjoy the mild cilantro flavor of them; they’re nice in the winter when fresh cilantro is hard to grow and hard to come by.
These are some of the most nutritious sprouts you can eat. They are not nutritionally identical to the full-grown broccoli, because the sprouts contain glucoraphanin, a precursor to to phytochemical sulforaphane. The bioavailability of this compound is believed to be responsible for the ability of the body to take up more of the nutrients available in the sprouts. For more on sulforaphane (with citations), check this out here. I’ve seen some rumblings about sulforaphane and its therapeutic effects on COVID-19 infection, and there claims about sulforaphane being effective against symptoms of autism. However, the reader should join me in being a bit wary of hyped up claims and shouldn’t assume any food is a “miracle cure”. Broccoli sprouts are definitely healthy and tasty, so eat them and don’t obsess over supplementing extracted sulforaphane.
Broccoli sprouts tend to take the longest of all the sprouts I’ve tried, and have a lower germination rate. They’re slightly bitter, and have about the same crunch as alfalfa. The bitterness is contrasted nicely in a salad in which you add some fruit, like pears or strawberries. I don’t care for these in stir-fries.
I expect the readers to end up either loving or hating these. If you dislike radishes, you will probably dislike these sprouts. They’re quite pungent in taste, and as much as I like them, I’ll temper them with some apples or strawberries in a salad. For a bolder stir-fry, these make a nice topping.
Pea and Garbanzo
I tried these once, and only once. I enjoy peas and garbanzo beans (chickpeas), but I found these sprouts inedible. They ended up composted. If any of you end up liking them, let me know what you use them in so I can update the article for the others who also like these.
Where can you get sprouting seeds?
There are tons of websites for bulk-ordering sprouts, and many garden centers will carry small packets you can try. I personally like Johnny’s Seeds and have bought all mine in bulk from there. (I have no financial or personal affiliation with them.)
P.S. Interested in some of my other writings? Check out a twist on the classic prisoner’s dilemma.