Sprouting seeds to eat is a skill you can learn quickly, and a sprout garden takes very little time to maintain. All the sprouting supplies you need can be had for free or for a minimal investment. In no time at all, you’ll be enjoying the crunchy goodness of homegrown sprouts with every meal!
Why should you sprout?
When a seed starts to sprout, the qualities of the nutrients begin to change – complex compounds such as carbohydrates begin to break down into simple sugars, proteins break down into amino acids, and the fats into fatty acids. Enzyme inhibitors that enable a seed to remain inert yet viable for years are neutralized by sprouting, and the enzyme and vitamin content is increased, most notably the B vitamins.
A sprouting seed is transformed from a long-term storage unit for starches into a living plant full of digestive enzymes, amino acids, and simple sugars. The nutrient content increases up to 1200% after sprouting, and your body can readily assimilate the organic compounds in the sprouts. As the sprouts turn green with exposure to light, chlorophyll is developed in these baby plant sprouts, making them a superfood packed with nutrition.
Ready to get started sprouting?
What you’ll need to sprout at home:
- cheesecloth or stainless steel screen
- quart sized mason jars
- a tray to stand the sprouting jars in
- rubber bands or a canning ring to hold the cheesecloth or screen in place
- a selection of seeds, beans, or grains (organically grown if possible)
- a cupboard or corner of your counter out of direct sunlight
- 5 to 10 minutes each day to care for your sprouts
How to Grow Sprouts:
Fill a jar with water (filtered or spring water is preferable). For alfalfa, clover, or other small seeds, put two tablespoons of seeds in the jar and let soak in the water for 8 hours. Beginning the soaking process at night develops an easy rhythm for daily maintenance, checking them in the evening and again in the morning.
After the soaking time is up (in the morning, if started at night), empty the water out and rinse the seeds with fresh water (I like to rinse at least twice each time). Cover the mouth of the jar with a square of cheesecloth or sprouting screen and set the jar upside down in a tray or bowl (to catch any water that will drain out). I always lean the jar against something at an angle to ensure a flow of fresh air to the sprouting seeds.
Rinse the sprouts every 8 to 12 hours by filling the jars part way with water and then draining them thoroughly. The water from soaking and rinsing the sprouts is great for houseplants, gardens, or your compost pile. When the sprouts have reached the size you prefer for eating, rinse them thoroughly and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them. They will keep just fine for a couple of days (up to a week).
Most sprouts are edible as soon as you see a tail (the root) emerging from the seed, but you can let them grow as long as you want. Alfalfa and clover will fill the jar so completely that you’ll have a hard time getting them out, so don’t let them go too far.
Soaking times and amounts of seeds for sprouting in a quart jar:
- Alfalfa seeds: Soak 2 Tbs for 4 to 8 hours
- Clover seeds: Soak 2 Tbs for 4 to 8 hours
- Broccoli seeds: Soak 2 Tbs for 8 to 12 hours
- Whole lentils: Soak 1 cup for 8 to 12 hours, then eat
- Fenugreek seeds: Soak 1/4 cup for 4 to 8 hours
- Radish seeds: Soak 3 Tbs for 4 to 8 hours
- Raw hulled sunflower seeds: Soak 1 cup for 6 to 8 hours, then eat
- Chia seeds: Soak 1 cup for 6 to 8 hours, then eat
- Sesame seeds: Soak 1 cup for 6 to 8 hours, then eat
- Wheat berries: Soak 1 cup whole wheat berries for 8 to 12 hours
- Rye berries: Soak 1 cup whole rye berries for 8 to 12 hours
Many seeds and nuts may be soaked and then eaten without fully sprouting them. One of my favorites is sunflower seed milk, made by blending soaked and rinsed raw sunflower seeds with water until it has the consistency of milk. Honey or maple syrup may be added for a sweetened version. Using the same method of blending the seeds, but only adding a little water, you end up with a base for dips and spreads which taste great with chopped fresh veggies and herbs.
For the more adventurous, fill seed-starting trays with soil and grow sunflower greens and buckwheat “lettuce” in them. Any shallow container with drainage will work, as will regular garden pots.
Use raw sunflower seeds (in the shell) and unhulled buckwheat, soaking 1 cup of seeds for each tray for 8 to 12 hours. Spread the seeds evenly over the soil and cover with a little extra soil. Water well, cover with newspaper or a plastic bag, and put the tray in a spot that stays at room temperature and is fairly dark. Be sure to give them a daily watering, but don’t keep the soil soggy.
After a couple of days, take off the covering and let the sprouts get some sunlight. Continue to grow them in the tray until they’re 4 to 6 inches in length. When it’s time to harvest some for lunch, simply cut the sprouts near soil level, rinse, and enjoy! If you cut more than you can eat, the sprouts will stay fresh in the refrigerator just like any greens.
Kids really dig having these baby green sprouts around, and by making tiny trays out of whatever small containers you have, they can grow their own sprout gardens. Engaging them in the process of soaking, rinsing, growing and eating sprouts gives them a real sense of cooperation and being in the rhythm with nature.
Sprouting is also a great learning activity for unschooling and homeschooling families. The amazing transformation that takes place to change those tiny seeds into living green food is inspiring. Nature’s wisdom is contained in each and every one of them, and yet our great god science can not manufacture a single seed.
[Images: top theogeo, middle not a hipster at Flickr]