Sprouting: How to Grow Sprouts at Home for Low Cost Nutritious Meals

Sprouting: How to Grow Sprouts at Home for Low Cost Nutritious MealsSprouting at home is a simple way to lower your food costs, increase the amount of raw food in your diet, and be assured that the sprouts you eat are safe.

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.

Sprouting: How to Grow Sprouts at Home for Low Cost Nutritious Meals

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.

Additionally, you can also try an indoor hydroponic setup for growing herbs or greens. It’s really easy to do and another fun project for the kids, plus there is a lot to learn about how plants grow!

[Images: top theogeo, middle not a hipster at Flickr]

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

22 thoughts on “Sprouting: How to Grow Sprouts at Home for Low Cost Nutritious Meals

  • Great stuff! Here in Vermont we always say, “I’ll take mine with Sprouts.”

  • Very interesting post – I never thought much about sprouts (it’s one of those things you just see in the store and don’t realize a “sprout” can be any seed that sprouts – duh) After hearing in the news all the stories of contaminated sprouts I never felt safe eating them. I’ll have to take a closer look at growing my own.
    .-= Chris @ Earth Friendly Goodies´s last blog ..Vita-Myr: A Natural Gum Disease Treatment and Bad Breath Banisher =-.

  • Great post, I just learned what the heck “micro-greens” were the other day. I’ll give this a try. (Some day)

  • Easy stuff, totally agree. the £ people can save and stuff you can learn from doing simple things is totally amazing! I too think this would be a nice little project for the kids and maybe even get them interested in eating veg!

  • I totally forgot about sprouts. I remember putting them on my salad when I hit the salad bar when I’m dining out. I usually put a good number of ingredients in my salad. Thank you for such an informative article.

  • Eliza

    Im glad i found this web page, It helps in our lifes. Thank You.

  • Pingback: Sprouts and Sandwiches « The Candida Diaries

  • I eat sprouts a lot because they are so delicious. However, I do not realize that these foods have so many nutrients in them, such as amino acids, simple sugars and digestive enzymes. Your idea for starting sprouting is really encouraging. I ever think to start sprouting, but I decide to postpone it because I spend most of my time working. Perhaps, when I get retired, I can grow sprouts at my home as a hobby. Like you said that it only needs small investment and takes very little time to grow sprouts. I may even sell them locally and make very good money.

  • Amber

    I’ve been trying to eat better for cheaper organically, and this is definitely a small but significant step! I love it! Got anymore?

  • joseph the wise

    Great idea! I have always loved sprouts but never realized it was that easy to grow my own! Thank you!

  • The Cow Tipper

    Where do you get the seeds to do the sprouting? From a whole food store?

    • Derek Markham

      We get ours from our local natural foods cooperative, but any natural foods store will have them. If you get serious about it, you can get better deals on large quantities of seeds online (or special order them from your local store).

  • Every time I sprout seeds, the seed sticks to the bulb, and I have to pick it off, which takes too much time. I do every thing else right, but there’s nothing about this

    • Derek Markham

      You can put the sprouts in a bowl and rinse well with water to get the seed hulls off.

  • Well, I tried that, but they stick.


  • thank u for sharing home grown sprouts with us. i am very interested in growing my own home remedies, i wish i could grow poppy here. i believe it is a medicinal herb that can help with pain ailments. im tired of prescriptive pain medz for my pain symptoms of 17years due to a job related accident. im very into learning home grown remedies. too much law, politics today, makes me want to go back to my great grandparents time and make my own ailment herbs and natural grow vegetation, hunt and fish. its the people who abuse the healing herbs, prescriptive medications that make it hard for those who just want to grow natural herbs and remedies not to mention natural consumptive foods to sustain a healthy life. again, thank you and aloha from the big island of hawaii… kealia, kona


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