One of my New Year's resolutions was to learn how to grow sprouts. I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to do it. It seemed like it would be so difficult. But to my surprise, it wasn't. In fact, it was EASY! I couldn't believe how easy it was! I have had great success with simple organic alfalfa seeds! And I have enjoyed eating the "fruits of my labors" on all sorts of things: salads, sandwiches, tacos, and even all by themselves! They are a perfect raw food, full of life and high nutrition. And they taste so refreshing! Plus, it's far more economical to grow your own than to purchase them at the market! I hope maybe you'll be inspired by my small measure of achievement and give sprouting a try yourself! I'll share with you all the tips I used to make my little dream a reality. Don't be scared! I can sprout and so can you! Let's get started!
My instructions are taken from a photocopy of excerpts from the booklet, "Sprouting For Health in the New Millennium" by Handy Pantry Distributors. Feel free to follow the links for more information or to order products and seeds. For clarity, I will put any personal thoughts into parentheses. And of course, all the photos are my own.
Good sprouting technique doesn't take a "green thumb", just paying attention to four factors: the right amount of moisture, the correct temperature, the free circulation of air, and minimal light. By rinsing them a couple of times daily, you keep them moist. You also wash away carbon dioxide and other metabolic wastes that could cause souring or spoiling. Using cool water when rinsing ventilates and cools the sprouts to prevent overheating. Proper draining prevents excessive moisture that can cause mold and rot. The ideal sprouting temperature depends on the seed, but generally lies between 70 and 85 degrees. To protect the tiny growing things, keep sprouting containers away from cold drafts, direct heat, or any light. For free air circulation, at least one-third of the container must be empty. Sprouts expand 6 to 10 times over a few days, so give them plenty of room to grow. Sprouts are very light sensitive and need to be covered during the early stages of the growing cycle. (Distilled water is the best choice for all soaking and rinsing. Use it if you can. The entire cycle will probably take five or six days, from soak to harvest.)
For a quart-sized (glass canning) jar, start with 1 1/2 tablespoons seeds inside the jar, screw on the fine mesh lid (or just an old nylon stocking and rubber band. Even having no cover can work! More on that later...) and partially fill the jar with warm water, not hot. Swirl it around to clean the seeds, then pour out. Refill with warm water to cover at about 3 times their depth and let soak overnight, away from light. (I put my jar in the pantry.)
Step Two: Draining and Starting
Pour off the soak water. Find a location that is not exposed to direct sunlight. Place drained jar propped at an angle (about 45 degrees) to allow any extra water to drain out. (The mouth of the jar should face down.) Turn the jar to spread out the seeds. (The seeds will stick to the jar when they are wet.) Cover the jar with a dishtowel and leave for 3 to 4 hours. (I often use the dishdrainer on my countertop to prop the jar at the recommend angle, or else a small rolled up towel under the jar's bottom end. Sometimes I put another washcloth under the lip of the jar to catch the excess moisture that drips out. Don't forget to cover.)
Step Three: Rinsing
Rinse sprouts with cool, fresh water 2 or 3 times each day until they are ready to eat or refrigerate. (I thought this step would keep me babysitting my sprouts all day long; a very annoying proposition. Then I realized I usually eat something with about the same frequency. Now I just make sure that before I sit down to any meal, I first water my sprouts! Easy peasy!) When they begin to throw off the seed hulls, let the jar over flow with water and the hulls will float out the top through the screen. Turn the jar to spread out the seeds each time you rinse. (Here's a cool tip: You don't really need a cover for your jar and this is why. Just fill a clean spray bottle with distilled water and give your sprouts a bunch of gentle squirts, instead of dousing them from the faucet and then having to drain off all that excess water without losing your seedlings down the drain. You won't need the mesh cover at all, as long as you have a spray bottle on hand. Also, keep your sprayer in the fridge and you'll always have cool water ready for rinsing!)
Step Four: Harvesting
Pour the sprouts into a pan or sink of clean water. Skim off any remaining hulls that float to the surface. Other hulls will fall to the bottom of the container. (All hulls are discarded.) Pull out the sprouts, gently shake off excess moisture and drain in a colander. (Rinse the sprouts very well; spend a few minutes doing it. They will last longer if you do.)
Step Five: Greening
Clean the jar and lid. Place sprouts for greening back into the jar. Place in indirect sunlight. Near a kitchen window is fine. After the sprouts have greened with chlorophyll and carotene's for a day or so, rinse, drain, and eat or refrigerate.
Step Six: Refrigerating
Sprouts will stay fresh and hearty for a week or more when refrigerated, if you rinse them every day or two. You can even give the green sprouts an extra hour of sunlight after rinsing to keep them at their nutritional peak. Caution: Since sprouts are frost sensitive, don't place sprouts near the freezer compartment.
Congratulations! Now enjoy your living harvest!