Since the weather is starting to cool, it is time to start sprouting again! Sprouting in the summer doesn’t go very well here in Texas because the sprouts grow so fast and there is so much moisture in the air that the sprouts can spoil quickly. Even though the weather has cooled, my most recent sprouts grew pretty quickly and I got to enjoy them sooner than I would during the winter months.
Where do I start? Sprouts are one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat. They are a living food and when you consume them, you are taking living energy into your body. How perfect is that? Sprouts are loaded with fiber, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and protein. When you sprout a seed and eat it, the vitamin content increases up to 20 times. Did you know that cancer thrives in an acidic environment? Sprouts are alkalizing to the body and an alkaline body is a healthy body. Sprouts are also incredibly inexpensive to grow. If you paid $4.00 recently at the grocery store for a small container of sprouts, you will be shocked to learn that you can grow four times that for 50 cents. Yes, it is true. Lastly, growing your own food is so fulfilling. Sprouts grow right on the countertop in any season. Many people wrinkle their noses at sprouts, but when you grow your own with organic seeds, you will finally experience how absolutely delicious they are.
What is a good beginning sprout?
The easiest thing to sprout is alfalfa. It only takes a few days and the taste is mild. I could eat a whole bowl with my special recipe for spirulina dressing. I love broccoli sprouts. This is the all-star sprout and has 30 times the cancer resistant chemical sulforaphane. You only need to eat a small quantity to get the full benefit. (It is quite beautiful, too.) My other favorite is chive sprouts. These pack a ton of flavor and you can put a little nest of them on top of your salad instead of scallions. Other options are beans—garbanzo and mung beans are common beans to sprout. I have tried a bunch of other seeds—mustard, radish, turnip, cabbage. Keep in mind that the sprouts will have a much more intense flavor that the full grown vegetable. I am a hard core veggie lover but I would never be able to eat a whole bowl of radish sprouts—they are incredibly intense. So, if you sprout seeds that are pungent when full grown, use them as a garnish rather than a full nest or base for your salad.
What kind of fancy equipment do I need?
This is the best part. You most likely have everything you need in your kitchen. I use glass quart canning jars. You need a screen for the opening and can use cheese cloth or buy special metal screens. If using cheese cloth, you simply need a rubber band to hold it in place. With the metal screens, you will want plastic rings to hold the screens in place. The reason for plastic is that the metal rings that come with canning jars will rust with the metal screens. In the instructions below, I will assume that you will use what you have on hand, after all, you want to try it to see if you like it.
Where do I get the seeds/beans?
Dried beans can be bought at the grocery store. If you want to start there, pick up some garbanzo or mung. The garbanzo beans can be used to make hummus and mung beans can be used in a stir fry.
My all-time favorite source for other seeds is Sprout People. This is where I really learned how to sprout. They have a huge selection of organic seeds for purchase along with all of the equipment that you need if you want to get serious about this.
Always buy organic!!
How do I get started?
- Select the seed that you want to use. I will use alfalfa in this example.
- Place 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seeds in your quart jar. (Be sure to take in the beauty of the seeds—they are nature’s art. Every time I get a new bag of seeds, I am in awe!)
- Cut a piece of cheesecloth—enough that will fit over the mouth of the jar times 2. Fold the cheesecloth in half and secure it on the jar with a tight rubber band.
- Clean: Pour water through the cheesecloth into the jar, covering the seeds. Swish it around and then turn the jar on an angle and allow the water to pour out. Repeat a few times until you do not see any more residue rinsing off.
- Soak: Fill the jar about half way with water, completely covering the seeds and place out of direct sunlight on the counter. The seeds need to soak for 12 hours.
- Rinse/swish/drain: After 12 hours, pour the water off and then rinse, swish and drain a few times. After the soaking phase, we don’t leave any water in the jar and place the jar on an angle with the mouth facing down so that water can drain out through the cheesecloth and the seeds can get some air to grow. You can put them in your dish drainer or find another way to place them on an angle. (I bought a cleaning product caddy and put my jars at an angle in it).
- Rinse/swish/drain/repeat: Every 12 hours, you will repeat this process. You will start to see the seeds crack open and sprouts will start coming out. Each day, twice a day, rinse, swish and drain. As the sprouts grow, the jar will get crowded. When you add water to rinse, swish the sprouts around to break up the mass. If you need to, you can open the jar and use a knife to break it up.
- De-hull (optional): After about 4-5 days, your alfalfa sprouts will be ready (each seed is different—go to Sprout People for guidance). The outer coating of the seed is called a hull and some people choose to remove as much of it as they can. I skip this step because it is extra work and doesn’t make a difference in the taste. To de-hull, place the sprouts in a bowl and fully cover with water. The hull will float to the top of the water. Use a spoon to scoop the hulls out and dispose of them. The sprouts then go back into the jar and you can move to the next step.
- Drain for 24 hours: When the jar is nice and full of sprouts, I allow it to drain for a full 24 hours with no rinsing.
- Spread/dry for 12 hours: After 24 hours, I pull the sprouts out of the jar and spread them out in a bowl. They will be really compacted together—don’t be afraid to pull them apart—we need to get them as dry as possible before storing. I let them air dry for about 12 hours, out of direct sunlight.
- Store/enjoy: Transfer them to a storage container—this could be a zip lock bag or even back in the jar with the regular lid. They should be fully covered with a lid and stored in the refrigerator and consumed within a few days.
It really is a simple process and the reward is so great. It becomes a routine for me to rinse and drain at breakfast and again at dinner. If you forget to rinse and drain or have a conflict that keeps you away from home for one rinse/drain, it really isn’t a big deal. The sprouts still have water and air circulating and will be fine. Just pick back up where you left off. Please note that some seeds/beans need to sprout in a dark area, like the pantry. Mung beans are one of these because you don’t want the green plant to start to grow. As I mentioned earlier, Sprout People is a wonderful resource for all things sprouting.