How to grow sprouts at home

Hands down, sprouts provide the best nutritional bang for your buck, which is quite important in these difficult economic times. All you need to learn is how to grow sprouts. 

Peak nutrition may be at the front of your mind, looking for ways to boost immunity and strengthen defence – at the lowest cost. Look no further than sprouts.

Anyone can sprout anywhere and at any time of the year with the most basic of equipment: a wide-mouth jar, nylon mesh screening or metal sprouting lid for mason jars, a rubber band, and sprouting seeds – no soil required. How to grow sprouts is easy.

Unlike vegetable gardening outside, sprouting has no seasonal limits. When fresh and local produce is long gone in the cold winter months and the only option for fresh produce is what’s been imported thousands of kilometres, turn to fresh sprouts for the highest source of nutrients. 

What are sprouts

Simply put, sprouts are germinated seeds – the seeds and its root. 

Life lies dormant within seeds until favourable growth conditions, namely water and warmth, are available. Soaking seeds in water activates hormones and enzymes, which unlocks stored energy for germination (sprouting).

Enzymes multiply vitamins and minerals while pre-digesting complex nutrients into simpler easy-to-digest forms: starch to simpler sugars, fats to fatty acids, and protein to amino acids. 

As long as sprouts are rinsed two times a day and drained in-between, the entire sprout (tail and seed) are ready to eat in 2-9 days.

Some sprouts grow tails and small green leaves. Many sprouts such as buckwheat and lentils are ready before these leaves form, while other sprouts such as red clover, alfalfa, kale, broccoli, and radish sprouts are ready when these leaves turn green.

Some seeds and nuts do not sprout. Soaking still turns on the life switch to activate a number of enzymes and hormones that increase the health benefit. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are prime examples.

Growing Sprouts vs. microgreens

Mistakenly, sprouts and microgreens are often lumped into one category as separate from mature plants or baby greens. While sprouts and microgreens are far from mature plants, here are some key differences:

SPROUTSMIRCROGREENS
Grow in a glass jar, no soil requiredGrow in soil or hydroponic mediums such as sawdust, coconut fibre, perlite, or vermiculite
Draw nutrients from within the seed and trace minerals from soaking waterDraw nutrients from within the growing medium and daily waterings
Short growing period, anywhere from 2-9 days, depending on the sprout Long growing period, usually 1-4 weeks.
The entire sprout is harvested – seed and sproutHarvested by cutting at the base of the growth medium, leaving the root system behind.
Harvested when sprout tails are 1/4″ to 1 1/4″ longHarvested when leaves and stems are 1-3″ tall
Do not require sunlightRequire sunlight for growth and, later, photosynthesis 
Are fast-growing, inexpensive, and compact with a crunchy textureAre visually appealing with nutritional benefits; take longer to grow; higher initial costs, especially when using growth mats instead of soil
Pea sprout underground; cross-section of dirt, showing growth of pea shoot into a sprout, then into a micro green

Benefits of growing sprouts at home 

Inexpensive

As sprout pioneer and author of The Sprouting Book, Ann Wilgmore, writes “Pound for pound sprouts are perhaps the most nutritious food there is per dollar value” (2). Seed costs are minimal, especially when bought in bulk quantities, and weigh next to nothing, yet increase in volume many fold. 

Two tablespoons (20 grams) of broccoli seeds grown in a wide-mouth quart jar will yield around 3 cups of broccoli sprouts in 5-6 days. 

At $39.49 per 1 kg bag from Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (www.sprouting.com), 20 grams of broccoli seeds work out to $0.79. This corresponds to roughly $0.13 for every ½ cup serving and a hefty dose of antioxidant nutrients (vitamin A and C) and plant compounds that protect against cancer. 

Eliminate chemical treatments 

Conventional, nonorganic sprouting companies treat their sprouts with a bleach solution before packaging to improve food safety to the customer. 

Growing sprouts at home puts you in control of whether chemical touch what you consume. 

It’s no secret that sprouts provide the perfect growing conditions for bad microbes: moisture, warmth, and nutrients. Store-bought sprouts are behind many cases of foodborne illnesses from Salmonella or E.coli.

Homegrown organic sprouts grown from sprouting seeds don’t carry the same risk.

Adequate drainage, air circulation, and rinsing paired with proper hygiene and storage of sprouts (outlined later in the article), there is little to worry about and no need to add toxic chemicals to what you are putting into your body.

Sprouts nutrition

Much has been published on nutritional benefits linked to eating sprouts (refer to International Sprout Growers Association or the International Specialty Supply for access to an extensive library articles on nutrition and health benefits in sprouts). Some to highlight are:

  • Liberated minerals Soaking and sprouting (germinating) beans, grains, nuts, and seeds significantly decreases anti-nutrient compounds such as phytic acid in food. Phytic acid binds minerals, which restricts absorption in intestine. Sprouted foods have minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium in absorbable forms compared to non-sprouted food.  
  • Peak vitamins: Until the moment you eat fresh, raw sprouts, nutritional value is ever increasing. Mature vegetables, on the other hand, begin decreasing in nutritional value after being cut. Many sprouted foods become rich sources of Vitamin A, C, E, K, and B vitamins; whereas, their unsprouted form have too little to measure.
  • Live enzymes aid digestion: Sprouting greatly activates enzymes, which make food easier to digest. Enzymes turn complex nutrients turn to simpler forms. 
  • Protein power: Enzymes convert proteins into amino acids, building blocks of the body. Amino acids are an easy-to-digest form, thus, easier to absorb.
  • Antioxidants: Fortunately, sprouts are super high in nutrients with antioxidant properties, including vitamin A (as carotene), E, C, and zinc – higher than in mature vegetable equivalent. Sprouts contain many non-nutrient plant compounds that have antioxidant action too. Vegetable seed sprouts are particularly high in non-nutrient antioxidants.
  • Chlorophyll: Sprouts with green leaves (e.g. alfalfa, cabbage, clover, radish, broccoli) contain chlorophyll. This is a sign of photosynthesis, energy harvesting in plants from the sun. Chlorophyll is skin healing, blood building, detoxifying, and energizing. 

Seeds for growing sprouts

Before you start growing sprouts you need seeds – reputable organic, non-GMO seeds – that are untreated with chemicals, have good germination rates, and are not broken, chipped or otherwise damaged. 

There are many varieties of seeds to sprout:

  • Vegetable seeds: broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, turnip; maximum 2 tablespoons per quart jar
  • Leafy sprouts: alfalfa, red clover; maximum 2 tablespoons per quart jar
  • Beans for sprouting: adzuki, mung, and garbanzo beans, lentils, whole peas (split peas don’t sprout); maximum 1 cup per quart jar
  • Mucilaginous seeds: arugula, basil, chia, cress, flax seeds; maximum 2 tablespoons per quart jar; best grown with other seeds or sprouted on a clay saucers
  • Grains for sprouting: amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kamut, millet, oats (unhulled or hulless), quinoa, rye, and wheat berries; maximum 1 cups per quart jar
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds; sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds; these swell yet do not sprout; maximum 1 cup per quart jar

Nonorganic seeds will also sprout, although these seeds come from plants grown in unbalanced soils, are often heavily fertilized with petrochemicals, and are sprayed with a battery of pesticides. 

Purchasing organic, non-GMO sprouting seeds from a reputable sprouting seed company is well worth it.

8 small jars filled with various types of seed sprouts

Where to buy sprouting seeds

Companies that sell seeds specifically for sprouting test their seeds for germination and have the highest standards for harvest, storage, and transport to ensure food safety and superior sprouts. 

For people in Canada, consider purchasing organic, non-GMO sprouting seeds from Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, a Saskatchewan seed company. Smaller quantities of Mumm’s seeds are often sold at health-food stores or even hardware store such as Peavy Mart

West Coast Seeds, a British Columbia-based seed company, sells sprouting and planting seeds. Online ordering is available from both of these seed companies.

Purchasing seeds in larger quantities (>1 kg bags) is more economical. Consider gathering a group of friends who are interested in sprouting; submit a bulk order for a few varieties; then divide the seeds among the group. Your local organic food buying group, may even purchase sprouting seeds. 

Essentials for growing sprouts

The keys to successful sprouting are keeping seeds/sprouts moist, providing adequate water drainage, and ensuring air circulation. How to grow spouts is easy, keeping these keys in mind. 

Keeping sprouts out of direct sunlight and rinsing 2-3 times per day (more on hot days, less on cooler days) will yield beautiful sprouts.  

There are several types of durable sprouting kits that can make sprouting at home and on the road a little easier and cleaner. It is best to avoid plastic sprouting kits when glass alternatives work just as well. 

At the very least, you’ll need the following items for growing sprouts:

  • 1- or 2-quart wide-mouth Mason jar
  • nylon mesh, cheesecloth, or mesh produce bag
  • a rubber band (aluminum jar rings will rust)
  • fresh water you feel comfortable drinking
  • casserole dish or bowl to catch draining water
  • hydrogen peroxide (optional)

{Looking to upgrade to a long-term sprouting system? Check out my 3-pack sprouting lids available in my shop. They are the most affordable option for improving water drainage, hygiene, and durability.}

How to grow sprouts using the jar method

Below are simple directions for how to grow sprouts in a 1-quart jar:

1. Clean

Clean your sprouting jar, ring, and mesh screen (or cheesecloth) with hot soapy water. A new toothbrush works well to clean the inner plastic ring from prior batches of sprouts. Sterilize the jar, ring, and screen by pouring boiling water over all items. 

2. Remove and Measure

Pour seeds onto a white plate in a single layer. Sort and remove stones or sticks and any seeds that are discolored, decayed, or chipped. For a 1-quart jar, sprout 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of small seeds, 1/4 cup of larger seeds, and a maximum of 1 cup of grains and pulses. 

3. Wash and Soak

Wash seeds by filling the sprouting jar with water (tap water is okay here), and stir with a spoon. Drain, then refill with cool or room-temperature filtered water for the recommended soak time (see seed package). Choose the lower soaking range in warm weather, and the upper range in cooler weather. 

Consider adding powdered kelp, wheatgrass, or an alternative source of minerals to the soak water to boost trace minerals absorb by the seeds. These will be transferred to your sprout.

4. Drain

Invert the jar at 45-degrees to draining water. Prop up the base of your sprouting jar and put into a glass collecting tray such as a casserole dish. Alternatively, angle the jar in a medium-sized bowl, which naturally props up the base. Ensure the jar is away from direct sunlight or in the dark.

5. Rinse and drain

Rinse sprouts 2-3X per day with cool filtered water or tap water (filtered water is mandatory for soaking). Swirl the rinse water in the jar for 30 seconds; drain, and return to the inverted position to continue draining. If the rinse water is cloudy (large beans), stained (fenugreek), or foamy (clover), do a second rinse immediately following the first. 

6. Sun

Expose leafy sprouts (brassica seeds, alfalfa, red clover, etc.) to sunlight near a window or indirect sunlight on the last day of sprouting, if not already growing in near indirect sunlight. This will develop chlorophyll in the leaves. Fenugreek and mung beans stay in the dark

7. Hull and clean

Remove hulls by placing sprouts in a medium glass bowl inside a sink, then cover with water (tap water is fine). Gently agitate sprouts with your hands to loosen hulls from sprouts (hulls from some seeds will not detach). While holding down the sprouts with one hand, dump out water and floating hulls in a quick motion. Repeat a few times. Use filtered water on the last rinse. Not all sprouts shed their hulls

8. Dry and store

Drain excess water in a clean strainer, then spread sprouts in a thin layer on a clean towel or paper towel. Leave in indirect sunlight for 1-2 hours or until dry to touch. Store in a dry air-tight glass food storage container lined with paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Sprouts are best the day of harvesting, but can be refrigerated for 5-7 days and up to 2 weeks for some sprouts.https://youtu.be/6JDkNlrWoms

How to use sprouts everyday

  • Add to sandwiches, wraps, pitas in addition to or in place of lettuce (e.g. red clover, alfalfa, radish, broccoli, kale)
  • Blend into smoothies and vegetable juices (e.g. green pea shoots, cabbage, mung bean, lentil, broccoli, kale)
  • Make bean dips from sprouted beans (e.g. chickpeas or white beans)
  • Puree spicy sprouts into hummus for a real kick (e.g. lentil, radish)
  • Add to grilled cheese sandwiches (e.g. alfalfa, clover)
  • Eat fresh on salads (e.g. salad mixed sprouts, broccoli, clover, kale)
  • Top omelet or scrambled eggs (e.g. broccoli, clover, radish)
  • Combine in rice dishes after cooking or served cold (e.g. fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)
  • Add to sushi (e.g. radish, sunflower, red clover)
  • Sprout or soak whole grains before cooking
  • Sprout grains, dehydrate, then grind into sprouted grain flour
  • AND sprouts are great to bring with you while travelling to boost nutrition

Okay, now you’ve learned how to grow sprouts and use them in meals and snack. Get your sprouting lids in the SHOP today.

References

Wigmore A. The Sprouting Book: How to Grow and Use Sprouts to Maximize Your Health and Vitality. Avery Trade; 1986. 

Growing Lessons: Get Your Green Thumb + Tasty Fresh Sprouts [Internet]. Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds. [cited 2017 Aug 1]. Available from: http://sprouting.com/how_to_sprout.html

Sprouting Basics – Discover how to Sprout Your Own Seeds [Internet]. Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds. [cited 2017 Aug 1]. Available from: http://sprouting.com/sprouting_basics.html

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