Growing sprouts can be a new way to add extra flavor and nutrition to meals. They are quick, simple, and there is a wide choice of different tastes to choose from.
What are sprouts?
Sprouting seeds is the process of germinating seeds to eat them, usually raw. They can be ready in less than a week and are more nutritious than cooked beans and feature a crunchy texture.
The most common examples are alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts, and soybean sprouts. Many people around the globe love sprouts. They are commonly seen in East Asia cuisine.
People use sprouts in sandwiches and salads, and bean sprouts work well in stir-fries.
Benefits of sprouting seeds
There are many reasons to try sprouting seeds at home. Fresh sprouts are easy to grow at home, delicious, and highly nutritious. They can add color, flavor, and extra vitamins to any meal.
Sprouting seeds can also be a great project to get the family involved in. It can be so satisfying that in just a few days you can grow sprouts and have them with a family meal.
So not only are they easy, but you don’t need specialist equipment, and it can be done in a very small space. That is all before you take into consideration the considerable health advantages.
Sprouting grains, like lentils, or legumes, break down the anti-nutritional compounds in them. This makes them much easier to digest and perfect for anyone who has struggled before with these. They also release anti-oxidants.
Sprouts are also rich in vitamins B and C. And contain fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
How to choose your sprouts
Almost any seeds can be sprouted at home, but some are more suitable than others. There are also specific reasons why some should be chosen.
It is always wise to use seeds, lentils, or legumes that are intended to be used as sprouts. Packets that you might buy from a supermarket are intended to be cooked.
There are rigorous safety standards that ones sold to sprout need to pass. There is a risk those intended for cooking will not have met these standards.
Always avoid seeds sold as bird food, or for gardening. These could have been treated with chemicals harmful to humans when digested.
Kidney beans are unsuitable for sprouting and eating raw. They contain a toxin that is destroyed by boiling. It will cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if eaten raw.
Quinoa can also risk illness. It has a high concentration of saponins and can cause an allergic reaction in people.
Some are best avoided just as they are more difficult to sprout. This includes chia seeds and flax seeds. These can be sprouted, but are just trickier options.
Equipment to use
It is not necessary to have specialist equipment to grow your own sprouts at home. You can buy more advanced set-ups. These can have different tiers to allow you to sprout different ones at the same time.
If you are just getting started sprouting seeds, then it is simple to make a homemade sprouter. A glass jar or mason jar can be used with a mesh lid. Most commonly this is a piece of muslin over the top of the jar secured with an elastic band.
What are the most popular sprouting seeds?
There is a wide variety of seeds, grains, and lentils that can be used for sprouting.
The most popular seeds are:
- Sesame seeds
The most popular grains include:
The most popular beans:
- Mung beans
Microgreens vs sprouts
Microgreens are not the same as sprouts. Both microgreens and sprouts are delicious and very nutritious. However, it is good to know that there are distinct differences between the two.
They are grown different, they taste different, and they look different. Microgreens are grown in soil, while sprouts are germinated in water.
Microgreens are also eaten at a later stage of the growing cycle than sprouts. Growing microgreens takes one to three weeks. These are eaten when the first leaves appear. This is compared to a matter of days for sprouts to be ready for eating.
Where to buy seeds for sprouting
As mentioned earlier, it is best to buy seeds that are sold for sprouting purposes. You can buy them from most health food shops.
There are also many online retailers that sell a large range. Many of the shops sell in bulk. And many will have a range of varieties and mixes to discover.
Use organic options, so look for those that are actually certified organic sprouting seeds. This ensures they have not been treated with a fungicide or fumigated. Or look on the packet to make sure it says it is organic or untreated seed.
How-to-guide for sprouts
Growing sprouts at home is simple and can be done in only a few steps. A key part of the process to sprout seeds is to clean and sterilize any equipment.
- Good hygiene is essential.
- Clean your mason jar in hot soapy water to avoid potential issues from contamination.
- Wash your hands well before handling equipment or seeds.
Soak the Seeds
Wash the seeds in fresh water before soaking them. This allows debris to float off them. Any small ones that float off are not really viable, so should be removed too.
Wash the seeds a couple of times with cool water to clean off dust, debris and plant material.
Put the seeds in a jar, or a bowl, and then add 2–3 times the amount of water. Let them soak overnight in a dark place, for around 8–12 hours. This re-hydrates them and gives the germination process a kick-start.
A dry seed is dormant, and soaking it will end that dormancy and start the growing. Cover the vessel with a breathable cloth.
Rinse the Seeds
After soaking, then they need rinsing. Turn the jar upside down to drain off the water from soaking, followed by adding more cool water to rinse the seeds. Leave them moist, but not sitting in water. Ideally, use water at between 15 and 21C and do this rinsing process two or three times a day. Frequent rinsing of growing sprouts helps prevent a build-up of potentially harmful bacteria.
The water provides the moisture to start the sprouting process. It also re-oxygenates the seed and removes waste products. In hotter weather, it may be required to rinse more often. If the seeds do dry out due to heat, soak them briefly and drain well.
Pick the right location
Sprouts can be sprouted year-round indoors. The best conditions will be a spot with a temperature between 20C and 28C.
Although seeds need light to germinate, avoid placing them in direct sunlight. Too high a temperature risks encouraging the growth of bacteria or mold.
Harvest your own sprouts
Different sprouts will be ready at different times, but most should be between three and six days. For example, lentil seeds will take around three days and are ready when you can see a small shoot.
Mung beans could be four to five days. Others, like alfalfa sprouts or radish, will take up to six days. For those, you would wait to see a shoot around 3 cm long.
When the sprouting seed is ready to harvest, they need one final rinse and drain. Then thoroughly remove any excess moisture to ensure they are not stored wet.
Storing sprouted seeds dry in a breathable container ensures the longest life span. If possible, let them sit for 8–12 hours after the final rinse.
You could use a kitchen towel or even add sprouts to a salad spinner to dry them.
Sort them as you wash and dry them, and make sure to throw away any that have not sprouted or show any signs of going moldy.
Sprouted seeds and sprouted grains should last up to five days in a fridge kept between 3 °C and 5 °C or 37.4 to 41 °F (Fahrenheit).
Inspect them regularly for signs of discoloration and throw away any affected ones.
How to store sprouted seeds?
This process is fairly simple. Always remember to store sprouting seeds in a mason covered jar and keep it in the fridge when they are ready.
Now, if your sprouts are thoroughly dry, you may want to place them in a plastic bag and puncture a few tiny holes. Keep it in a dry, preferable dark place.
Important safety guidelines
Sprouting seeds are generally pretty safe, but some safety precautions should be made. Always get certified organic to ensure they haven’t been treated with chemicals.
There is always a risk of bacteria when you grow sprouts. There have been cases reported of salmonella and eColi from sprouts. However, these tend to be from eating ones that have started to rot or have not been stored properly.
Be aware that eating raw sprouts is not recommended to certain groups of people. This includes pregnant women, children, older people, and those with weak immune systems.
These groups are advised to cook the sprouts. Sprouted kidney beans always need to be cooked for 10 minutes before being consumed.
In the other hand alfalfa seeds are incredibly delicious when added to salads, toasts, soups and stir fries. It is also advisable to be consumed fresh, otherwise they lose all the vitamins and crispiness.