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Not ready to start a garden just yet? Stuck in a tiny apartment with poor light? Looking for some new and healthy plants to grow indoors? No matter the reason, everyone can grow their own sprouts! These tasty guys are super nutritious and easy to grow pretty much anywhere, and the payoff is fresh, healthy, and delicious.
Tiny Plant, Super Nutrition
Sprouts are essentially baby plants grown from seed. Technically, any seed can be sprouted (i.e. germinated), but not all types would be edible (or tasty). Many plant seeds are edible when sprouted, with some of the most common being radish, broccoli, and alfalfa. It’s even possible to sprout wheat seeds to make sprouted-grain bread or sprout garbanzo beans to make hummus.
Seeds often contain compounds that are not biologically available to our bodies, and sprouting is a way to “wake up” the seed and convert these compounds into useful, healthy food. In fact, sprouts are nutritional powerhouses, chock full of amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Alfalfa and broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to have anticancer properties ((The natural abundance of L-canavanine, an active anticancer agent, in alfalfa, medicago sativa (L.). Rosenthal GA, and Nkomo, P. Pharm Biol, 2000;38(1):1-6.)) ((Bioavailability and inter-conversion of sulforaphane and erucin in human subjects consuming broccoli sprouts or broccoli supplement in a cross-over study design. Clarke, JD, Hsu, A, Riedl, K, et al. Pharmacol Res, 2011 Nov;64(5):456-63. Epub 2011 Jul 26.)).
To sprout seeds, all that's necessary is to create conditions suitable for the seeds to germinate and grow into tiny plants. Sprouting seeds at home is actually quite simple, and requires only three main actions: soaking, draining, and rinsing. Follow the instructions below and you’ll be munching down on sprouts in no time!
How to Grow Your Own Sprouts
Note: The warm, moist conditions used to grow sprouts can increase the risk of Salmonella and E. coli, whether the sprouts are purchased or homegrown. For this reason, it’s important to purchase seeds that have been specifically prepared for sprouting because the seeds will be much cleaner. You can also clean the seeds again at home before following the steps below. People susceptible to foodborne illness, such as children, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems, or those wanting to reduce their risks, may want to avoid eating sprouts.
What You’ll Need
- Sprouting seeds*
- 1 clean, quart-sized, glass jar
- Either a strainer lid for the jar OR cheesecloth and a metal ring or rubber band (to secure the cheesecloth)
- Tin foil, an old sock, or anything that can be used to cover the jar in order to keep light from getting in
*You can find these at many health food stores or online (Sprout People is a great resource for organic, non-GMO seeds). Make sure that they are labeled specifically for sprouting for food.
What to Do
- Put about ¼ cup of seeds in the jar, cover the jar with the strainer lid or cheesecloth, and secure the lid.
- Rinse the seeds by running cold water into the jar through the strainer lid or cheesecloth. Swish the seeds around in the water, then drain the water out through the strainer lid or cheesecloth.
- Soak the seeds by adding cold water to the jar (aim for at least twice as much water as seeds) and letting the jar sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
- Drain the seeds. Then rinse and thoroughly drain them again (using the process described in step 2). From this point on, you will want to keep the seeds out of direct sunlight. Cover the glass of the jar (but not the lid) to keep light from getting in. Store the jar on its side in a place that’s out of direct sunlight and at room temperature, such as in a cupboard or a darker corner of the kitchen.
- Continue to rinse and thoroughly drain the seeds two to four times per day. Don’t stress too much about this—just think of once in the morning and once in the evening as a minimum and anything more than that as a bonus.
- Keep an eye on your seeds, as they will grow quickly and have lots of yummy shoots ready for you in two to seven days. One indication that they're ready is that the outer seed hull (which serves as a shell to protect the seed when it’s dormant) will soften and may come off. Other than that, determining when the sprouts are ready to eat is mostly a matter of personal preference.
- Remove the seeds from the jar, and rinse and drain them for a final time. Sprouts can be stored in a plastic bag or sealed container for up to two weeks.
- Celebrate your awesomeness by eating your sprouts on a yummy salad or sandwich!