Growing sprouts is a pretty simple process! All you need is seeds, a jar, and a screen. In as little as 5 days you will have fresh sprouts!
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Growing sprouts is something we have done on and off for many years. It’s usually a project we tackle in the winter. Sprouts are a great supplement of fresh produce in the dark wintertime when there is not much coming from the garden. They also help me as a gardener to have a little something to be growing in the wintertime!
Growing sprouts is also a great thing to do consistently as they offer a real nutritional punch! Sprouts are very low in calories and fat but are pack with a lot of nutrition. They are high in both Vitamin K and C and also have good levels of folate, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin, zinc, iron, thiamine, and Vitamin A.
An added benefit of growing sprouts at home is food safety. Because sprouts require a warm moist environment to grow and are usually eaten raw or only lightly cooked they are breeding grounds for food-borne illnesses. There have been close to 30 outbreaks of E. Coli or salmonella in the US since 1996 tied to commercially grown sprouts. Growing them at home in a clean environment greatly reduces your risks!
Supplies for Growing Sprouts at Home
In this tutorial, I am going to use Alfalfa Sprouts, but what you learn today will apply to any leafy green sprout.
You really only need 3 things:
A clear canning jar with a screw-on lid is the best option. Other jars will work well too, but canning jars seem to be the most convenient. Start out each growing session with a clean jar, preferably washed in a dishwasher and then sterilized with boiling water.
When we first started out growing alfalfa sprouts we just used a piece of cheesecloth screwed in under the band of the mason jar, or even just attached to the jar with a rubber band. But then we discovered these fantastic sprouting lids. They are so much more convenient and are much easier to use! The screen just screws on to a wide mouth mason jar and works perfectly!
Growing Sprouts – The Seeds
When choosing seeds for growing sprouts be sure to buy seeds that are specifically meant for sprouting. Don’t use seeds meant for farm or garden growing as they could be treated with chemicals and fungicides. Choosing an organic option will also help you avoid GMO seeds. You should be able to find sprouting seeds at most health food stores, or if you are lucky like us and have several different “progressive” grocery stores in your area, they may carry them in their bulk food section. If you store your seeds in your fridge and they will last for over a year. If you have room to store them in your freezer they will last even longer.
6 Steps for Growing Sprouts
Clean the Seeds
The first step in growing sprouts is to clean your seeds. Measure 2 tablespoons of seeds and put them in a bowl. Check for any foreign debris like sticks, twigs, or rocks. This type of debris is usually what causes foodborne diseases. Once you have removed this, rinse the seeds, let them sit for a few minutes, and then drain.
Add the Seeds to Your Clean Jar and Soak
Next, transfer the seeds to your clean (sterilized) mason jar and fill the jar about 1/3 full with water. There is some discussion out there about what type of water you should use. Many experts recommend using filtered or even distilled water. The thinking behind that is that chlorinated water (city water) may inhibit sprouting. However, I have never used anything but tap water when growing sprouts and we have done dozens of successful batches over the years and never had a problem.
Let the seeds soak for 12 hours in the jar (overnight). Once they have soaked for 12 hours drain the water off through the screen. Try to get as much water out of the jar as possible. Then give the jar a good shake to spread the seeds around.
Rinse and Drain for 3 Days
Now for the next 2 or 3 days, you want to add water to the jar to rinse the seeds every 8 to 12 hours (2 or 3 times a day). Once you have rinsed the seeds try hard to get all the excess water out and then give the jar a shake. It is okay if the seeds are sticking all over the sides of the jar. In fact, you want to avoid a big clump of seeds in the jar, get them to spread out as much as you can.
For the first 3 days store the jar in a dark corner of your kitchen away from both direct and indirect sunlight. Store the jar on its side or even slightly elevated towards the lid so any excess water drains off.
You should start to see the seeds sprouting in around 24 hours (depending on how warm it is). After about 3 days the sprouts should be growing nicely and (again depending on how warm it is) you should start to see green leaves emerge on the sprouts.
Don’t forget to rinse and drain the seeds at least 2 times per day during this time.
Move Your Jar into Indirect Light
Once most of the sprouts have green leaves on them, the next step in growing sprouts is to move the jar to a spot with INDIRECT sunlight. Look for a spot close to a window, but out of direct sun. Indirect sunlight on days 4 and 5 will really start to “green up” your sprouts. Exposure to direct sunlight will cause the sprouts to grow too large and possibly be bitter. So keep the jar out of the sun, but close to it.
During this time you continue to rinse and drain the seeds twice a day, taking care to drain out as much water as possible.
De-husk the Growing Sprouts and Do a Final Rinse
On roughly day 6 your alfalfa sprouts should be just about done. De-husking the sprouts is a step that isn’t 100% necessary, but instead is more to make the sprouts more “visually pleasing”. We often skip this step.
To de-husk you simply remove the growing alfalfa sprouts from their jar and submerge them in a bowl of water. Carefully separate the sprouts and loosen up the large clumps. Then swish the sprouts around in the water. Most of the “husks” from the seeds should float to the top of the water and any unsprouted seeds will sink to the bottom. Simply skim off the husks using a spoon (or even your jar screen).
Then carefully remove the sprouts from the water and return them to their jar. Rinse and drain one more time and allow them to sit in indirect light for another 12 or so hours. This will give the growing sprouts a little more time for a final bit of growth. You also want the sprouts to dry out well. You have to be careful here, you don’t want them to dry completely, but dry sprouts will store a lot longer.
Remove from the Jar and Enjoy!
Once your sprouts are done remove them from the jar and enjoy! We love to add sprouts to salads, sandwiches, and even as a topping on many vegetable-based dishes! They have a great crunch and a nice “zingy” flavor!
If you are not going to use all of your sprouts right away they can be stored in a plastic bag or some type of sealable container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. But we have found they are the best quality if you eat them in 3 or 4 days.
Well, there you have it! That’s how to grow sprouts at home in 6 easy steps. Keep in mind that the 6-day time frame is not set in stone. Sprouts can be ready in as little as 5 days in warmer weather, so keep a close eye on them.
I’d love to hear about your success at growing sprouts. Please leave me some comments below on how it went and also leave us your ideas on how you use your alfalfa sprouts!