Growing sprouts can be an easy and wonderful way to supplement one’s diet with a fresh supply of vitamins and minerals. A large variety of plants can be grown and eaten as sprouts, taking an average of about one week to grow.
In the following material, there is a run down of the basics that are needed so that any home, study or office, which has some degree of natural or artificial light, can begin producing increasing quantities of delicious fresh food. There are two basic steps that are discussed here: picking seeds and the container that sprouts will be grown in. After that, all you need to do is to soak the seeds, regularly change the water, keep them lit while out of excess direct sun light, and to enjoy the potent flavors of these living additions to your meals.
To have success growing anything from seed, it is helpful to ensure that the seeds are well taken care of so as to extend their viability. Seeds that were found stored away in the pyramids even after thousands of years were still able to grow. This points to the ideal conditions for storing seeds as being cool and dry, out of the sunlight and if possible out of plastic.
The varieties of food seeds that are being grown for sprout consumption is always increasing and experiments with new varieties can often be exciting. Where nearly any seed can be used for sprouting, seed suppliers are increasingly offering specific lines of ‘sprouting seeds’. These seeds typically have a slightly higher cost than the seeds’ counterparts. This is due to the sprouting seeds’ higher germination rates. In the process of cleaning and sorting the seeds, density is evaluated. The seeds that have a higher density often do not germinate and are discarded. Money and all resources are factors that should be carefully considered, but please be advised that when seeds do not germinate they sometimes remain hard and biting down on one of these seeds can be like biting down on a little rock.
Looking at the average days needed by a seed variety to reach maturity can be useful if you are planning to grow multiple variety seeds together. This way the plants can be harvested together. Also, by inter-cropping different seeds, some weaker varieties can be more supported when growing next to more substantial varieties.
Average days to maturity:
8 - 12 Days
Fenugreek 8 days
Sunflower 10 days
Buckwheat 10 days
Red Pea 11 days
Wheatgrass 12 days
12 - 14 Days
Garlic 14 days
Chia 14 days
Psyllium 14 days
5 - 6 Days
Radish 5 days
Cabbage 5 days
Turnip 5 days
Mustard 5 Days
Clover 6 days
Alfalfa 7 days
Kale 7 days
There are many good, inexpensive sprouting trays that are available for sale online. A good system will have enough height so that growing sprouts are able to expand in size. Also there should be a drain hole around the bottom of the container so that water does not sit and lead to the growth of molds. Additionally, systems that stack are nice because you can grow more sprouts without taking up too much counter space. It is not necessary to have translucent containers, as bamboo trays work. However, if you stack containers, having translucent walls allows light through and enables all the sprouts to photosynthesize evenly when they are within the enclosed container.
It is good to keep the sprouts in an environment that is around 75 degrees and well lit; however, it is usually best to keep the sprouts out of direct sunlight. Sprouts can cook quickly when in direct sunlight and be unable to recover from this stress. Where light is important for the plant’s development, the seeds are unable to utilize light for the first 3 or 4 days of their life. So for the first few days, the sprout container can be covered to prevent light from entering.
Once you have the seeds that you will be sprouting and the container the seeds will be sprouted in, the first step in growing your little plants is in prepping the seeds. This is as simple as soaking the seeds. If the seeds are small, they only need to be soaked for around 8 hours, but if they are larger like sunflower seeds, they would do well to soak for about a day. However, when soaking the seeds, if they will be in the water for more they 12 hours, the water should be changed so as to avoid fermentation. After the seeds have been soaked, give them a quick rinse and place them into the sprouting container. In the container there should be enough seeds to fill about the entire bottom of the container, but try to avoid having so many seeds that they are piled too high. As the seeds sprout they grow in size. If there are not enough seeds, some of the more delicate sprouts may topple over; but if there are too many, they can become suffocated and begin to rot. There are many sizes of containers and seeds; therefore, it can be helpful prior to soaking the seeds to pour some of the dry seeds into the container to see how many you will need.
It is important to care for the germinating seeds and young sprouts as they grow. These tender little plants can dry out quickly if their tops or their exposed roots are not protected from the wind and dry air. To help guard against this, it is important to understand how to properly set up the equipment you are using and the location you have chosen, so that the process will be easy for you and compatible for the sprouts. Additionally, when you cover the sprouts to protect them from the drying effects of the air, the covering will likely increase the container’s temperature. So, it is important to make sure that the sprouts do not over heat. If there is a concern that the inner temperature may get too hot, which can easily happen in the summer, the covering can be left slightly ajar so that excess heat is allowed to escape.
The sprouts should be kept moist without causing them to sit in pools of water for extended periods of time. It is favorable to rinse the sprouts twice daily with cool water allowing for no more than 12 hours between rinsing. If your sink has a faucet spray hose, this can be very helpful. The sprayer allows for the sprouts to be washed with enough pressure to disrupt any undesired fungal growth and dislodge any loose seed hulls. At this time, if the seed hulls are knocked loose, they can be poured off of the sprouting container with the excess water, while ensuring that the sprouts are held in place by either the container or your hand. It can be useful to remove the discarded hulls because they provide no nutritional benefit except as a fiber source in some cases; but as they remain disconnected from the growing plant and are moist, then they have an increased chance of rotting and spoiling the rest of the growing plants. If white fuzz, or mold, develops, this is typically harmless and can usually be rinsed off with a little extra washing. If, however, there are dark, slimy, or stinky areas in or among the sprouts, this is not a good sign. Remove everything in the area of the effected sprouts, as the conditions required for the sprouts to grow can also support the quick growth of undesirable molds. These need to be removed before they become established.
If discolored areas develop in the sprouting container, or there is some undesired growth in the container, it can be a good time to more thoroughly clean the sprouting container. After growing each cycle of sprouts, the container should always be cleaned well. Usually, hot water and a soft clean kitchen brush are sufficient. If conditions require more stringent sterilization, fill the container with one of the following, depending upon the container’s material and your preference; boiling water or a diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide. Soak the container for at least five minutes and then clean it in the typical manner. At this or any time you clean the container, it is best to dry it by placing it in direct sunlight.
Harvesting times will vary for different plants as well as differences in temperature and season, but it typically begins when about 90% of the seed hulls have fallen away and the growth of the plant’s true leaves have appeared. It is good to observe the color of the plant prior to harvesting, as its color has some reflection on the nutritional health of what you will be eating. The sprouts should be a nice healthy green color indicating they have been manufacturing chlorophyll. If the little plants are growing yellow, it can often be sign that there is a lack of light. By exposing them to a bright, indirect light, they will typically turn green quite quickly and be ready to harvest. The sprouts can be consumed prematurely, as the seeds themselves are edible and nutritious. However, by allowing the germination process to come to completion, the sprouts begin to mature, thus increasing the yield from every seed. Simply put, when you wait until the sprouts are ready, you will get more nutrients. Additionally, by growing your own sprouts, you make all these nutrients available at your home without the additional energy cost to transport the food from the farm or nursery.
Sprouts are nutrient dense, and their inner growth results in increased available benefit while neutralizing some potential unwanted factors that may exist in the seeds alone. For many plants, it is found that they reach their maximum nutrient density between 5-10 days. Therefore eating sprouts enables one to consume the plant at the most nutritious point of its growth. It has been observed that the protein, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes multiply from 300 to 1200 percent. Additionally, by sprouting, you decrease certain acids that reduce the absorption of nutrients and interfere with digestion. During the process of sprouting, soaking and pouring off the water helps to flush out phytic and oxalic acids. When present, these acids can bind up minerals such as zinc, chromium and manganese, rendering them unavailable. To our benefit amino acids increase during germination and peak between the 5th and the 9th day depending on the variety. We gain the needed hydrogen bonds through the natural chelation process that occurs during sprouting, resulting in greater availability of minerals and trace minerals for easier absorption by the body.
Sunflower: the largest of the sprouts. It is 4% protein, and is a good source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, copper, potassium, iodine, magnesium, niacin, and 92 USP units of vitamin D.
Alfalfa: “alfalfa” means ‘the father of all foods’ in Arabic, and it is one of the richest sources for chlorophyll and magnesium; contains 8000 IU of vitamin A, 20,000 IU of vitamin K (per 100 g.), as well as other trace minerals, vitamin B-complex, and up to a 40% protein content. Due to its high content of vitamins, minerals, and protein, it has historically been considered a ‘tonic’. (Wrap text around EG-HA Sprouts DSC_0021.JPG found in Drop Box)
Buckwheat: rich in B-vitamin factors, like choline and inositol.
Garlic and Onion: a good source of chlorophyll. The chlorophyll works to neutralize the associated odors making the sprouts an excellent way to consume these odorous plants.
Clover: a good source of vitamins, minerals, volatile oils, and amino acids. Its form of calcium and magnesium allows the body to absorb these nutrients easily and works to relax the nervous system and settle the stomach.
Fenugreek: rich in minerals including iron, sulfur, and vitamin E. It has a chemical composition that resembles that of cod-liver oil and is traditionally said to feed the blood.
Broccoli and Cabbage: a rich source of fiber and a good source of minerals, as there are 253mg. of potassium, 1710mg. of sulfur, 47mg. vitamin C, and 200 IU of vitamin A and E (per 100g.).
Special Considerations/Problem Solving
While sprouted beans are nutritious to eat, there may be some concern regarding the digestibility of the beans. The longer the beans sprout the easier they will be to digest; but if there is any uncertainty, it is always good to quickly steam or lightly cook the bean sprouts prior to eating. This may also be a good idea if you eat a large or regular quantity of these types of sprouts. A similar recommendation is offered for sprouted grains. These too may be eaten raw, but as grains are usually eaten cooked, it would be better to serve sprouted grains after cooking moderately.