I am by no means, a sprouting guru; if that is even a thing. I have very little ambition in this area beyond my seasonal counter top ‘garden’ that consists of a repurposed pot and a shallow sieve. I will say that the extra fresh greens mean I get extra vitamins and minerals into my system over the winter. I can also tell you the basics of growing sprouts, adding that I can only take you as far as I have been willing to take it myself – to my kitchen counter.
Sprouting has exploded over the last 10 years and now, stores stock sprouting seeds that have some how become differentiated from growing seeds…. I don’t know the biological differences between the two but if any staunch sprout nerds want to school me, please be my guest and leave a comment!
What are sprouts? Sprouts are the first green leaves that emerge from the seed after it has germinated. Botanically, they are referred to as the cotyledons. In other words, seedlings. They are packed with energy from the seed that the plant requires to establish itself in the ground. The root hairs develop to gather and absorb of nutrients from the soil into the plant itself as it grows and starts to produce its true leaves, then flowers, then fruits or seeds. These are different from the plant parts itself that we normally eat from the grocery store, as the concentration of nutrients and micro-nutrients in the sprout is considerably higher than that of the crop itself. Which means higher amounts of good stuff for us.
If you’re like me – the frugal/borderline cheap grower that loves organic greens, is curious with limitations, but has an occasional tendency to want it all – welcome to my world and enter the Sprouting Games:
Here’s how I sprout without a kit, soil or growing lights: This method can be applied to any sprouting seed you can either purchase or have on hand. I tried it all ways: jars, cheesecloth, bowls, kits; eventually, it started to feel like a game – where the seeds would deliberately change the rules on a whim… Well, of course I woke up from that self-indulged nightmare! All gardeners know seeds each have a timing of their own.
My mother -in-law gifted me a beautiful green glass casserole with lid years ago, and if I’m not baking with it, I’m sprouting in it. You will need any shallow vessel, and a meshed sieve. A bowl and rounded sieve is just as good as long as there is space between the bottom of the bowl and the sieve for water and roots. The less “leg room” between the two containers, the more potential for mold.
Soak the seeds overnight or from morning to evening. Sprout pack directions say a tsp. or tbsp. I like doing 1-tbsp. So I can cut and come again. Keep reading, it’s coming.
Keep the seeds out of direct sunlight as the UV will cause rancidity. The kitchen is a safe place – just not in the window where the light pours in. UV is not a bad or dangerous thing. Remember that plants need it to grow; but seeds generally germinate under the soil. In the dark. When I started sprouting, I placed a giant bowl in a recessed kitchen bay window. Full sun. I would wash and change the water daily, but you’d have to do the same as I did to understand what rancid beans look and smell like. That was many years ago. Keep out of direct sunlight!
You will drain the water once the seeds have swollen and place them in the sieve. Then you will fill the bowl with water up to the sieve so that it is just making contact with the seeds. The soaking process is done, and now it’s time for the leaves to start growing. The roots will make its way into the water while the leaves start to climb up to reach for light.
Daily, you will change the water. Do not miss a day. Roots both take up nutrients and dispense waste into the soil and water is no different. If you miss a day, you will notice the seeds start to kinda get slimy. At the very beginning stage, you can save them with a diligent and robust rinse but once the shoots start reaching for the sky and depending on what you are sprouting and how full your tray is, you’ll have to start again. Alfalfa gets particularly gross. Rinse the plants daily until it reaches a height you are happy with.
You can start eating sprouts as soon as the radicals appear or as seedlings starting at 1″ roots and all, but I like them a little taller. Remember that we are sprouting for the concentrated nutrients. Once they advance in growth, beyond 2″ the plant is processing light energy and the nutrients from the seed are gone. They still taste good, the concentration of energy is just not best.
Because I over-seeded my sieve, I can pull them out or cut them down at my desired height. This allows the seedlings at the bottom to access the light and start growing. By doing it this way, I have also extended my sprouting time.
November to March is the season of sprouting. Between Amazon, Canadian Tire, Bernardin, and all the local health stores, there is so much product devoted to sprouting. I can’t believe how much all these gadgets cost. Mind you, some of these are designed cleverly to stack with a drain to funnel water through the layers, while others are totally gimmicky. At least some products are made to just screw onto a mason jar so there is space saving and versatility. If these devices ease the burden of trying some thing new, or enhance an obsession this post couldn’t possible fulfill, I don’t judge.
But if you’re like my mom that side-eyes anything novel with a price tag, I commend you on your penchant for invention. As for the seeds, I have always loved sprouting mung beans – yes, those ones from the dry bean section of the grocery store, or seeds I had saved from the previous year. I have bought “sprouting” seeds from Mumm Sprouting Seeds, and quite happy with them. I have also used used crop seeds. I’m sure there is a “rule of thumb” somewhere on what can be sprouted for consumption, but I just stick to the seeds of tender edible greens to keep things blithely simple. Which means I can start whatever seeds I want for next to nothing.)
Again – any sprout nerds want to interject – please don’t hesitate! Of course I welcome a sharing of resources; if you know of any local Ontario or Canadian sprout seed producers, please also leave a comment. Leave a comment if you loved or hated this post!
Thanks for dropping by! We are on the edge of a new growing season and I have a list to give you! I will touch one each grower and their specialty. I will also write about choosing a great landscaper and why cheap is not always best in this regard.
Until the next post… Lindsay.