Introduction: Easy Sprouting for Healthy Eating and Fun!

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One of the healthiest ways you can improve your diet, get healthier, and ensure that you're getting good nutrition is by sprouting. Growing sprouts is easy, fast, and the results are an extremely healthy addition to your diet. In fact, it's possible to replace not just the veggies in your diet with sprouts, but much of the rest of your diet too.

In our house, we eat sprouts on or instead of salad, on sandwiches, and as a snack. Pure alfalfa sprouts are just one of the many types of sproutables you can grow quickly and easily. In this illustration, you'll see a 3-part variety type of sprouts, regular alfalfa sprouts, and lentil beans.

These are just the beginning, though. There are literally hundreds of varieties of sprouts you can grow. Asian Mung is a good example, being a heavy, rich, and potent sprout with a lot of protein and vitamins.

Step 1: Getting the Sprouts & Storing Them

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I get my sprouts from an organic store that sells them by the 1/4 pound, full pound, gallon, or five gallon. There are many outlets which sell five gallon buckets with separators keeping three to five separate types of sprout seeds in the bucket.

The seeds are important and need to be cared for to do well in storage. Totally open-air is no good, as the moisture could trigger sprouting, but fully sealed off will kill the seeds. I keep mine in canning jars with unsealed lids, loosely closed. Used canning lids work great with this. Inside the jars in the photos here, you'll see the labels from the original packaging so I can track what's in which jar.

In this illustration, you're seeing my own growing kit which has stack-able trays and drain pans. This is a good setup for those who grow a lot of sprouts (we're using about 3 pounds per week), but plenty of others are available too. The cheapest is to take a bowl or other container capable of holding water, loosely stretch some cheese cloth over it and rubber-band or tie it in place. Then rinse through the cloth into the container and allow the sprouts to grow.

A Chia Pet works too, of course.

Step 2: Sowing the Seeds of Sprout Love

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Here you can see how I've arrayed the trays out with the bottles above them. At left is the 3-part salad mix (alfalfa, radish, and broccoli seeds), center is alfalfa, and at right are lentil beans. All are organic, of course.

The seeds are spread into the growing tray, into a jar (if using the sieve-lid type grower), etc. Each type has its own recommended measurement, but none are really precise. I use about two tablespoons per tray here, which produces just under a pound of sprouts or 6-8 ounces of lentils.

Step 3: Initial Soaking of the Seeds

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Then comes the soaking. Most sprouts need to soak in clean water for about six hours or so. I do anywhere from six to eight, generally overnight (set it up before bed, wake up and rinse/drain) to make it easy. These trays have built-in drains, making this easy.

So you immerse them in water, as shown, and cover them to keep out of the light. Another great thing about sprouts is that they really only need sunlight for about 8 hours or so to fully develop--at the end of their cycle--before you can eat them. Most of their growing is done in the dark, so you don't need a dedicated window or porch for them.

Step 4: Rinsing, Sunlight, Eating!

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After the immersion, you'll begin to see little sprouts popping up within a few hours of the first rinse. You should rinse (and drain) your sprouts 2 or 3 times per day. They should never be left in water after the initial soaking, as the roots need to breathe. The tea from the initial soak will be greenish-brown and is awesome fertilizer for your garden or flower bed.

Alfalfa takes about four days to mature and be ready to harvest. The lentils are usually ready in about that time as well. The 3-part salad mix takes about six days, with at least two full days of sunlight for best results. The lentils need the least amount of light of the three shown here.

So there you have it. A (more or less) complete do-it-yourself walkthrough of sprouting. Lentils make great salad toppers, to ad a little crunch, and alfalfa and garden mixes are awesome alone, on salad, on sandwiches, etc. Enjoy!

Comments

san_how (author)2009-06-27

thanks, now I know why I've only been successful with alfalfa. I left out the initial soaking. Apparently alfalfa are small enough. I tried chia seeds, but ended up with a gummy non-growing clump. I bought the seeds for fiber, rather than specifically for growing. Could they have been dead?

Aaronicus (author)san_how2009-06-28

Ya, that first 6-8 hours of soak is usually what penetrates the seed pod and activates the seed's growing process. Alfalfa is thin enough that it might begin sprouting without the soak, but your yield will be much higher if you do soak. Chia seeds are not guaranteed for a reason. I don't think anyone who's owned a Chia has ever had better than a 70% sprout success. The seal on the bag they come in is absolute, so Chia seeds often die before being purchased.

XxZombiexX (author)Aaronicus2010-04-06

Also I recently learned from a co-worker that the Chia "gummy non-growing clump" is becoming a trend to use in dieting so you are in effect only eating half the food consumed.  (eg, adding a quarter chia gel to cake mix, thereby decreasing total "caloric mass")

myqute (author)2009-07-22

Woot! Very helpful! You can find more stuff on Aaron's blog!

Aaronicus (author)myqute2009-07-22

Thanks. :) http://www.aaronsenvironmental.com and for myqute's site: http://www.myqute.com :)

myqute (author)2009-07-22

Good clear pics.

TeachNdahood (author)2009-07-02

Wow this is fantastic , I've been eating alfalfa sprouts like crazy here lately can't get enough of them, neither can my toddler. Thank you so much for the walkthrough I didn't realize you could grow your own will save me in the long run. Thanks again!

Aaronicus (author)TeachNdahood2009-07-02

You're very welcome. Ya, I did an informal price check at the store. This growing kit was $25 and the seeds are about $6/pound (a pound goes a LONG way).

Given the price of sprouts at the store (organic), at our rate of growth and consumption, we recouped the cost of the whole setup in less than a month.

Currently, our sprouting is on the decline (doing more lentils and now trying onions, foregoing alfalfa and the salad mix) because our early spinach and young lettuce are at clipping size in our garden. :)

I'm slowly but surely doing an organic gardening how-to on my website at http://www.AaronsEnvironMental.com and just published my adventures building a raised bed garden box today.

Thanks again for the comment and let me know if you have any questions!

thepelton (author)2009-06-26

One other thing, collecting the seeds for later sprouting would make a lot smaller impact on the wild environment than just harvesting the wild plants before they went to seed.

Aaronicus (author)thepelton2009-06-26

Awesome ideas! Thanks! I was looking at a green onion organic variety from Burpee that we're already growing in our bucket garden to sprout. I live in Wyoming on the Nebraska And Colorado borders, so it's pretty barren here. Hard to find wild edibles here, but I know there are some there somewhere. :)

thepelton (author)2009-06-25

I had been thinking of something like this, but you beat me to it. I found that lentils can be sprouted from the bags at the grocery store, providing that the seed coat is still intact. Just be sure and eat them before the roots start to branch, because then they get woody. Radish seeds would be good in a sandwich where you might use yellow mustard, like meatloaf or ham.

Aaronicus (author)thepelton2009-06-25

Thanks for the compliment! :) This was originally a post on my blog at aaronsenvironmental.com. I've recently stumbled on some new varieties of seed I plan to try. Onions are one that I'd never even hard of. I stay away from the lentils in the store as my first few tries with those were hit-and-miss with the sprouting. They're not much more expensive to buy as organic in unsealed bags (so the seeds can "breathe") or open. The store I get them from has them arrive in burlap (that they send back to the farm) and you buy them by the pound, scooping from the bucket. Someone recently introduced me to vermicomposting, so I plan to try that and maybe make an instructable for indoor composting with worms. I haven't looked to see if there are any here yet, but if you know anything about it, you can certainly beat me to it. I know next to nothing on it. lol

thepelton (author)Aaronicus2009-06-26

Wild onions can be distinguished from the poisonous camas by the flower heads. In the onion, they are ball shaped, with each little flowerlet turning into a seed. In the camas, the flowers come up in a spike with flowers all the way down. Check out "Best Tasting Edible Wild Plants of the Rocky Mountains" by Seebeck.

Aaronicus (author)thepelton2009-06-25

One other thing: that three-part salad mix I'm using here includes radish seeds. They are great on sandwiches, but the best part of that mix is the total salad in one shebang. We literally eat them as a straight salad, no lettuce.

ChrysN (author)2009-06-25

I like your growing tray, is the bottom a like a sieve so that the water can drain out? The sprouter that I use is more like a jar that you drain from the top, it works but I find that the sprouts tend to clump together, the roots entwine and I wonder if the ones at the bottom are able to breathe.

Aaronicus (author)ChrysN2009-06-25

Yes, if you look closely you can see in a couple of those pics that the edges around the outside of the trays have tiny sieve holes in them. I used to have the jar-type (a lid) that you're talking about. I gave it to my mom. It's nice for small amounts, but it only handles about a tablespoon of alfalfa at a time. Rather than use that, I'd highly recommend either upgrading to something like what I have here (there are dozens of similar models) or make one using a deep bowl and cheese cloth, as I described in this Instructable. I think it was in Step 2. All you need is a deep bowl, some cheese cloth (enough to cover it, doubled up if you can) and a stout string or a large enough rubber band to go around the bowl and hold the cloth loosely in place. Maybe I just need to do an Instructable on building on of those. lol Anyway, the idea is to have a deep enough bowl/container (a jug would work too) that you don't have to remove the cloth to drain water, but just pour it through when you rinse every day. Hope this at least kind of makes sense. :)

ChrysN (author)Aaronicus2009-06-25

I tried that, thanks!

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Bio: I live in Wyoming and am striving for a sustainable, green lifestyle. I blog on my site at Aaron's EnvironMental Corner, where I talk ... More »
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