For the plant-based kitchen enthusiast, growing sprouts at home can be an exciting activity. Not only are these handy little foods an excellent source of important nutrients, but they are also highly bioavailable meaning the body can easily absorb these nutrients.
Sprouting is also an inexpensive, easy, and nourishing practice that will keep your kitchen well equipped year-round regardless of the season. Growing them barely requires any space and the quick results are phenomenal to enjoy.
But the question is how to grow sprouts safely at home and is it even worth the effort?
Here, I will try to answer these and other questions and explain why sprouting at home is totally worth your time and effort.
What are Sprouts?
First off, if there is any confusion in your mind, let’s start off by explaining what exactly sprouts refer to.
Sprouts are basically the germinated seeds of any vegetable or young plant on its way to full growth. This means you can sprout almost anything from legumes and seeds to nuts.
The different types are usually divided into the following categories:
- Pea and bean sprouts include black beans, mung beans, lentils, and snow peas.
- Popular vegetable sprouts include alfalfa, broccoli, mustard greens, and red clover.
- Nuts and seeds cover popular options like sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds.
- Sprouted grains will cover everything from wheatgrass and buckwheat to quinoa sprouts.
As mentioned earlier, you can sprout pretty much anything you like. Feel free to take your pick from onions and broccoli to mung beans and chickpeas.
At the same time, there are some exceptions, not because they won’t sprout, but because they’re not good for you.
This goes for mucilaginous seeds or the kind that create goo, such as chia or flax seeds. They can become tricky to sprout correctly and may not be worth the effort in the end.
And while you can use any seeds, lentils, or beans for sprouting, those intended for sprouting are probably the best options. This is because seeds sold specifically for sprouting are subject to higher safety standards than others sold from the supermarket.
Why are Sprouts Considered Healthy?
At its most basic, whereas seeds can be tough to digest, sprouts are easier on the digestive system. Sprouting breaks down the anti-nutrients commonly found in these foods and doesn’t cause digestive distress.
Not only that but sprouts are rich in a number of important nutrients. While different types will yield different nutrients, sprouts generally contain high levels of folate, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin K.
In their sprouted form, these seeds bring a bit of variety to your meals such as salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Sprouts also bring that distinct crunch and texture which can help give your everyday regular salad an interesting facelift.
What Equipment do I Need?
Basic sprouting practices don’t ask you to spend tons of money on fancy gadgets or elaborate equipment. Of course, you could go out and splurge on whatever you like, but if you like to keep things simple, then all you’ll need are a quart-sized canning jar, a wide-mouthed canning jar paired with a sprouting screen.
You might probably already have the jars in your kitchen so all you’ll need to invest in is a sprouting screen.
How to Grow Sprouts at Home?
Growing sprouts at home can be as simple as 1-2-3. Just follow the given instructions and enjoy the goodness of homegrown sprouts.
- Put 1- 2 tablespoons of sprouting seeds in the base of your wide-mouth jar. Secure the sprouting screen in place and pour two cups of fresh, cool water into the jar. Swirl the seeds, drain and cover again with 2-4 cups of water and leave to soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse the sprouts in the morning by pouring fresh cool water through the sprouting screen and repeat till most of the water has poured out.
- Repeat the draining and rinsing process at least twice daily for 3-5 days, or until the sprouts have grown to your liking. The growth is fairly quick and visible where you can see the sprouts filling the jar.
- Once the sprouts are done growing, it’s time to de-hull. You can skip this step if you wish, or submerge the sprouts in some fresh water. Simply push down as the hulls rise to the top of the water. It may take you a few changes of water to get all the hulls, or you could stop when you’ve got most of them out.
NOTE: It is important to keep your sprouting jar in a well-ventilated spot to allow the sprouts to breathe, which means a cabinet is not an option. It doesn’t always need sunshine, although that won’t hurt, damp and dark don’t help. Ideally, a kitchen counter works really well.
Storing Home-Grown Sprouts
When you are happy with the length and greenness of your sprouts, you can now store them. Air dry your sprouts for 30-60 minutes before storing them in the refrigerator.
Just make sure that the sprouts are completely dry or they will spoil. Drain the sprouts well and place them in the fridge in a covered container lined with kitchen paper to avoid excess moisture from collecting.
Sprouts typically keep well for up to five days.
Any Safety Considerations when Growing Sprouts at Home?
While sprouts are highly nutritious foods, you need to be careful when handling them. Commercially produced sprouts are typically grown in warm, humid conditions making them more vulnerable to bacterial growth. There is also the risk of contamination if those handling the sprouts do not practice proper hygiene. And since many people prefer to consume sprouts in their raw state, it can multiply such risks.
But when you grow sprouts at home, many of these concerns get eliminated knowing that you have complete control over how you handle the sprouting process and the utensils involved. Also, when you consume sprouts after cooking, it is the best way to have them safely.
Some people may miss losing the crunch that they get from raw sprouts, but there is still plenty of nutrition and flavor that cooked sprouts offer.
Ways to Use Sprouts in your Plant-Based Kitchen
Sprouts can just as easily vary in taste and texture as their fully-grown counterparts. Onion and radish sprouts, for instance, are considered spicy while others like mung beans are hardy and often used in oriental cooking. If you’re looking for something more delicate to use in your salad or sandwiches, then a delicate sprout like alfalfa would be the perfect candidate.
Given the vast variety available, it is easy to incorporate sprouts in almost every type of meal with everything from soups and spreads to wraps and even smoothies.
You can also use some sprouts in baking with grains and seeds boasting a nutty flavor working really well in bread and cookies.
To get great ideas on how to make your plant-based cooking more versatile in terms of flavor, nutrition, and visual appeal, visit the free culinary nutrition mini-training with Meghan Telpner.