Forget the grocery store variety! Grow your own sprouts at home
Today, we’re celebrating sandwich fare with the launch of our new Facebook group, The League of Extraordinary Sandwiches. Get the details on growing your own sprouts, then check out our group devoted to the humble sandwich.
BY JAMIE NAKASONE
I may have mentioned that I’m a very picky eater. Ordering a sandwich at a deli or restaurant can sometimes be, shall we say, problematic because I don’t like tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms or onions. But oddly enough, I do love sprouts. When the exasperated server behind the deli counter finally asks me if I want sprouts, my answer is always an emphatic yes.
And here’s the best part about sprouts: You can grow them at home.
The first time I grew my own sprouts was a few years ago. Before then, I hadn’t realized you could grow your own and that it’s so easy, fast, and fun. But what really delighted me was how much more delicious they are, compared to the sprouts you buy at the supermarket.
It’s been a while since my last sprout-growing kick, but I thought it was time to take it up again, especially since I’ve heard how nutritious broccoli sprouts are. I’d only grown alfalfa sprouts before, so I wanted to see how other sprouts tasted. If you want to try growing your own sprouts, I recommend starting with alfalfa, since they’re easiest. After that, you can try your hand at other types of sprouts.
At a local health food store, I found a bottle of broccoli sprout seeds and a glass jar made specifically for growing sprouts. The lid was topped with metal mesh, for easy draining. Great! I didn’t even know you could buy such a thing. It wasn’t that expensive (about $6), it looked sturdy, and I knew that I’d use it many times, so I bought it.
If you don’t want to buy a ready-made jar, you’ll need:
• a large glass or plastic clear jar
• a square of window screen material to cover the opening
• and a strong rubber band to secure the screen
When I got started, I was a little confused. I had three sets of sprouting instructions – the one that came with the sprouting jar, a handout from the health food store, and more on the seed bottle. And they were all a little different from each other. But I soldiered on and somehow compiled them all into one process.
Here’s how to do it:
• Pour 3 tablespoons of seeds into the sprouting jar and rinse with water. Drain, then fill again with water a few inches above the seeds. Soak in the dark overnight.
• Drain the soak water. Rinse the seeds and drain again. Always drain as thoroughly as you can.
• Roll your jar slowly until most of the seeds are stuck to the bottom and sides of the jar. Set the jar on its side away from sunlight.
• For the next couple of days, rinse the seeds twice a day and drain thoroughly each time. Keep the seeds away from sunlight. You’ll see more growth in the seeds as each day goes by.
• On day four, move the jar to a spot where it can get indirect sunlight. This will cause the sprouts to become a nice green color.
• By days five or six, when the sprouts are about an inch long, they’re ready for harvesting. But first you must separate the hulls from the sprouts.
If you’re growing alfalfa, you don’t need to separate the hulls. However, broccoli sprout hulls are quite large and they retain water, which can cause the sprouts to rot quicker. So you want to remove as many as you can. You can use a salad spinner, or just put the sprouts in a large bowl and fill with water. Swish the sprouts around. The hulls should rise to the surface or collect at the bottom. Use a spoon or strainer to take them out.
• Spread out the sprouts on a paper towel for a few hours to dry a bit. Then, enjoy! Use them in your salads or sandwiches, or put them in a sealed bag or container and refrigerate for later.
Some final notes
Around day three, I panicked to find my sprouts all fuzzy, like they had a bad case of white mold. Luckily, I checked online before I dumped the whole thing. As it turns out, the fuzzy stuff were fine root hairs, common in broccoli sprouts. It wasn’t mold (whew). The lesson here is to always check your resources before you assume the worst.
There are many different kinds of sprouts you can grow. Always refer to the instructions that came with your seeds, since certain seeds may need different treatment. You can also visit sproutpeople.org for more information.
You’re going to drain your jar frequently during the growing process. The drained water is filled with nutrients, so you can keep the water and use it to water your plants.
The hulls you separated from the sprouts can be added to your compost pile or just sprinkled directly into the soil around your plants.
Because the whole sprout-growing process is easy and quick, it’s a great project to do with your kids. It will teach them the joys of growing their own healthy food.
Jamie Nakasone is a correspondence specialist at HMSA. Her favorite pastimes are spending time with her husband, reading and playing pool. She is taking her journey to better health with tiny steps and although she describes herself as a “bungling” gardener, she hasn’t given up yet. Follow her on Twitter.