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Sprouting: How to do it in your kitchen

Jan 8th, 2013 | Category: Food

by Chuck McClung

While winter gardening is certainly a viable option in the Northwest, most gardeners take a break for winter. Here is an idea for the warm, dry indoors: growing sprouts.

I’ve been growing sprouts for many years. I started sprouting after being repeatedly disappointed with the quality of sprouts in grocery stores. I was influenced a lot by Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas, two pioneers of the modern wheat grass, sprouting, juicing, and natural health movement. Ann Wigmore wanted to teach people how anyone could grow an abundance of food indoors, year round, for very little money. By sprouting clover, alfalfa, mung beans, grains, lentils, sunflowers, buckwheat, and many other seeds, anyone with limited space could grow quite a bit of food. What a perfect winter gardening hobby.

There are many ways to grow sprouts (sprouting jars, bags, trays, etc.), and entire books are written on the subject. With the limited space to present such a huge topic, I thought I would describe how I grow sprouts using standard wide mouth quart canning jars. With 7-8 jars sitting in the dish rack, I grow about two gallons of sprouts a week for way less than 25 cents a day.

Getting Started

To use the method in which I grow sprouts, you will need standard, wide mouth, quart-size canning jars. I suggest starting with just one or two jars.

Next you’ll need lids. Basically we a need screen-like lid that will let water drain when rinsing the sprouts, but also let in air while the seeds are sprouting. You’ll find many different types of lids. Metal screens can be used to replace the solid center in a typical canning jar lid. I’ve seen some people use a cloth over the mouth of the jar as a screen. I like to use the pre-made plastic mesh lids that screw right onto of the jar; they‘re easy to keep clean. Your favorite food co-op or natural health food stores will have jar lids for sprouting.

Then you’ll need a place to grow the sprouts, which means a place to set your jars, face down, but at an angle, so that the water drains. I set my jars in my dish drying rack to drain, and excess water spills directly into the sink. I realize that my particular set up may not resonate with everyone’s kitchen décor; you just need a place to set the jars face down, at an angle for the water to drain.

Sunflowers sprouting. PHOTO BY CHUCK McCLUNG

Once you’ve established your sprouting set up, then you’ll need to shop for seeds. You can find seeds for sprouting online. But unless you’re planning on growing tons of sprouts, I suggest you check your local food co-op or natural health food stores. Look in the bulk seeds/herbs section first. You’ll pay way less per pound buying in bulk than buying pre-packaged “sprouting seeds“. Now you’re ready to get sprouting.

Soaking and rinsing

Have you ever wondered why a seed doesn’t just spontaneously germinate and sprout? What’s missing? Assuming the temperature is correct, water is what’s needed for seeds to germinate. So to sprout our seeds we need to soak them in water first.

All we do is put the desired amount of seed in the bottom of the jar, cover with a few inches of water, cover the jar, and let sit overnight. As a general rule, the larger the seed, the greater the amount of water will be needed for the seeds to fully hydrate and sprout.

For instance, if you fill the bottom two inches of the jar with Chick Peas, you’ll need to fill the jar with water. By morning the Chick Peas will have swelled so much that they’ll fill the jar to the top. And that means it’s hummus time!

You’ll find charts out there in books giving soaking times for different types of seeds. I’ve found that for most of the common sprouting seeds, about 12-15 hours is sufficient for them to sprout. For instance, what I do almost every night after work is set up one jar of seeds to soak, and then drain off the water in the morning before work – about 12 hours. Soaking a little longer is better than not enough, but never more than 24 hours.

Sprouts in containers. PHOTO BY CHUCK McCLUNG

Generally speaking, the larger the seed (e.g. chick peas) the more seed by volume will be required to fill the jar once they’ve sprouted. For instance, it takes about 1½ Tablespoon of Clover seed to fill a quart sized jar once sprouted. A lot more Chick Peas and water, by volume, on the other hand, are required to make one full jar of sprouts.

I find it interesting that if seeds do not soak long enough, the seed dies from not having enough water to sprout; the seed then rots and will spoil any other sprouts in the jar. Similarly if seeds are soaked too long, the seeds can likewise begin to rot due to a lack of air. Similarly, using too much seed can cause the sprouts in the center of the jar to rot from lack of air. Sadly I speak from experience.

Once we’ve soaked our seeds overnight, we drain off the water in the morning, and rinse them. To rinse them, simply pour a generous amount of water in the jar, swirl the seeds around, and drain. I rinse my sprouts every morning before work and every evening after work. Sure, an additional mid-day rinsing would likely grow even better sprouts, but I’m simply not home in the middle of the day. Two evenly spaced, daily rinses is fine.

Two rinses a day is essential. If you forget, they will either dry up and die or rot from the accumulated waste that is not washed away. And of course it’s best to rinse your sprouts with filtered water.

Between rinses, let the jar(s) drain, top down, at an angle. We tilt the jar at an angle so that air can enter, and so that some moisture will collect around the seed mass. If the jar is set vertically pointing down, the sprouts could rot from lack of air entering the jar.

If the jar is set down horizontally, excess water might not be able to drain, and seeds can rot in the pool that accumulates. If the jar is set horizontally, and the water has drained off, the seeds may spread out too much over the length of the jar that they dry out too much between waterings. Again, keep your jars at an angle. So when do we harvest and eat?!

Two types of sprouts

Using jars, I see sproutable seeds as belonging to one of two types:

• “Whole plant” sprouts: such as Adzuki, Alfalfa, Broccoli, Clover, Fenugreek, Mung Bean, and Radish. Sprout these in any combination using a total of about 1½-2 tablespoons of seed maximum per quart jar. Harvest as a young plant with a little tap root and two tiny seeds leaves. This typically takes about 5-8 days, perhaps longer if your sprouting area is cooler. While you could eat these sprouts in 2-3 days, better to wait and let them grow a few more days.

• 2-3 day or sprouted seeds (such as Lentils, Chickpeas/Garbanzos, Sunflowers, abd Almonds). These sprouted seeds are harvested and eaten after only a couple of days. The sprouted seed looks like a swollen seed with little or no developing shoot. Lentils and Chick Peas in particular should be harvested and eaten after only a few days of sprouts lest they become stringy and lose flavor. Almonds are sweeter and far easier to digest after they’ve been soaked and sprouted for a couple of days.

Many people like to rinse off the seed coats/hulls before harvest on your “5-8 day sprouts.” There are many different ways to do this. After day 3-4, I’ll take sprouts out of the jar, set them in a large bowl, and add water until the hulls start to float. I them pour the hulls off and return the sprouts to the jar and drain. This also helps to remove any unsprouted seeds. The larger seeded “5-8 day” sprouts (e.g. Sunflower, Adzuki, Mung Bean) are the ones I think are most important to remove the hulls.

Be sure to label your soaking jar with much you’re using and the date. Labeling will help you learn which sprouts combinations you like best or how long it takes.

Storing Sprouts

Well-rinsed and drained sprouts will store for at least a few days in the refrigerator. A breathable container would be best, but sealed plastic containers may be used too; be sure to check your refrigerated sprouts. Another idea is that once the sprouts are ready to eat, rinse them and drain them one more time, and simply put the canning jar lid on, and refrigerate them.

Mucilagineous seeds

Mucilaginous seeds are a peculiar group of seeds that are sprouted differently and typically not combined with other seeds that are sprouted in jars. They include Flax, Buckwheat, and Chia. When soaked these seeds develop a slimy film (mucilage) that needs to be rinsed thoroughly.

I have found that other seeds, when combined with Buckwheat  may rot due to the mucilage that forms. Soaked flax and chia seeds can be added to salad dressings as thickeners. Buckwheat can be sprouted alone in jars, rinsed thoroughly, or grown like wheat grass (see previous issue).

Growing Baby Greens in Pots

Many seeds are soaked and actually planted in flats or in pots of soil. One harvests the baby greens that develop by cutting at the soil level (this is how wheat grass is grown), and is one of the best ways to grow Buckwheat sprouts.

1. Soak seeds overnight.

2. Drain soak water, rinse, drain.

3. Set seeds on top of soil in a pot

4. Cover with a moist, cloth or paper towel for three days; keep towel moist.

5. Uncover after three days, put in a sunny window, and water every other day.

Other seeds for sprouted baby greens include sunflowers, fenugreek, and other grains like oats and barley.

COMMON SPROUTING SEEDS

Adzuki Beans are bright burgundy red. I love using Adzukis with clover because the larger sized seed seems to let in a little more air around the clover seeds as they’re sprouting.

Alfalfa sprouts are similar to and grown just like Clover sprouts. I find the two have only a slightly different taste, and Alfalfa sprouts tend to be more finely textured.

Almonds can be soaked and sprouted. Have you ever eaten Almonds that have been soaked overnight, or sprouted a couple of days? Take your soaked and sprouted Almonds, grind them up in a blender with water, filter out the solids, and you have almond milk.

Broccoli sprouts lend a spicy flavor similar to Radish sprouts.

Buckwheat is not a grain and not really like wheat at all. Buckwheat is a mucilaginous seed, Buckwheat is often grown in soil like Wheat Grass and harvest as baby greens.

Chick Pea (Garbanzo Beans) are one of the largest seeds you’ll sprout. You’ll need a lot of water to get these fully hydrated. I love to snack on 2 day sprouted chick peas!

Clover are very similar to Alfalfa sprouts. You’ll get one full jar of sprouts from about 1 ½ Tablespoons of seed.

Fenugreek seeds are awesome because they have this unique maple syrup aroma and flavor. As a legume, Fenugreek can be harvest as sprouts or grown in pots for baby greens.

Grains: Wheat, Oat, Barley, etc.

Most of the time sprouters grow grains as baby greens in pots (see instructions above). But have you ever tasted freshly sprouted Wheat? Wheat sprouted for 2-3 days is an amazingly sweet and chewy snack. Google the word “rejuvelac”, for another interesting use of sprouted Wheat.

Lentils are typically grown as 2-3 days sprouts. Try them in your salad! Lentils come in various colors (orange, green, black, red, brown) adding color and pizzazz to your sprout mixes.

Mung Bean are bright green and typically grown as 5-8 day sprouts. Those large, thick Mung bean sprouts that you’ve likely seen cannot be grown in jars as described above. To grow big Mung beans sprouts you need a weight. One “old way” to sprout Mung beans was in large buckets (that drain) with a board over the sprouts and a rock on top of the board for weight. The increased weight causes the sprouts to swell to a size that they would otherwise would not attain.

Radish sprouts lend a nice and spicy flavor and are one of the quickest sprouts to finish in the jar. Radish seed is usually easier to find and typically costs a little less than Broccoli seed.

Sesame Seeds taste awesome soaked and sprouted for one day! They’re softer and more chewy. Sesame milk can be made as described above as with sprouted Almonds.

Sunflowers may be sprouted in jars or grown in pots for baby greens. This is one of the most important ones to remove the large seed hulls after the seeds have sprouted in the jar.

REFERENCES

• How to Grow and Use Sprouts to Maximize Your Health and Vitality, Ann Wigmore, Avery Health Guides, 1986.

• Sprouts: The Miracle Food: The Complete Guide to Sprouting, Steve Meyerowitz, Sproutman Publications, 1999.

• Survival Into the 21st Century-Planetary Healer‘s Manual, Viktoras Kulvinskas, Omangod Press, 1975.

RECIPES

• Mash a couple of bananas and add half cup of Buckwheat sprouts (3 day), some raisins, 1 finely chopped apple and cinnamon to taste for a nice breakfast gruel.

• 2 cups 2-3 day sprouted Chick Peas, 3 chopped tomatoes, black pepper and kelp for a hearty filling winter salad.

• If you have a Vita Mix take your two-day sprouted chick peas (as described above) and grind em up into hummus, Hummus made from fresh, sprouted Chick Peas tastes way better.

Sprout Mixes

(for one 1 Qt wide mouth canning jar)

“Traditional Mix“

½ T Clover

½ T Radish

½ T Fenugreek

“Spicy Blend”

½ T Clover

¼ T Broccoli

¼ T Radish

1 T Lentil or Adzuki

“Chunky Chewy”

Combine Chick peas and Lentils in any ratio and fill bottom 1½-2“ of jar. Cover with water to top of jar and let soak overnight. Drain, rinse and eat after a day or two of sprouting. Filling!

I hope I’ve been able to cover the basics of sporuting and that you are curious enough to give it a try. It’s really easy. Get the lids for your jars. Soak your seeds. Don’t forget to rinse them twice a day. Don’t forget to eat them! E-mail me with any questions or problems. Happy Sprouting!

Chuck McClung has a Master’s Degree in Botany and helps others solve their gardening dilemmas. He may be reached at orchid fruit@hotmail.com.

Published in the January 2013 issue of Grow Northwest magazine

2 Comments to “Sprouting: How to do it in your kitchen”

  1. Rebekah says:

    I’m on day 3 of growing mung bean sprouts and they are a bit slimy. Is that normal or should I throw them out?

  2. Puttanna H says:

    Kudos to you. Great website. Lot of info to digest.
    I would like to call your attention to a point where you mention “seeds develop a slimy film (mucilage) that needs to be rinsed”. It is true. But, because not many people know what mucilege is for them it sounds a little offish.
    The Foodrepublic people have done a good job adding these words: “Mucilage is just another word for slime, but when it comes to food, slime can be a good thing. The mucilage found in certain foods can actually strengthen and repair our mucus membranes when eaten.”
    So, I think it will be perfectly in order if you add similar reassurance – it will actually encourage people to boldly take advantage of the health benefits of sprouts and sprouted grains .
    Cheers!

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