Its fall and the garden is in sleep mode.
Or maybe you don’t have room for a garden but you want to grow something.
Sprouts to the rescue!
I love fresh greens but many of them don’t preserve well and can’t handle the cold winter temps, so I especially love growing sprouts in the winter.
What Are Sprouts?
“Sprouts” are vegetable seeds that are soaked and then germinate to produce a root, stem and beginnings of leaves for eating.
Don’t confuse sprouts with microgreens which are typically grown in soil and only the leafy tops and some stem are harvested.
Growing sprouts is easily done at home. There are many different ways to grow sprouts with all kinds of setups from a super simple jar to complex kits with trays and such.
All you really need is a canning jar, a sprouting lid or screen, and some sprouting seed.
Be sure your sprouting seed is raw and specifically for sprouting. Avoid seeds that are roasted, cracked, or pasteurized and look for the word “sproutable” on the package.
First, measure your seeds into a clean jar. The amount will vary depending on how many people you are feeding, the size of your jar, and what type of seed you are sprouting.
For something like a broccoli or radish sprout, I start with 1-2 tbsp (for 3 people). For mung beans, it is usually ¼ cup in a quart jar.
Cover the seeds with water and put the sprouting lid on the jar. Allow to soak for 8 hours or overnight.
After 8 hours have passed (or the next morning), drain off the water and rinse the seeds with cool water. Drain well.
Some sprouting lids have little feet on them so they can be set upside down to fully drain. If there is too much water left in the jar, the seeds will rot rather than germinate.
Continue to rinse and drain twice a day for 3-5 days (sometimes more), leaving the jar on the counter between rinses.
The sprouts are ready to eat when you see roots and the first leaves are just starting to appear and turn green, but haven’t fully unfurled.
Allow about 8 hours after the final rinse before harvesting. Remove them from the jar and use right away or pat them dry and refrigerate. Wet sprouts in the refrigerator won’t last long; therefore, patting them dry is essential.
If you are sprouting grains, beans, or lentils, they are ready to eat as soon as you see a tail sprouted from most of the seeds, sometimes in as little as 24 hours.
Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans are technically soaked rather than truly sprouted. They undergo the same soaking process but once the water is drained off, they are ready to be used or dehydrated. It is still important to use sproutable (unpasteurized) nuts because they do begin the germination process and this makes them easier to digest and their nutrients more bioavailable.
Top 7 Seeds for Sprouting
Mung beans are popular in Asian cuisine, especially in stir-fries and soups. They are hearty and remain crunchy when cooked. Mung bean sprouts are high in protein, fiber, amino acids, vitamins C and A, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Broccoli sprouts are perfect sprouts for winter-time as broccoli is a cool-weather crop.
These sprouts make a great addition to salads and sandwiches. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University, broccoli sprouts can have up to 50 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli, by weight. They are also a great source of potassium.
Sprouting wheat and other grains, in essence germinating the seed, reduces phytate, enzyme inhibitors, and gluten in the grain, thereby making it more digestible and minerals more available. Sprouted grains are great in salads or they can be dehydrated and ground into flour for easier-to-digest bread.
Radish sprouts are slightly spicy, as you would expect a radish to be. They are a very good source of folate and vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6 and niacin (B2). You can sprout traditional red radishes as well as daikon radishes.
These are the sprouts most often seen in the grocery store. They are slightly crunchy, mild in flavor, and easy to grow. Alfalfa sprouts are great on salads and sandwiches and are a great source of vitamin K, the “blood-clotting vitamin” which also aids in the body’s ability to utilize calcium. Because of the vitamin K content, individuals who are on blood thinners should check with a doctor before consuming.
Like grains, sprouting almonds and other nuts reduce enzyme inhibitors, making them more easily digestible and the nutrients more bioavailable. They can then be dehydrated and used for snacking or in any recipe that calls for nuts. Soaked nuts can be used to male almond milk, nut butter, or added to salads and other cold/raw dishes.
Sprouted lentils are a great addition to many meals. I like to use them as a meat “extender” in tacos, stirring them into the meat just before assembling the tacos. They’re also great in salads and can be used in any dish that calls for lentils. They have a slightly crunchy texture and are very filling. Just know that once they’re cooked, many of the enzymes get broken down. Therefore, in or to maximize the return on your soaking efforts, eat them raw or toss them into cooked dishes right at the end. Green and black lentils are best for sprouting. Most red and yellow lentils have had their skins removed and therefore do not sprout well.
What is your favorite variety of sprouts to grow?