At my local grocery store, out here in the middle of nowhere, a head of cauliflower costs $5 and a wilted ball of lettuce might run you $3. It’s a far cry from the vibrant fruit and vegetable markets we were accustomed to in downtown Toronto, and is a bit daunting when it comes to grocery budgeting for a pair of veggie-vores. It’ll be a few more months until local farmers’ markets are filled with greens and our own garden is lush with vegetables, so until then, we make do with what’s available and take advantage of one of the few greens that can be grown indoors year-round: sprouts. It’s incredibly easy to sprout seeds and beans on your kitchen counter with just a few simple household tools.
The first step is determining what kind of sprouting appeals to you. Do you love the taste of fresh alfalfa or radish sprouts tucked into sandwiches? Or the meaty, sharp bite of sunflower sprouts insalads? I love the crunch of sprouted mung and adzuki beans when I add them to salads and stir-fries, though they sometimes end up being snacked upon before they ever make it to a frying pan!
What You’ll Need:
- Clean glass jars
- Plastic or wire netting (or even cheesecloth, in a pinch)
- Rubber bands
- Seeds and beans to sprout (try to get organic seeds/legumes whenever possible)
Step 1. Wash and rinse your jar thoroughly and set it aside. Then wash your beans/seeds and pick out any that are misshapen or otherwise weird looking, as well as any foreign particles.
Step 2. Fill 1/3 of the jar with the seeds or beans of your choice, and then fill the rest of the jar with room temperature water.
Step 3. Cut a piece of cheesecloth or breathable mesh that’s large enough to cover the mouth of your jar with an inch or so hanging over the side, and secure with a rubber band. If you’re using a Mason jar, screw the lid band on to keep the screen in place.
Step 4. Soak your beans/seeds. The packets you buy should have soaking times listed on them, but the general rule of thumb is: the larger the bean/seed, the longer the soak time.
Most seeds and beans can be soaked for 8 hours at a stretch, but small seeds like quinoa and amaranth should only be soaked for about 3 hours at a time. If you’re trying to sprout cress, flax, chia, or arugula, it’s actually better to sprout them in soil rather than by the soaking and draining method: if you put them in water, you’ll end up with a gelatinous pudding.
Step 5. Drain your sprouts through the mesh insert, then remove the mesh. Fill the jar with fresh water and rinse all the seeds/beans well by agitating the jar gently, then drain again.
Step 6. Invert your jar and prop it up at an angle so air can circulate around the bits inside, and any excess water can drain away.
Repeat this process at least twice daily, and in a few days, your sprouts will be ready to eat. When you’re ready to use them, rinse all the sprouts well and store them in a sealed jar (so, with a metal lid rather than a mesh one) in the refrigerator.
These should be eaten within 2 or 3 days.
If you’d like to sprout a large quantity of seeds/beans, it’s best to use several jars rather than trying to pack too many seeds into a single large jar. The beans need room for air to circulate, and packing them in too tightly is a recipe for disaster. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and use fewer seeds, rather than too many.
*Note: If you place a jar of alfalfa sprouts in a sunny spot, their little leaves will develop a bit of green from the chlorophyll produced. Yay nutrients!
How to Use Your Sprouts
As mentioned, sprouts are so very versatile that they can be used in a variety of different dishes. You can add a handful of alfalfa and broccoli sprouts to a sandwich or blend them into your favorite green smoothie. Sprouted beans can be munched on raw, added to soups or salads, or pureed into vibrant raw hummus! Check out these recipes for some extra ideas:
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. She has contributed to both print and web-based media for clients across North America and Europe, and is slowly plodding her way through her first novel-writing attempt. Born and raised in Toronto, she has given up city life and moved to the wilds of rural Quebec with her husband, where they collaborate on graphic design projects for their company, Winter-Hébert. Their new, rustic lifestyle is chronicled in her two personal blogs: 33 Leagues from Mount Royal, and The Green Pigeon, where she touches upon the ins and outs of homesteading and self sufficiency in the Great White North. When she isn’t writing or delving into artstuffs, Lana can be found reading, wrestling with various knitting projects, or tending her garden.
by Lana Winter-Hébert, 03/02/14