Grow Your Own Sprouts

Sprouts are the fast food of gardening. They take only a couple of days to grow, and you don’t need dirt or light. And there are all sorts of things you can sprout to produce interesting flavors and textures, from onions to radishes to beans.

Here’s how to get started sprouting:



  • 1. Make a sprouting lid by taking out the metal insert of a two-piece canning jar lid and tracing around the inside of the metal band on a mesh screen. Cut out the mesh circle and fit it inside the metal band. Or buy a prefab sprouting lid.


    2. Rinse two tablespoons of your sprouting seeds in a strainer and remove any debris or weird-looking seeds.


  • 3. Put the seeds in a quart wide-mouth canning jar and fill the jar with cold water. Close the jar with your sprouting lid and let the seeds soak for about eight hours (refer to the directions on your seeds for specific soaking times).


    4. Drain the seeds and rinse them in the jar with cold water, then drain them again through the mesh lid. Leave the jar inverted in a bowl so that any remaining water can drain out. Place the jar somewhere reasonably warm (we did our tests at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) with good air circulation. But keep the jar out of direct sunlight.


  • 5. Rinse and drain the seeds two to three times a day, inspecting them each time—if you see any signs of mold, toss them and start over. But don’t confuse the tiny hairs that grow off the roots with mold.


    6. Depending on the type of seeds, expect your sprouts to be ready in two to fourteen days. Taste the sprouts as they begin to grow—when you like their flavor and texture, they’re ready to eat.


  • 7. Before eating the sprouts, rinse them to remove the seed hulls. Use a colander with large enough holes to wash away the hulls but not the sprouts (the inner part of a salad spinner works well for most sprouts).


    8. Using a salad spinner, spin the sprouts until they are thoroughly dry (it’s important not to store them wet or they will rot), then bag and refrigerate them. If you don’t have a salad spinner, blot the sprouts gently with paper towels or a clean dishtowel before storing. Eat them within a few days for the best flavor.

A FEW THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GET STARTED

• Buy untreated seeds that are explicitly intended for sprouting; seeds sold for planting in the ground might be treated with fungicides or insecticides. We have used seeds from Sproutpeople. Their website is a great resource for novice growers.

• Once you’re up to speed on how sprouts grow, it’s cheaper to buy sprouting seeds from bulk bins. Test a small batch first—if they’re old, they won’t germinate. And some seeds will be duds. Don’t get discouraged; just get new seeds from a reliable source.

• Rinse religiously. Rinsing is critical during germination. You can get sick if the sprouts start to mold. Plus, they might stink up your kitchen.

• Bean sprouts should be shielded from all light so they don’t develop any chlorophyll—they become bitter when they turn green. But if you are sprouting something like radish or alfalfa, the sprouts look sickly if you don’t let ’em green up. If they’re a little pale, try moving the jar to a place that gets more indirect sunlight.

• Do not try to sprout kidney beans, either red or white (a.k.a. cannellini beans). Raw kidney beans contain a toxin that’s destroyed during cooking. Eating them raw will make you sick.

WHAT TO DO WITH SPROUTS

Sprouts add texture and flavor to your cooking. Mustard and radish sprouts are quite spicy, while alfalfa, bean, and sunflower sprouts are very mild and are used more for texture. They all make good snacks on their own, or use leafy sprouts like radish, alfalfa, sunflower, or onion in salads. Throw mung bean or soybean sprouts into a stir-fry. Onion sprouts are great on burgers and sandwiches.

And try these recipes:

» Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers

» Shrimp, Bean Sprout, and Sweet Potato Fritters

» Herbed Pea Sprout, Fennel, and Mushroom Salad

Roxanne Webber is an associate editor at CHOW.