Sprouts are a great way to add a bit of flavor and crunch to a salad or sandwich while increasing the nutritional value of your meal. One cup of bean sprouts provides more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and many nutritionists consider broccoli sprouts to be a superfood.
Essentially, sprouts are plant seeds that have germinated successfully and can be considered "baby" plants. There are many different kinds of sprouts that you can grow, each with its own benefits and flavoring. Some of the most popular options include bean and pea sprouts (like black bean sprouts or green pea sprouts), sprouted grains (think: buckwheat, amaranth, and brown rice), and sprouts from vegetables, nuts, and other seeds (like radish, beet, and alfalfa sprouts). In general, any plant from which you would eat the stems and leaves is a good option for sprouting. Plants from which you only eat the fruits (such as tomatoes and peppers) aren't appropriate.
An important note: only purchase seeds specifically intended for sprouting. These seeds are chemical-free and cleaned so that they're pathogen-free. You don't want a side dose of salmonella or e. Coli with your sprouts! Sometimes you can find packets of sprouting seeds in garden centers, but if not, check your favorite seed catalog.
In addition to being nutritionally dense, sprouts are a simple crop to grow, only requiring about 4 inches of countertop space, if that. If you're looking to grow sprouts in a jar, here are some general steps to follow.
Equipment / Tools
- Cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer
- Seeds of your choosing
- Wide-mouth jar
- Bowl with lid or food storage bag
- Paper towel
Place the Seeds in the Jar and Cover
Wash 1 to 2 tablespoons of your chosen seeds and place in a clean, sterilized wide-mouth jar (a canning jar is ideal for this). Make sure the seeds only take up about 1/4 of the jar, as they will expand. Cover them with approximately 2 inches of warm water. Cover the jar with the cheesecloth and secure it with the canning lid ring or a rubber band. Allow the mixture to sit overnight.
Drain the Water From the Jar
Tip the jar upside down over a sink to drain the water from the jar. Alternately, you can pour the water and seeds into a fine-mesh strainer, making sure the holes in the strainer are significantly smaller than the seeds so you don't lose any to the sink.
Rinse the Seeds
Once you've drained all the soaking water from the container, rinse the seeds by adding new water to the jar, swishing the seeds around, and draining again (using the same cheesecloth or strainer method you utilized above).
Allow for Air Circulation
Find an area out of direct sunlight and place the jar upside down at an angle to allow for drainage and air circulation through the cheese cloth, using a bowl or dish rack to support the jar.
Repeat the Process
Repeat the soaking, draining, rinsing, and positioning for air circulation process detailed above every day, 2 to 4 times a day, until your sprouts are the desired size. The seeds should never be allowed to dry out completely or allowed to stand in water.
This repeated process take anywhere from three to seven days, depending on the variety of sprouts you're growing.
Harvest the Sprouts
Sprouts are best to eat when they're still fairly small and just starting to turn green. After harvesting them in that state, give the sprouts a final rinse, removing any unsprouted seeds. Dry and store the sprouts in a covered bowl. Use them within a week of harvesting.
Store Your Sprouts
Store your sprouts in a covered bowl or food storage bag in your refrigerator for up to a week. It's a good idea to put a paper towel into your storage container to soak up excess moisture, switching it out periodically.
Tips for Growing Sprouts
While growing sprouts in a jar is a very easy method, there are other specialized gadgets you can buy for your sprouting operation. They include multi-tiered sprouters, jar lids with different sizes of strainers for easy rinsing and draining, and even sprouters that automate the rinsing process for you. Whichever method you choose, growing sprouts and adding them to your diet is a simple and effective way to get a little more nutrition.