Growing your food can save you a lot of money, and ensure that you are nourishing your body in the best way possible. But it can be challenging to have the room and time to grow crops, let alone gardening skills. Luckily, there is a way to create nutrient-packed and highly affordable food in a very small spaces. Home grown sprouts are little powerhouses of nutrition that are both easy to grow and easy on your budget.
How to Grow Sprouts
There are a few different ways to grow sprouts, each with different advantages and drawbacks. These are the most common methods:
This is the simplest and most versatile way to sprout seeds. The only drawbacks are that the bottom of the jar can get soggy, which can lead to moldy sprouts, and the sprouts get tossed and turned when you rinse them. This make it a less-than-ideal method for sunflower sprouts, which prefer soil to maintain an even moisture level. And set up the jars to drain at an angle to ensure the seeds are not sitting in water.
~ A wide-mouth glass quart or half-gallon (1 or 2 liter) canning jar such as Mason or Ball.
~ The screw part of the lid.
~ A circular food-grade metal screen cut to the size of the jar opening, a specialized sprouting lid, or a piece of cheesecloth, muslin, or thin organic cotton that is a few inches larger than the jar opening.
*Pour 4 ounces of seed into the jar. Rinse well with lid on to clear any debris or dust.
*Add filtered water until the jar is 1/2 to 3/4 full.
*Seal by screwing the screen or cloth covering onto the jar with the screw-top part of the lid. Be sure to make a tight seal.
*Let the seeds soak for several hours. Small seeds like clover and quinoa require 4-6 hours, large bean seeds need 12 hours.
*Drain the soak water and rinse the seeds.
*Hold the sealed jar upside-down at an angle to drain as much of the liquid as possible. If the sprouts can sit on an angle in a dishrack while sprouting to keep draining, even better.
*Rinse and drain the seeds 2-3 times per day until the sprouts are 3-4 times bigger than the seeds, in most cases – beans will be just 1/2 to 1 inch when ready, andsome greens will be 3-5 inches long.
Sprouts prefer dark, warm environments that simulate the soil that would otherwise be their home. In colder locations sprouts take longer to grow. A warm cabinet or box above your fridge would work – just don’t forget about the sprouts if you put them out of sight!
Veggie sprouts need sunlight at the end of their growth cycle to develop chlorophyll and turn green. Put the jar in a sunny window for the last day or two of sprouting, and make sure they have darkness at night to digest the light.
This method is best for sprouts from which you only want the green part, such as sunflower, young lettuces, and alfalfa. It is also sometimes called the “micro-greens method.”
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You will need:
~ A large tray (plastic or clay) with good drainage. Seedling trays work well.
~ Fresh organic soil to fill the tray
* Spread your seeds evenly in the tray of soil, just a little under the surface, an inch or so apart.
* Keep the soil moist but not overly wet, in a dark warm place for the first three days.
* Bring the tray into sunlight for a day or two.
* When the sprouts put off at least two green leaves, you can begin harvesting.
*Cut the amount of sprouts you want to eat just above the soil, and enjoy them one serving at a time.
*Once you have harvested all the greens, the soil can be used for two or three more rounds of sprouts, and then added to your compost.
This method takes up the least amount of space, though can be more challenging to harvest. Most types of sprouts (except sunflower) do well with this method, though very thin sprouts like clover can get stuck.
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~ A small drawstring cloth bag made of natural, unbleached, organic fabric (hemp, cotton, or linen). Do not use a brand new cotton bag unless it is organic, as the chemical residue from the growing process will leach into the sprouts. Nylon and other synthetic bags are not ideal.
*Fill the bag 1/8 – 1/4 full with seeds.
*Rinse the bag with the seeds inside.
*Place the bag of seeds in a bowl of filtered water for 4 -12 hours.
*Rinse the seeds well.
*Hang bag out of direct sunlight and rinse 2-3 times per day until sprouts are the desired size.
Choosing Your Seeds
You can satisfy many nutritional requirements with a good mix of green veggie and legume seeds. Sunflower, alfalfa, radish, broccoli, clover, and lettuce seeds provide phyto-nutrients and vitamins.
Bean and lentil seeds provide protein and fiber. Sprouting encourages legumes to release more of their nutrients and digest more easily, so people who cannot digest beans sometimes do fine with bean sprouts.
Most lentil varieties make great raw or cooked sprouts. Only mung and garbanzo (chickpea) bean sprouts can be eaten raw without potentially causing gas or stomach upset. Other bean sprouts, especially kidney and black (turtle) beans, need to be cooked for at least a few minutes after sprouting.
Grain sprouts include buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, or oat groats (be sure to get a gluten-free batch if you are celiac/gluten sensitive), and can usually be eaten raw. Buckwheat and oat tend to have the sweetest flavor and can be used for raw cereals, while quinoa and amaranth are more sour and are better for salads and savory dishes.
It is important to get organic, unprocessed seeds, still in their hulls/shells. Hulled seeds will not sprout. Some stores carry specific sprouting seeds which are usually fresher and higher quality, but even the bulk seeds/beans in most health food stores (the fresher the better) will provide sprouts. Most seeds/beans can be sprouted if they are still in their unhulled, unheated form.
It can take a little perseverance at first to grow sprouts, especially if you tend to be the forgetful type. But eating a mouthful of high-vibe living sprouts that grew in your own kitchen is worth the few minutes of rinsing each day to grow them. Sprouting is a simple and affordable way to include more living, nourishing foods in your healthy lifestyle.
This post is contributed by Ron McDiarmid, who is the founder of My Healthy Living Coach. Having had health challenges along the way Ron was keen to share the research and learning he gathered. Through MHLC this continued into a current presentation of healthy lifestyle choices and how to implement them. Check out his website at www.myhealthylivingcoach.com.