spouts to eat

Benefits / conditions / containers / what to do / what to sprout / resources

“Seeds don’t just have to be planted… sprout them for delicious crops of organic, super nutritious, zero-air-mile salad all year round – the fastest urban gardening you can get..”

 s p r o u t s    a r e . . .
a young alfalfa sprout the   Nutritious – seeds are packed with nutrients, sprouted seeds are even better. As each grows, proteins, enzymes, vitamins and other nutrients increase whilst becoming more bioavailable. At the same time toxins and enzyme inhibitors are reduced, increasing digestibility.

– sprouts grown at home and harvested at the dinner table are the freshest food you’ll ever eat. They won’t have lost vitamins like shop bought vegetables or have travelled round the world. They will be organically grown, full of life and energy.

– sprouting is ridiculously cheap! You can get pounds of greens for pennies.
– it all boils down to “just add water.” With few resources and very little time or effort, you can supply yourself an abundance of live food, in your home, all year round. If you travel, they can too.
– you can grow many more young plants than you would find in a shop, your salads and recipes will always have something new, diversity is the spice of life!

 c o n d i t i o n s    f o r    g r o w t h

Air – as any small plant, sprouts need air to breathe, without it they will succumb to mould and rot more easily. Don’t put them in sealed containers and make sure that they get enough.

Water – after a good soaking, sprouts need water every 12 hours at least and more if its hot. Regularity is key, if they are even slightly deprived in their first few days of life they will be permanently setback. In your efforts to keep them watered don’t drown them, they must be allowed to freely drain, else they will soon rot. If you let them dry they’ll die. If you let them soak they’ll choke.

Warmth – sprouts need to be kept warm to germinate and grow. Optimum temperatures vary but 70 to 75 f is a good start. Don’t let them get too hot or they’ll wilt, lose vitality and die. Colder temperatures will slow growth and are good for storage, but don’t freeze them.

Space – for best results, give your sprouts some room. Some sprouts can increase up to 30 times their size. Cramming them in a jar or overfilling a tray or bag will force them to compete for light and air, with inevitable casualties. Spread only a thin layer of seeds in trays, keep them mobile in bags and jars and remember they get bigger!

Light – most sprouts can’t use light in the first few days of growth, and many never need it. However, any that produce leaves will eventually need light to ‘green up’. Direct sunlight should be avoided unless it’s cold, as it can overheat your crop. Most sprouts will be fine if they get indirect natural light, there is no need to keep them dark.

Nutrients – adding liquid plant nutrients to the soak water will give the sprouts an extra boost that you will later enjoy. It is not necessary, but will increase their health, longevity and nutritional value. You can also mist the sprouts with a dilute solution after rinsing. Use a few drops of liquid kelp in water, or another organic plant feed. [top]

 c o n t a i n e r s    t o    g r o w    i n

Jars – traditionally used for sprouting, free and easy to find, however they are far from ideal. Use them for sprouts that don’t need light, as sprouts in the middle rarely get enough. Avoid overfilling them to counter bad drainage and poor air circulation and for the same reason don’t use a lid, cover the top in a piece of muslin instead and invert jar to drain. Removing seed hulls can be a problem.

Trays – the best way of growing light seeking sprouts. They have a large surface area to soak up more light, can be stacked easily to save space, and most importantly, allow the sprouts to grow naturally; upwards. This allows several croppings of the more and less vigorous plants so all can be harvested at their nutritional peak. Cover the bottom of the tray with a thin layer of soaked seeds. Make sure it is at least 2 inches high and has drainage holes smaller than the seeds. Any sort of tray can be used ,but if the roots have something to attach to the sprouts will do better and are easier to rinse, drain and clear hulls from. Use a bamboo basket or put mesh in the bottom of a tray, which can be sized for different seeds. Clean with a stiff brush, leave to dry, brush again and try not to be a perfectionist!

To give the sprouts the best conditions it is a good idea to put them in a mini greenhouse which raises and regulates temperature and slows water loss. A clear plastic bag will do, although a custom built one allows for more efficient use of space. Remember to leave enough room inside for air.

Bags – best for beans and grains which don’t need light. They allow air to the sprouts, are impossible to break, take up less space than jars and are easier to rinse and drain. Just dip and hang!

Make drawstring bags of any material that allows water and air to move freely but holds the sprouts, the best is hemp or linen as they still breathe when wet and don’t dry their contents too quickly. Put pre-soaked seeds into a moistened bag, dip in rinse water for a minute and hang to drain away from drafts. On each subsequent rinsing move the sprouts around in the bag to stop them rooting into the fabric. Grains and beans expand by about 3 times from dry, so don’t overfill it. [top]

 w h a t    t o    d o

Soak organic seeds for 8 hours or overnight in lots of water, some larger seeds may need longer. Add a liquid feed to the water for extra nutrition.

Rinse sprouts well at least every 12 hours. Trays need careful spraying in the beginning as it washes away mould causing fungi, but try not to move sprouts around as they root. Once they’re fixed immerse them in water for at least half a minute. Swishing them about, (and especially inverting them,) helps to remove seed hulls.

Drain your sprouts well, standing water is a good way to encourage rot. Leave trays on an angle for a minute or so, or briefly put them on some tissue to wick the water away (don’t leave them on it or they may dry out.)

Harvest sprouts carefully by gently pulling ripe ones out from the rest. This allows less developed ones to continue growing so you get several harvests of perfect sprouts.

Store them in a plastic bag in a cool dark place, such as a fridge, and rinse them every 3 days or so. Most sprouts will keep at least a week like this and often longer. [top]

 w h a t    t o    s p r o u t

Sprouts can be divided into those grown as small green plants, (mainly eaten raw although some have to be juiced) and those grown briefly just to improve the nutritional qualities of the seed, (mainly grains and beans).

 g r e e n s

Best grown in open trays these are mostly eaten raw.

Alfalfa – means ‘father of all foods’ in Arabic, a lovely mild taste means you can’t grow enough. Sensitive to heat, ready in 7 days.

Buckwheat – actually a herb, likes light, warmth and wet. Needs to soak for 12 hours and a larger mesh or holes to root into than normal, use black unhulled seeds. The hulls are susceptible to mould so rinse well, ready in 10 days.

Cabbage – very small seeds make rooting difficult, use a very fine mesh. Strong cabbagey flavour, ready in 6 days.

Clover (red) – like alfalfa but sharper taste and bigger leaves, ready in 6 days.

Fenugreek – Tall and bitter, prefers cool temperatures. Mix with milder sprouts to tone it down, ready in 9 days.

Garlic – expensive, but just as good as the bulb for health and taste, but with less odorous after effects. Seed jackets don’t come off easily, just eat them! The first week will see little growth, ready in 12 days.

Mustard – as you’d expect this tiny sprout is hot. Use the black type as it’s easier to grow. Too hot for mass consumption, better for spicing up other meals, ready in 6 days.

Radish – hot, rinse well, ready in 6 days.

Sunflower (in shell) – sprout black ones as the shells fall off more easily and rinse well as they are prone to mould. As buckwheat, soak long and use a larger mesh, they get big! Ready in 10 days.

Wheatgrass – looks like grass and must be juiced. Soak hard wheat grains for 12 hours and use a large holed tray or basket. Harvest with scissors, has a strong flavour and many health giving properties, ready in 12 days. [top]

 p u l s e s,   g r a i n s ,   n u t s    a n d    b e a n s

Best grown in bags, most of these sprouts are ready in 3 to 5 days. Sprouted beans and grains should be used as you would unsprouted, but with less cooking. Although sprouting increases nutrients and digestibility they are still essentially raw and eating large quantities regularly without cooking is not recommended. Smaller beans are easier to digest and can be eaten raw especially if you grow them long, light cooking is still advised for regular, mass consumption.

Adzuki – cousin of the mung bean, crispy, use in salads sparingly, ready in 5 days.

Barley – grows about 2 to 3 times the length of the grain, better cooked, ready in 2 to 5 days.

Chickpea – cook, makes good sprouted humus, ready in 4 days.

Lentil – very easy to grow, steam them or eat sparingly on salads, ready in 5 days.

Kamut – this ancient grain is more nutritious and used the same way as wheat if you can find it. Sprout till the shoots are half the size of the berry, 4 days.

Mung – the famous Chinese sprout, to get them long, grow under a heavy bag of water with a banana or two nearby, (it gives off ethylene gas, a plant growth hormone.) The seed hulls don’t move easily, let them float away by holding the sprouts underwater, ready in 5 days but you can grow longer.

Oats – use oat groats, you can eat sprouts raw, but better cooked, sweet. Ready in 3-5 days.

Pea (green) – like lentils, but bigger and needs cooking, ready in 5 days.

Sunflower (hulled) – sweet nutty taste, but gets bitter and moulds easily if you leave them too long, grow for 2 days, then eat.

Quinoa – Untested.

Wheat – sprout this and use it to make sprouted breads, ready in 3-5 days.


 r e s o u r c e s

Although the above information will keep you in fresh salad and better beans indefinitely, you may want to read a few books on sprouting.

Happy sprouting! Please send any hints and tips to [email protected]

Thanks to the plasterers in manchester for the studio space @ the plastering company