Friday, February 26, 2010


I recently helped lead a presentation on sprouting. I've been sprouting regularly for nearly two years now--fenugreek, alfalfa, and clover seeds, and adzuki beans. It's fun, it's easy, and it's a great way to get fresh, healthy food--especially in the winter time.

One of the things that got me started doing this was realizing that while it's easy to find fresh, local greens and other veggies at farmer's markets and the co-op in the summer and fall, here in New England it's tricky to find fresh and local in the winter and early spring. But sprouting is something that you can do year-round.

There is lots of information available online about sprouting. (Here are three different sites, all with basic information on sprouting.)

Some simple directions:

All you need are seeds, a container, air, and water.

Seeds: As I said, I have been doing fenugreek, alfalfa, clover, and adzuki. I've also done 'Green Channa' and chick peas/garbanzos. But you can do broccoli, radish, lentils, kamut, mung beans, etc, etc. You can even do things like buckwheat, sunflower seeds, and flax seed--but these are a lot harder. Learn the easy seeds first and then you can try the ones with the more complicated sprouting. You can also sprout mixes of seeds--for example, alfalfa, clover, broccoli, and radish. Again I would try simple, one type together sprouting first.

Containers: Glass jars are the best (canning jars are great) but I have done it in plastic containers and most sites suggest doing them in bags as well. It's also possible to sprout seeds in trays and some stores sell special sprouting trays. Of course, you can also raid your neighbor's recycling bin for any widemouth glass jars they might be tossing out and get a free source of sprouting containers that way.

Air: Sprouts need air (just like any other living thing) and will die in a closed container. There are special sprouting lids, but you can use a cut piece of fiberglass screen held over the mouth of the jar with an elastic band (which is mostly what I do). You can also punch holes in the lid of the container. (Just make sure that the holes are smaller than the size of the seeds.) The sprouting bags need to be able to let air and water in and out but hold in the seeds.

Water: Sprouts also need fresh, clean water. Right from your tap is fine. I wouldn't use rainwater unless it was sterilize or you absolutely knew it was clean, because any micro-organisms in the water could end up on the sprouts and make you sick.

The process:

1) Soak the seeds, for at least eight hours. I usually leave them overnight. Just fill the container with a good amount of seeds and add enough water so that the seeds are covered by about an inch of water. (Nothing is exact here, but you want enough water so that the seeds or whatever can't just soak it all up overnight.) Here is where the perforated top comes in handy--just turn over the covered jar after they have soaked long enough and drain out the water. Rinse the seeds. Do NOT use this water for plants. The reason for the soaking is to remove growth inhibitors from the seeds and using this water for your plants (for example) will inhibit the growth of the plants.

2) Let the container drain. It should basically be upside down at an angle (roughly 45 degrees). I stick the containers upside in a bowl to drain. You don't want them straight upside down or the top will be covered and won't let them drain--not to mention not letting air in or out.

3) Rinse a couple of times a day--more often in hot weather. I try to remember to rinse them in the morning when I get up and before I go to bed at night. But I find the sprouts very forgiving. I often forget and they turn out fine anyway. (Incidentally, you can water plants with the water from later rinses.)

4) They are ready to eat in anywhere from two to ten days. When the sprouts are obvious, you can try eating them. I just wait until my adzukis grow little tails. For my fenugreek, alfalfa, and clover, I wait until they are green. I like eating fresh grown green things in the winter.

In the summer, if they are grown and have been out a while you may want to refrigerate them the way you would any fresh food.

And that's it. An easy source of fresh food.

(Note: I am aware that I'm currently going all over the place with my posts. I post on what I am inspired to at the moment. There is always--as far as I'm concerned--some relation to social transformation, from changing ourselves, to growing our food, to weatherizing our houses, to looking at the big social change picture. As I say on the side there, 'It's all connected.')

Quote of the Day: "Sprouts are very inexpensive (even when organic), always fresh (they grow until you chew them) and have the potential to help solve hunger and malnutrition problems in our communities and in developing countries, because they are so rich in nutrients, affordable, and easy to transport before sprouting. Sprouts are precious in winter, when the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables is declining as their price increases.
"... sprouts nourish and strengthen the whole body..." - Lucie Desjarlais


Turil said...

I was there! I was the woman in the front with the two 5 year old boys. :-) My fenugreek seeds, which I'd never tried before, are growing nicely. I'm still looking for interesting (raw) recipes for using them. Sticking them in salads and using them in raw burgers is the usual for me, but it would be nice to find some other options, too.

MoonRaven said...

That's great. I hope you enjoy the fenugreek sprouts--they are one of my favorite. Unfortunately, the only thing I can think to do with them is eat them in salads, but I do it almost daily.

Thanks for commenting!