Summer is over; the cool, crisp days of autumn have begun and local markets are already carrying fall produce. But the end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your salad days. It’s easy to keep fresh greens in your diet all winter long. How? Oh, that’s simple… sprouts.
Sprouts are probably the easiest indoor gardening adventure, and the fastest. Sprouts are just regular, everyday seeds, beans or grains that have been taken to new heights of nutrition and deliciousness by adding a little bit of water and time. Growing your own is simple and while you can do it DIY with damp paper towels and any available jar or tray, picking up a natural clay sprout pot will make it easier, faster and more attractive – which means you’ll be more likely to sprout some goodness.
Spouts are rich in antioxidants, protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Ounce for ounce, they provide more nutrients than any other whole food. Growing them yourself means you’re in complete control of what goes into your plants, and you know they’ll be super fresh.
Any seed, bean or whole grain can be sprouted, but the easiest for starters include alfalfa, mustard, radish and clover. Lentils, mung and garbanzo beans and green peas are also good choices for beginners. Sunflower seeds make tasty sprouts and broccoli sprouts are surprisingly spicy.
Smaller, seed-based sprouts like alfalfa and clover are great for salads, sandwiches and spring rolls, while larger legume-based sprouts make killer additions to stir fry, soup and heartier salads. It sounds counterintuitive, but start with “seed quality” legumes rather than “food quality” (which are meant for cooking) for the best results. Your local health food store, or even gardening center should have them. Keep your unsprouted seeds and legumes in an airtight container until you’re ready to get growing.
If you’re using our sprouting tray, it’s super simple, soak the seeds in water, then pour them into their own terracotta sections. Put the lid on and walk away. Two to three times each day, pour off the water that collects in the bottom container (use it to water your plants!) and rinse each sprout section under running water, then reassemble the tray. Continue until you see sprouts forming, which should be about 3 to 7 days. Remove the lid and set each section in sunlight for one day to allow chlorophyll to develop for green, luscious sprouts. Eat!
A few tips
- You can duplicate the process by layering sprouts in damp paper towels, using upturned mason jars with screens over their mouths, or a number of other methods. They just require a bit more work.
- During the germination process, sprouts like to be in the dark (which explains the terracotta!) and they like moderate temperatures (60 to 85 degrees). It’s best to keep your sprouts away from drafts and major heat sources.
- Generally, an ounce of seeds will yield about 1 cup of sprouts and beans and legumes will expand to approximately double the amount as when dried. Remember, fresh sprouts keep for a very short time, so once you have edible sprouts, dry them gently and transfer them to the refrigerator, then start the next batch!
- When soaking, plan for 3 to 8 hours for small seeds, 8 to 16 hours for larger seeds and legumes and 10 to 16 hours for whole grains. Once you see sprouts, you can let them continue growing for a short time, depending on how you want to use them. Most seed and legume sprouts are best harvested when they’re 1 to 2 inches long; grains can go longer, up to 4 inches.
- It’s a good idea to remove the hulls once you harvest your sprouts. Just rinse gently and remove any loose seed bits before you dry and store.