I had a close relationship with our home garden on the dairy farm. My mom would take me to the garden store to buy seeds and plants galore. My memories are filled with creating a flower garden of pansies, marigolds, and snapdragons around my family’s patio every spring, as well as a vibrant vegetable plot full of summer’s bounty of cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes.
Garden space became limited as I got older and moved away from the farm, so I dabbled in growing sprouts on my kitchen counter. Even now, with outside garden beds and an urban backyard to grow a small cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, I still enjoy sprouting indoors because it offers separate pleasures and benefits than outdoor gardening.
Sprouting increases the nutrient content of seeds and legumes and makes them easier to digest. It takes just a few days to sprout most foods, which makes it an inexpensive way to grow food all year long. And it’s low maintenance! If you have room for a mason jar on your counter, you’re good to go.
What Seeds to Use
Alfalfa seeds are the most popular, but there are a lot of other options, like mung bean, lentil, radish, sunflower, pumpkin, wheat, chickpea, and broccoli, to name just a few. You can pretty much sprout any legume, seed, or nut.
Sprouts vs. Microgreens
Sprouts and microgreens are often lumped into one food category. However, the differences between the two are determined by whether or not the seed is planted in soil and exactly how much of the plant is being consumed. Microgreens are grown in soil, and the stems (usually 1 to 3 inches in length) are cut off and eaten. Sprouts are essentially germinated in water, and nothing is cut off. The whole thing is eaten.
Basic Sprouting Instructions
Gather sprouting seeds, a mason jar with a rubber band and cheesecloth or a special screw-top sprouting lid, and filtered water. Put 1 to 4 tablespoons of seeds in the jar. Add the water, swirl, and then drain the water. Add 1 cup of cool water, and secure the cheesecloth and rubber band or lid. Soak for 4 to 8 hours. After the initial soak is complete, drain the jar, refill it with cool water, swirl, and drain again. Invert the jar and prop it at an angle into a bowl. Repeat the rinsing and draining process twice a day. In 3 to 6 days, when the sprouts are about 1 to 2 inches long, they are ready to be eaten. Eat your sprouts, or cover the jar with the original lid and store in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.