Random fact about me: My first job (other than babysitting) was at a sprout factory. I was thirteen and willing to do menial tasks for a paycheck (I believe my first paycheck was for around $30, which seemed like a lot at the time). It was a fairly small factory, a damp place, dimly lit in spots, and it smelled strongly of Clorox and, you guessed it, sprouts. I assembled cardboard boxes for shipping, stuck stickers on the domed lids of the plastic containers, hefted bags of alfalfa seeds, and rotated soaking wet bags of sprouts. Despite my time spent at the sprout factory in the 1990s, I claim no special expertise in the matter. I just thought I'd mention it since this post is sprout-centered. Okay, moving on...
I'm glad that I haven't been buying sprouts at the store for years because I would be pretty mad at myself for not just growing them at home. It's really, really easy and much cheaper to grow your own sprouts. Sprouts are not only super healthy and tasty, but they're great for food storage. If you have some sprouting seeds on hand, you can produce fresh and nutritious greens in a matter of days, whenever you want or need them.
I thought sprouting at home would be complicated or require special equipment. Not at all. With some gentle encouragement from Amanda Soule's newest book, The Rhythm of Family, and a few supplies (most of which we already had), our family was piling homegrown sprouts on our sandwiches in no time.
The Supply List
- Sprouting seeds (I got ours at local health food store. We used Life Sprouts Alfa-Plus Mix - a blend of alfalfa, radish, cabbage, and clover sprouts. A bottle of sprout seeds, while might seem a little spendy at first, will go a long way. Two tablespoons of seeds yields about four cups of sprouts.)
- A quart-size wide-mouth canning jar
- Cheesecloth, jar ring, and a rubber band -- OR -- a sprouting lid (more on this later)
Pour two tablespoons of seeds in the glass jar. Fill jar with enough warm water to cover the seeds then add an inch or two of more water. Cut a square of cheesecloth big enough to cover the mouth of your jar. You may have to layer the cheesecloth a couple times depending on the thickness of the cloth you're using. Secure in place with the rubber band and screw on the ring. If you're going to use a sprouting lid, skip the cheesecloth, rubber band, and ring -- just put the sprouting lid on the jar (sprouting lids are inexpensive -- I got mine for less than $2. If you're going to grow sprouts regularly, I would highly recommend getting a sprouting lid.).
Let the seeds soak for about 12 hours in a dark place. I put our jar in the cupboard, under the guard of Han Solo. Quick note: you're going to be rinsing and draining your sprouts in 12-hour increments, so I'd suggest starting your seeds at a time that makes sense. For example, I didn't read ahead and I started soaking my sprouts around noon the first time, only to realize later that would mean draining them at midnight. Oops.
After the 12-hour soak, drain the water from the jar. You do not need to remove the cheesecloth or sprouting lid to do this. Rinse the seeds. Drain. Put the jar back in a dark place for another 12 hours.
Rinse and drain again. You should see little sprouts popping out of the seeds. Aren't they cute? Once you've drained the seeds, put them back in the dark.
You're going to be rinsing and draining your sprouts every 12 hours until they reach the length you want.
Once they've reached the length you want (it took about 3-4 days to get to the length in this picture), put the jar in sunlight. This will help them develop green leaves (This mostly applies to small sprouts like alfalfa, radish, and clover; larger beans, like mung bean sprouts, are not placed in the sunlight for greening).
Once the sprouts have greened, empty them into a colander and rinse thoroughly.
Spread the rinsed sprouts on a dishtowel to absorb the excess water.
Ta-da! Homegrown sprouts! It truly is gardening without soil, food grown in just a matter of days. It still amazes me.
Store your sprouts in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They should last about a week. It's a good idea to rinse them from time to time so they don't get all gross and slimy.
We've mostly been enjoying sprouts on sandwiches and salads. I love how fresh they taste and how just a simple handful of them can liven up a dish. Homegrown greens in the wintertime? Yes, please.