Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones dropped in today to share her experiences sprouting seeds! This is such a fun project. -Marisa
With the late onset of spring here in Philly, I’ve been craving fresh flavors and textures. Trying my hand at fresh, homegrown sprouts seemed like the perfect food project for April.
In order to get sprouts, you need to start with seeds. You can pick up bags of seeds and beans grown specifically for sprouting, like alfalfa, quinoa, adzuki, and others, by the ounce or by the pound. I ended up going for The Sprout House’s sampler pack, which includes about two ounces of 12 different kinds of sprouts, all certified organic, and followed their guidelines for home sprouting. I’ll spend the next few months cycling through all the different kinds to see which are my favorites.
Large, wide-mouth quart jars are best to use for this project. And since the jars of sprouting seeds need to be covered but allow air flow, I also picked up a fresh batch of cheesecloth. The one I got was a little more tightly woven than what I usually use — after trying it for sprouting, I’d probably stick to using a few layers of a cheesecloth with a more open weave in the future, just to make sure there are openings enough for drainage and airflow.
If you don’t want to use cheesecloth — the only drawbacks I noticed were that it’s not reusable and it will temporarily smell a little funky if you accidentally let it sit in water — there are a ton of special wide-mouth jar lids, like this one Marisa wrote about last year, to try out, too. And if you’re using cheesecloth, grab some snug rubber bands or sturdy kitchen twine.
The last piece of equipment I’d recommend is some kind of shallow, walled container, one for each jar, in which you’ll tilt your jars so the seeds won’t sit in standing water.
I selected three kinds of seeds from my sampler pack to start with: quick-growing broccoli and alfalfa and slower-growing sunflower (truth be told, my dream microgreen).
When you’re ready to sprout, pour a tablespoon or two of seed into your quart jars — what you see here started with 1 tablespoon of each kind of seed.
Before you soak, start by sanitizing your seeds in a 1:10 solution of bleach or hydrogen peroxide and water for five minutes. (This step is recommended by the FDA for home sprouters and required of commercial sprouters.) Then, drain the seeds and rinse them in fresh water three times.
Once your seeds are sanitized, add water to submerge your seeds, then let them soak overnight. In the morning, drain your seeds, rinse them, and drain again so that no water will be left standing in the jar. Top with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, or use a sprouting lid.
Here’s where those shallow containers come in. Place your covered jars of rinsed sprouts into the containers so that they’re leaning open-end-down, which will allow any excess liquid to drain out.
Rinse your seeds once in the morning and in the evening, being sure to drain them well and replace them leaning down in the container. Check the container before each rinse to make sure there’s no standing water accumulating in there, either.
By day three of rinsing twice a day, I definitely had sprouting, as you can see in the photo of the alfalfa seeds with their tiny, just-emerging shoots.
By day five, both the broccoli and the alfalfa sprouts were ready to eat. I transferred them to a fresh container with half a paper towel in the bottom and put them in the fridge. They were delicious on my bagel with some herbed fromage blanc this morning — crunchy, fresh, green, and nutritious.
Unfortunately, despite the same treatment, the sunflower seeds didn’t do so well. The Sprout House’s were hulled for easier sprouting, but I wonder if some of the seeds had been damaged or were otherwise not viable. Only a few sprouted, and the sprouts were small, not like the tall, juicy sprouts I buy at the farmers’ market. I’ll do some research and give sunflower sprouts a try again.
But for now, I’m happy to snack on my broccoli and alfalfa sprouts, which I’ll be putting on salads, sandwiches, toast, and tacos all this week — maybe even in a green smoothie.
Have you tried sprouting seeds before? What are your favorite ways to eat sprouts?