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Grow Your Own Sprouts

The Easy Sprout Sprouter

We've been using an Easy Sprout sprouter for some time now. The instructions that come with it are terrible but it's pretty easy to figure out.

When you eat sprouts you are eating a living food. It isn't something that has been picked and is slowly deteriorating in the back of the fridge. Eating sprouts essentially means eating the freshest food you can acquire. I'm not even going to try to list all of enzymes, anti-oxidants and whatnot that are available in sprouts But think of them as mini concentrated versions of the plants they want to grow into. The seed is packed with everything it needs to get itself growing. It is like a self contained survival kit packed with all the vitamins and nutrients needed to self start itself to grow into a plant. So why not just eat the seeds? Because the seed needs to germinate and sprout for these important vitamins and chemicals to be unlocked.

Because sprouts are so small, when you grow and eat them, you eat lots of them. Which means pound per pound, you are able to ingest higher doses of the good stuff than you would if eating the fully grown plants. A good example of this is broccoli sprouts. Broccoli contains a cancer fighting agent known as sulforaphane. And it just so happens that broccoli sprouts have a higher concentration of this compound than broccoli plants. So instead of eating pounds of broccoli, you can just eat handfuls of broccoli sprouts and enjoy the same benefits. That's the theory anyhow.

What I enjoy most about eating sprouts is their crisp and crunchy texture. I love growing piles of sprouts and stuffing them into a pitas with fresh tomato slices and big chunks of goat cheese. You can buy some common sprouts at grocery stores. Like alfalfa for example. But why bother. When you grow your own, you can grow huge quantities. And they're always fresh.

Sprouting is very simple to do yourself, providing you with an endless supply of fresh, tasty and healthy sprouts. Just use common sense when it comes to food safety. Keep things clean and pay attention to what you eat - good rules to "eat" by, even if you didn't grow it yourself.

To grow your own sprouts you need a sprouter to grow them in. The two commercially available sprouters we use are the Easy Sprout and the Sprout Master. The Easy Sprout is nothing more than a pair or stacking cups with the inner cup having a perforated bottom for drainage. The Sprout Master is a tray sprouter that consists of a deep tray with a perforated bottom and a drip tray. My favorite is the Easy Sprout because I can soak and grow seeds in the same container. And I find it easier to do things like rinsing and removing hulls with the Easy Sprout.

Organic Seeds for Sprouting

Find a good source of organic seeds sold specifically for sprouting.

The Sprout Master Sprouter

The Sprout Master sprouter lets you grow thick mats of green sprouts.

If you are about to grow sprouts for the first time, start with something simple. I would say alfalfa is your safest bet. It is easy to grow, cheap, easy to find and it tastes great. You want to use seed that is safe for sprouting: an organically grown seed free of pesticides and other chemicals. I buy my seeds online from Mumms Sprouting Seeds Sprouting is really simple though so start with whatever you feel like trying: lentils, clover, broccoli... start with the salad types. Avoid things like shelled sunflower seeds and mucilaginous seeds such as arugula and mustard. They are better sprouted with other non-mucilaginous seed or grown as microgreens.

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Alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts

To start off, seeds need to be soaked for anywhere from 3 to 12 hours. It depends on the seed. Just add your seed to a container and pour in some water. The seeds will swell so be sure to use a good amount of water. This initial soak is what gets the entire process started. This is what breaks down the enzyme inhibitors that prevented the seed from sprouting in the first place. Don't start with too large an amount of seed. A few table spoons of alfalfa doesn't look like much when just seed, but once sprouted their size increases greatly. You want to eat them while they're fresh so sprout often with small quantities instead of trying to sprout lots in one batch.

Once soaked, the seeds will have to be drained thoroughly. If they are left in too much water they will rot. This is where your sprouter does it's job. Some of the simplest sprouters around are simply jars with a piece of mesh secured over the opening using a rubber band. When tilted upside down or on an incline, water is free to drain out of the jar. More elaborate sprouters will also provide air circulation to keep the sprouting seeds "less moist". The added air flow also helps regulate temperature as the sprouting process generates heat and too much heat it not good. Although you don't want your sprouts to be too cold either. The optimal temperature is somewhere just below room temperature. In your kitchen out of directly sunlight is good enough.

Lentil sprouts

Lentil sprouts

At least once a day you need to rinse your sprouts. Rinsing helps wash away any contaminants that may be forming on the sprouting seeds but it serves several other purposes also. It regulates the temperature of the sprouts and also break them up to avoid clumping. This also frees some of the hulls that might be clinging to the emerging sprout. Your sprouts should be rinsed in luke-warm water - something close to the temperature at which they are sprouting. I like to use the sprayer on my kitchen faucet as this really gets them stirred up. Don't be afraid to give them a good shake while rinsing to loosen the sprouts from one another and free some of the hulls.

Some elaborate sprouters will spray water on your sprouts for you as they grow. It sounds like a good idea but I'm not convinced it's worth the expense. These sprouters recycle water in their reservoirs and aimply mist it over your sprouts, over and over again. It is a low pressure mist so all it's really doing it keeping you sprouts moist. It's not keeping them loose and not keeping them clean. These sprouter, I believe, are more suited for the growing of microgreens: sprouts with green leaves. But I have yet to use one so I can't really say for sure. When your sprouts are growing they need be kept from drying out but this is not to say they need to be soaking wet.

Pea Sprouts

Green pea sprouts

Most seeds will be ready to eat in 3 or 4 days although different sprouts may taste better eaten earlier than others. Some people prefer to let the sprouts form green leaves whereas other people prefer to eat their sprouts just as the seeds are swelling and starting to sprout. While sprouting, sample your crop each day to see what tastes best to you. When they have reached the size you desire, store them in the fridge to slow their growth. Don't keep them for more than a few days as they start to break down and go bad quickly. You want to eat them while they're fresh anyways. I like to dip into mine and eat them by the handful while I'm standing in front of the fridge. Fresh sprouts don't last long around here.

It is important to keep your sprouting equipment as clean as possible. If you leave sprouts in your sprouter too long they start to turn brown, and this will stain the sprouter, particularly those made from white plastic. Some sprouting instructions I've read recommend the use of bleach or peroxide to thoroughly disinfect your sprouter before use. If I had to do that every time I used the thing, I'd stop using it. I find lots of hot soapy water is fine and when I'm feeling particularly paranoid, an over night soak in a diluted solution of hot water and vinegar puts my mind at ease. Just remember to keep it clean.

You can find detailed instructions on how to grow sprouts using the Easy Sprout and Sprout Master sprouters as well as information about some different seeds you can sprout on my sprouting site.

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