Sprouting a Harvest

The calendar says it’s spring, but here in Colorado, the snowflakes are still flying. Even if we could plant outside, crops take time to grow. It may be way too soon for homegrown tomatoes, but in less than a week you can have fresh crunchy greens for your salad and sandwiches. How? Homegrown sprouts are easy to produce right there on your kitchen counter.

Alfalfa sprouts have been popular for decades, and are a good place to start, but there are many other options. Clover sprouts are delicious, reminding you of spring. Mung bean and lentil sprouts may be eaten raw or added to stir-frys. Broccoli and radish seeds have a decided zing to them, while onions will wake up your taste buds. Among the grains, wheat berries and rye are your best choices.

How to Sprout Seeds:

An assortment of specially designed sprouters are available for sale, and most work very well, but you can create your own sprouting jar from pieces you probably already own.

What you need:

  • a glass jar
  • a canning lid ring or sturdy rubber band
  • a piece of nylon hosiery, screening, or cheesecloth
  • seeds to sprout

Smaller seeds, such as alfalfa, will easily fit into a pint jar. Mung beans and the like will need a little more room.

Make sure everything is clean before you start. A gallon of water with a tablespoon or two of bleach in it will kill any unwelcome mold spores.

Place a couple of tablespoons of small seeds into the canning jar. (You’ll need proportionately more of the bigger seeds in the larger jar.) Add some water and let them soak for a couple of hours to overnight. Then stretch a piece of nylon stocking (or cheesecloth, or something similar) over the mouth of the jar and secure with the canning ring or rubber band. That will keep the seeds in as you drain the water out. Be sure to drain thoroughly.

Put the jar of seeds in plain view, where you will remember to care for it. Light doesn’t matter at this stage. Temperature isn’t critical, but should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 to 80 degrees F.

Every morning and evening, cover the seeds with water, swish it around, and drain it out again. You want the seeds to stay damp, but not submerged. They need both air and moisture to grow. Sprouts should appear within four to five days. If the sprouts aren’t green, put them in a bright light (not direct sunlight) for a few hours to develop the chlorophyll in the leaves.

Store the sprouted seeds in the jar in the fridge, and use within a few days. You may want to keep more than one jar in process so you can produce a continual harvest.

(This article first appeared on my Mountain Plover blog on November 19.)

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