Tiny Gardens: 6 Tips for Successful Sprouting in Your Own Kitchen
I strongly believe if you can germinate your own insanely nutritious sprouts at home there is nothing better; it’s a simple, cheap, diverse, almost fail-proof and fun activity to empower your nutrition. It is also a fun activity to do with children in the kitchen. I highly recommend you give this simple process a try. Like anything new at first it might seem awkward, but with a bit of practice, you will become a sprouting expert. Here is an instructional video from Heather Crosby, founder of YumUniverse.com, which shows how “ridiculously easy” sprouting is. If you’re on the fence as to whether or not you can master sprouting, this video will help convince you that you can! Another great resource for everything sprouting is sproutpeople.org.
Here are some further tips to start successfully sprouting in your own kitchen:
- Depending on what you are intending to sprout each seed has its own time frame for sprouting, which can range from one day to several days. The sprouting time should be listed on your seeds if you buy them packaged, and can be quickly determined with a search online.
- Start small with a limited amount of seeds. Starting small ensures you consume what you need and not forced to store excess sprouts in the refrigerator for long amounts of time. Keeping sprouts in the refrigerator for prolonged periods of time can lead to contamination.
- If you can purchase some sprouts beforehand from a reputable source and taste them, this will help you determine which sprout (or sprouts!) you like. Not all sprouts taste the same.
- There are a lot of great resources for sprouting larger quantities of sprouts, but to start you can simply use a small, clean and sterile mason jar with a lid with holes punched in it to allow for water to drain and air to circulate when placed upside down.
- Seed quality is important, but so is the quality of your water, so keep that in mind. It is critical to use fresh, filtered or structured water.
- Use a starter kit. They make the task of growing your own sprouts and microgreens fun and easily learnable!
- You can use sprouts in a wide variety of ways, including salads, smoothies, sandwiches, soups etc. You are really only limited by your imagination! Making sprouts in your kitchen will add a whole new nutritionally dense dimension to your diet.
(To expand on #7, see our post Microgreens & Sprouts: Super Simple Superfoods.)
You may have heard blanket statements saying sprouts are not safe to eat. The main issue with sprouts is the ease at which they can be contaminated and spread serious pathogens such as E. Coli and salmonella, among others. This reputation was formed years ago mainly through commercial sources (not in-home sprouting) before proper regulation and quality control practices were implemented. Today better practices and regulations have been put into place for commercial level providers. If you buy sprouts from a store, simply wash them thoroughly before use, which is the same as any other leafy green, vegetable, and fruit that you buy.
Remember this reputation is for commercial, store-bought sprouts, not the ones you grow yourself in your kitchen – where you control every step of the process. Just be thoughtful, follow directions, and be aware of these common causes for sprouts to become inedible at home:
- Seeds are not rinsed well enough before soaking.
- Seeds of poor quality or origin (purchase organic and non-GMO). We have tried and liked two brands: High Mowing and Heirloom Organics seeds.
- Seeds are left in standing water after the initial soaking.
- Seeds are not uniformed in size and shape.
- Seeds are damaged.
- Seeds are allowed to dry out, instead of remaining covered with fresh, cool water.
- The air temperature is too high or too low.
- Dirty equipment is used.
- There is insufficient air flow.
- A contaminated water source is used. Choose clean, pure, filtered water.
- A poor germination rate inhibits growth.
Don’t let this list scare you. Safe sprouting at your own home requires choosing high-quality seeds from a reputable, traceable source and using thoughtful, safe sprouting methods. Sproutpeople.org is a wonderful resource with easy-to-follow sprouting instructions for almost every seed imaginable, or use a great starter kit from Heirloom Organics.
If you have a particular tip or recipe on sprouting, please share it! If you have a place where locals in your area can pick up some sprouts, sprouting seeds, tools, or supplies, please share that as well!
View some of the nutritional value of specific sprouts using the links below: