Sprouting Seeds for Fresh Greens
If you are craving some green, crunchy plants in your diet, or have kids that need a science project, consider sprouting some seeds.
Seeds are dormant baby plants sleeping inside connected to their food supply. To be classified as living, this dormancy must end in order for new life to begin. In nature, this seed will grow into a plant, which will make more seeds and the circle of life continues. In just a few days and in less than a square foot of counter space, you can grow tasty miniature plants – components of salads, snacks, sandwiches and stir-fries. Sprouting can be done year round, no need to wait for spring. Eat them after 3-4 days as sprouts or after 3-4 weeks as microgreens.
Ending seed dormancy is easy, just add water. Seeds absorb lots of water, usually 2-3 times the volume of seeds is enough. It is a good idea to clean seeds first to remove debris and dust. In addition to washing them, look through the seeds for small rocks, or mounds of dirt and any broken or odd looking seeds accumulated during the harvesting process. Due to the possibility of bacterial contamination, resulting in food-borne illness, be sure to keep your sprouting environment and the sprouts clean. Home-growers can wash seeds in a mixture of lime juice and vinegar, followed by a hot water rinse and then a cold soak to kill bacteria. Soaking time varies, but the norm is 8-12 hours.
Seeds use their stored food supply to get life started, until they get to sunlight and start making their own food through the process of photosynthesis. A primary ingredient in the raw food diet, sprouts are claimed to have higher concentrations of nutrients and enzymes than the grown plant. In addition to lots of anti-oxidants, vitamins and protein, they also boost your dietary fiber. Eat some … they’re good for you.
You can sprout a variety of tasty seeds. Some of the most favorite are alfalfa, chickpeas, broccoli, and Mung beans. Here are the basics for sprouting.
- Soaking: After cleaning the seeds, add two to three parts of water to each measure of seeds. Remember that larger seeds will soak up more water. Times vary, so check the instructions accompanying the seeds you have selected. Warm water may encourage some hard seeds like Adzuki to absorb water.
- Rinsing: This is a critical step in sprouting. Rinse with cool water – a lot of it, usually two to three times a day.
- Draining: The second critical step is draining. This allows oxygen to get to the seed. Spin, shake, bounce or twirl your sprouter. Get the water out.
- Air Circulation: Plants need to breathe while they grow. Leave them out in the open air, not in a dark cabinet.
- Greening: Plants only begin photosynthesis once they get leaves. Contrary to some popular dogma, it does no harm. Sprouts of all colors are packed with flavor and nutrition. Use indirect sunlight and don’t let the plants get dried out.
- Cleanliness: Wash your sprouter well between crops. Sterilize when necessary. You can use food-grade Hydrogen Peroxide to cleanse your sprouting device. Be sure to rinse it well. Small seeds like alfalfa can get stuck in the drain holes, use a paper clip or tooth pick to push them through.
- Storage: Properly stored, fresh sprouts will keep for up to 6 weeks in your refrigerator, but eat them sooner, fresher is better. Make sure sprouts are dry before refrigeration.
Some companies that sell seeds for sprouting are:
Buy sprouting seeds from trusted sources, preferably Certified Organic Sprout Growers whose certified organic seeds have never been blamed for a single illness.
Billie Nicholson, editor
March 2013, updated Dec. 2016