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How to grow sprouts

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In recent years, a new crop of products has entered the market to help sustainable homes sprout their own seeds for salads, sandwiches and snacking. Sprouts, including alfalfa, mung bean, radish, and wheat berries add an extra crunch to raw dishes and are packed with an extra dose of nutrients only found in the early days of live plant growth. Best of all, they can be grown in any kitchen with the right materials. No dirt or garden plot necessary for fresh, green flavor.

What’s great about sprouts:

  • It doesn’t get more locally grown than right next to the refrigerator.
  • Each variety of sprouting seeds and grains have a distinct flavor. Wheat berries add a sweet nuttiness to salads and breads. Alfalfa and clover have a milder taste. Radish sprouts add the same peppery boldness as the full-grown veggie. Try them individually or create your own salad blend with unique flavors and characteristics.
  • Sprouts grow 365 days per year–when the snow is three feet deep or when the hot summer sun withers any other greens, sprouts will happily grow on the kitchen counter.
  • Most people consume sprouts because of their taste, however the added boost of vitamins and nutrients should not be ignored. If eaten fresh, sprouts are a living plant at the early stages of cell growth and division when nutrient content is at its peak. Several studies have demonstrated increases in antioxidant content of sprouted grains, legumes and seeds.
  • There’s something rewarding about watching a plant grow, especially the first morning a tiny green shoots poke out of the seeds. A few days later the sprouts are so long, you swear if you stood still long enough you could see them grow.

How to grow sprouts

What you’ll need:  1-2 tablespoons of sprouting seeds (available online or in most health food stores), a clean, 1 quart sized or larger glass canning jar, 1 new nylon knee-high panty hose to be used a screen for draining, several consecutive days available for rinsing.

1. Gently wash the panty hose with mild dish soap and hot water to remove any starches or detergents.

2. Place the sprouts in the canning jar and cover with cold water for 4-8 hours for an initial soaking.

3. After soaking, stretch the panty hose over the mouth of the jar and drain the soaking liquid. Rinse the sprouts with cold water and drain again. It’s important to drain as much of the liquid away as possible to avoid bacteria growth.

4. Gently shake the jar side-to-side a few times to loosen the sprouts from each other. Lay the jar on the counter or prop up slightly with the jar lid in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

5. Rinse morning and evening (every 8-12 hours) for the next 3-5 days or until sprouts reach their desired growth. Larger grains and legumes can be eaten as soon as the sprout emerges, alfalfa and other seeds are typically eaten when the first begin to turn green.

6. Before eating, rinse the sprouts a final time in cold water.  Immediately refrigerate any uneaten sprouts in a sealed plastic container.

Note: In April 2009 the FDA issued a cautionary statement to consumers about the safety of eating raw alfalfa sprouts after an outbreak of Salmonella. More than 200 cases of were reported, including many in Minnesota. The cases were eventually linked back to specific import of sprouting seeds from an Italian firm, however since then many people are cautious about eating raw sprouts. Since 1996 there have been more than 30 outbreaks linked back to Salmonella. Although there’s no guarantee that homegrown sprouts are safer than commercially produced, steps can be taken to ensure the safety of home sprouting. For more info on sprout safety, see the FDA’s Are Alfalfa Sprouts Safe to Eat?. 

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