Sprouting: A DIY Embryonic Journey

I am a dedicated DIYer. Few things in life are more satisfying than the things you create, repair or repurpose yourself, in your kitchen, your garage, your office. Taking these projects on is far more engaging and empowering than paying a premium to have a specialist do them for you.

I realize not everyone shares this sentiment. Why spend free time doing things I can pay others to do? Yes, I admit that there are plenty of times when I consciously buy into convenience, but I try to keep things interesting by getting my hands dirty from time to time.

I’m about to share with you a DIY technique so easy that you’ll barely realize you’re doing it, and so rewarding you won’t believe what a clever hobbyist you are! Hobbies you can eat are the best kind, right? Join me on this edible adventure into sprouting!

What is sprouting, you ask? Well, it’s a simple yet incredibly significant process. Sprouts, the very first life to emerge from germinated seeds, are the genesis of all plant-based food. Therefore, a sprout contains a highly concentrated plethora of nutrients—when you eat a single sprout, you are consuming the nutrient load of an entire plant. Whoa…let that sink in.

So imagine what a whole handful of these little guys contains—vitamins, enzymes, minerals…and a whole lot of protein! Yes, for vegetarians and vegans, sprouts can be a vital source of pure and potent plant-based protein. Trouble digesting beans? Suspicious of soy? Sprouts are the answer! So do you need more convincing? Let’s roll up the sleeves and begin.

There are plenty of fancy seed sprouters on store shelves, but all you really need to sprout is a wide mouth ball jar—I like the quart size, but you can definitely go smaller or larger—and a sprouting screen, available for cheap in the store. I begin with 1/3 cup of seeds. This will yield about 2 cups of sprouts, so if you don’t think you’ll eat that much within 5 days (average time they’ll last in fridge), then go with less. The more room they have to grow in the jar, the better, so if you’re doing more than half a cup, I’d suggest sizing up.

sprouting seeds soaking

What kinds of seeds are we talking here? The sprouts most people are familiar with are probably mung bean sprouts, common in Asian dishes such as Pad Thai. These are fat, juicy, and easy to grow—great for beginners. I started sprouting with mung, then tried a storebought mix of mung, adzuki, and green lentil, and loved it—so I created a blend of these seeds for my home sprouting. You can eat any kind of sprouted seed, but most popular are beans, greens and grains.

You can get all the seeds you need in the Bulk Department, but we also have some fantastic new sprouting mixes brought to us by High Mowing Seeds available in the Produce Department. These seed experts have pre-selected their favorite combos and brought them directly to you, ready for your sandwiches, salads and anywhere else you can think of. They have a great demo video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/s9oJLrCQy6A —check it out!

I would recommend a single seed or simple mix for a first time sprouter, since different seeds have different germination periods and some may be ready to eat before others. The mix I used in this batch contained alfalfa, radish and clover in addition to mung, lentil, and adzuki, and the former take a little longer to finish. In the future, I’ll keep them separate to let each seed reach its full potential! But the results were still delicious 🙂

sprouting seeds after soaking

The first step is to measure out your seeds into your jar, and wash them in 3 changes of water, letting the water drain out through the screen. This will remove any residual dust from their dormancy period. To wake up your seeds, you will need to soak them overnight or for 8 hours. Fill up your jar with about twice the volume of water as seeds—they will absorb plenty—and leave it on your counter to hydrate.

rinsing sprouts

When the time is up, dump out the water, rinse, repeat, and set the jar propped at an angle (in a bowl works great) so extra water can drip out. Relax—the hardest part is over! All you will need to do now is rinse them twice a day—I usually do it along with my breakfast and dinner dishes. Putting it right next to the sink helps as a visual reminder.

draining sprouts

The key to great sprouts is giving them enough air in the container to breathe, but not so much that they dry out between rinses. If you see this happening, rinse more often—your sprouts should remain moist, but not dripping wet, at all times. You can watch the amazing sprouting process unfold by the hour, and remember—the more sun they get towards the end, the more chlorophyll the leaflets will produce. Green is good, so let there be light!

draining sprouts

You’ll know it’s time to harvest your sprouts when you start to see their cotyledons—the pair of leaflets that emerges from the tip of the tail. An early harvest is fine, too—don’t be afraid to eat what you soak! For detailed instructions specific to each seed, check out http://sproutpeople.org/growing-sprouts/sprouting-instructions/. These folks are a fountain of information and expertise, and I enjoyed several chuckles while combing through their site. Highly recommend.

diy sprouts

I hope after reading, you are convinced both of the worthiness and the facility of adding sprouting to your DIY repertoire! Your wallet and your body will thank you—it doesn’t get much healthier than this. Happy sprouting!