You can grow sprouts on your kitchen counter all year round, it’s so easy and a fun project to help teach kids about growing food. Sprouts only take a few days before they ready and all you need are a few containers such as mason jars or a tray and the seeds of your choice.
Sprouts are not just for summer salads, they can be cooked quite easily. E.g. sprouted beans cook much faster and are a delicious option all year round.
Growing sprouts are slightly different from growing microgreens as microgreens are left to grow for longer than sprouts and often requires soil. Growing sprouts don’t require soil.
We’ve included a step-by-step guide for growing sprouts further down the page.
What are Sprouts?
When we are referring to sprouts in this instance we’re not talking about fully grown Brussels Sprouts (commonly referred to as sprouts in the UK), but rather sprouted seeds. In short, sprouts are seeds that have germinated and have become young plants.
To grow sprouts, seeds are normally soaked for a period. Soaking starts the germination process. After soaking, exposing the seeds to the right combination of moisture and temperature for two to seven days will allow them to germinate.
Why Grow Sprouts?
Sprouts are low in calories, and they are a rich source of nutrients and fibre. Similar to Microgreens studies have shown that sprouts are more nutrient-dense and richer in protein, Vitamins, fibre and minerals than fully-grown plants. There is also evidence that the protein in sprouts is easier to digest than those of fully grown plants.
The vitamin and mineral content of sprouts vary based on the variety of course, but most sprouts also contain essential amino acids such as lysine, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, phenylalanine and valine.
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The Best Seeds to use for Growing Sprouts
Select the seeds you are using to grow sprouts carefully as seeds bought from garden centres and supermarkets can be coated with fungicides and pesticides to give them a better chance of survival in theory. But this means that you will consume a high dose of toxins when using these seeds for sprouting.
Organic, non-GMO seeds, purchased in a sealed packet is the best option, try to avoid bulk loose seeds as these can increase the chances of food poisoning and contamination. Some packets will have the word sproutable on the label, these will be a good choice. Avoid using toasted, roasted, cracked or milled seeds to grow sprouts.
The types of seeds that can be sprouted are:
- Alfalfa seeds
- Broccoli seeds
- Mung Beans seeds
- Cabbage seeds
- Chives seeds
- Chickpea seeds
- Red clover seeds
- Fenugreek seeds
- Garbanzo seeds
- Mustard seeds
- Lentils seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Peas seeds
- Radishes seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
Note that alfalfa and chia seeds are a bit tricky to sprout so perhaps not the best option for a beginner. Kidney beans contain toxins that can cause nausea and diarrhoea in some people if eaten raw so it’s best to cook them for 10 minutes or so before eating.
The Tools You’ll Need
To grow sprouts on your kitchen counter you’ll need seeds as outlined above, a bowl to tilt the jar into and sterilised containers such as wide-mouthed mason jars. Technically some seeds like mustard seeds can be grown in a pyrex bowl with a slightly ajared lid and a piece of moist kitchen towel, rinsing seeds using this method is harder so it’s not the most practical option.
A Step-by-Step on How to Grow Sprouts
To grow sprouts you can follow these easy steps:
- Make sure your hands and containers are squeaky clean and sterile
- Place your seeds in your chosen container and cover with filtered water – use roughly 3 times the volume of the seeds worth of water. Cover with a mesh lid or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band
- Soak the seeds for up to 12 hours or overnight
- After soaking, drain the water through the mesh lid or use a metal sieve. Rinse the seeds and drain again
- Put the lid or cheesecloth back on the container and lay the jar at a slight angle upside down, so that the water can continue to drain out of the container, place the jar in a bowl to catch the water
- Continue to drain and rinse the seeds at least twice a day, using filtered water. You’ll see sprouts forming after two or three days, and your sprouts will be ready to harvest within five to seven days depending on the seeds you are using
- Once your sprouts are ready, rinse them again with filtered water and store in the fridge at between 4 C and 8 C. Use within five days
Seeds don’t need light to sprout if you think about it this process normally happens underground so you can either sprout your seeds on a kitchen counter or cupboard both will work. However, if you do not expose your sprouts to light they will appear white or pale in colour, to give your sprouts a bit of colour expose them to light on the last few days.
How to Grow Sprouts Safely: Preventing Food Poisoning from Sprouts Grown at Home
Even though they are a great source of nutrients, sprouts have been linked to an increased risk of food poisoning as they are grown in warm, humid conditions where bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can grow and thrive.
To avoid any nasty bacteria growing along with your sprouts, make sure you buy the seeds in sealed packets and always sterilise your growing containers. Wash your hands before handling the seeds, if you can avoid touching them that will be even safer.
Once the seeds have sprouted, put them in the fridge and use within 5 days. Avoid eating sprouts with a strong smell or slimy appearance as it’s more likely to cause food poisoning. It is recommended that pregnant women and people with a weaker immune system cook sprouts thoroughly or not eat them at all.
If you are unlucky enough to get food poisoning, symptoms may appear between 12 and 72 hours after eating sprouts. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Visit the NHS website for more information on what to do if you get food poisoning.
If you have any additional tips on how to grow sprouts in a jar or other container, please add them in the comments below.