A tiny seed has everything stored within it that it needs to grow into a plant and as the dormant seed bursts into life those nutrients held inside it are activated.
Sprouting seeds at home is a simple way to generate an endless supply of little powerhouses of nutrition. Not only is it simple, it is also very cost effective. A packet of seeds costs very little and will contain hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds so one packet can go a long way.
The sprouted seeds, known as sprouts, are highly alkalising and packed full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and enzymes. The actual nutrient content varies depending on the type of seed but vitamins A, B-complex, C and E are often abundant as is calcium.
No fancy equipment needed
As with most things it’s possible to buy all sorts of specialist equipment but you can also make a start with a glass bowl, jar or even a large glass and a sieve. Oh, and some seeds of course!
You can sprout all kinds of seeds: chickpeas, mung bean, lentils, alfalfa, broccoli, radish, fenugreek, mustard and many more.
The only caveat on which seeds to sprout is that you buy seeds that are either being sold in the grocery store as food (chickpeas, lentils etc) or seeds that are specifically for sprouting. This is because seeds being sold to grow vegetables may have been treated with substances that wouldn’t be desirable if you consume them, whereas seeds specifically for sprouting wouldn’t have been chemically treated in this way.
Hygiene is important
In general sprouting seeds is safe and highly nutritious but there are a few things to be aware of when starting out.
When sprouting your own seeds it is important to ensure all of your equipment is clean and that you wash your hands thoroughly to avoid transferring any bacteria to the seeds.
There is a small risk of foodborne bacteria from freshly sprouted seeds so if you are pregnant or deemed to be vulnerable, sprouts should only be consumed after cooking them. They won’t contain as many nutrients when cooked but they’re still a great source of minerals and fibre.
Oh, and if your sprouts go brown or start to look mouldy, err on the side of caution and start again.
To get the seeds started you need to soak them for a while. Depending on the type and size of seed this might need to be just a couple of hours or it could be overnight. Always check the instructions to find out the correct soak time. After the seeds have soaked for the appropriate time rinse them in clean water
Drain the water and then place the seeds in a bowl, jar or glass. Ideally the seeds need to be just a little moist, not saturated or sitting in water so drain them well. Then place them somewhere light but out of direct sunlight.
Air needs to be able to circulate so using an upturned sieve over the jar/bowl helps protect the seeds but still allows air to circulate.
Rinse and repeat
Once the seeds have had their initial soak you need rinse them twice a day. Use clean water to give them a good rinse and then drain and replace the seeds in the jar, bowl or glass and cover with the sieve again.
You don’t want your seeds to dry out for long periods of time so it’s very hot and dry it can be useful to rinse them more often.
Remember that the seeds will swell and as the sprouts grow they take up even more space so only sprout a small quantity at first until you get used to how much you can sprout in the jar or bowl you are using.
When the sprouts start to grow ‘tails’ they are ready to eat, you don’t have to wait for leaves to appear, but if you do wait for the first tiny leaves you can use your sprouts like micro greens. With larger seeds such as chickpeas and mung beans I never wait for the leaves but for smaller seeds such as alfalfa and mustard I like to eat some immediately and leave some to green up. This way I get the best of both worlds.
Once they are at the stage you want them to be for eating, put the sprouts into the fridge to stop them growing further. Once refrigerated they should keep for a couple of days, if you don’t eat them immediately.
Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkled onto salads and into soups, add them to your morning smoothie or any other way you like to eat them. If you’re partial to a Chinese style stirfry try sprouting mung beans to grow your own bean sprouts.
Different seeds have different flavours so have fun experimenting to find your favourites to super-charge your nutrient intake.