I'm sharing my sprouting tips in this post! I've been sprouting everything from beans to millet grass to broccoli sprouts over the years.
Q: Do I use automatic sprouters?
A: I have done very well using basic equipment without issues.
For beans, while I have used large colanders, my fave is a large steamer basket used for pasta. it's often sold with the accompanying stock pot (see big box stores like Walmart or Amazon). The duo comes in different sizes and is made of stainless steel, so will get you out around $100 or more. Obviously, you can use it for pasta and to steam veggies. What's great is that you can often find them in thrift stores or garage/moving sales, so keep an eye out for them.
I find these steamer baskets are great for doing a large batch of beans. Basket or colander, after you soak the beans 8 hours to overnight, you simply dump them in there and rinse the beans 2X a day, morning and night. The way I rinse my beans is to put the colander IN a large bowl, let the bowl fill up with water, then stir the beans with a spoon. I do this 2-3X so that all the beans have enough water. Once they have tails, I cook them up. You can read more about how I cook beans with apple cider vinegar and seaweed HERE.
Q: How long do you let the beans grow?
A: When it comes to the size of the bean tail, it depends on you.
I find medium to large tails give better results for digestibility. Large tails are more like roots and if you are eating them (after cooking), while tasteless, they are not so appetizing. Large tails for pates or to make bean pie or in shakes and smoothies don't matter much. Longer tails also mean you will have to wait longer for them to be ready, plus it means more days for you to have to rinse them, in other words, more work!
Beans do have different germination times and I've done all kinds of beans. When I want sprouted beans "in a hurry," I go for chickpeas and lentils, which are fast at 1-2 days. If I'm fine to wait and not in a rush, I go for large beans like kidney, turtle, great northern and black, which are usually ready in 3-4 days. I've also sprouted a mix of large beans in the same, as the germination times are about the same.
Q: Have I ever used a glass jar to sprout beans?
A: Yes, for lentils, but I find it faster to use a colander for beans.
As an alternative, however, some people sprout beans in large cloth bags made of jute and hemp. It's rather the same concept as using a colander: leave the soaked beans in the bag then, to rinse, fill up a large bowl and immerse the bag in the water. Make sure all the beans get wet, then remove and hang the beans with a bowl underneath to catch any dripping. I find this works too, but I don't have so much space to be hanging bags everywhere. If you do, you can give this a try.
Automatic sprouters, FYI, are good, although they don't have a high yield. They are good if you live alone or only want a small amount.
Q: How do I grow sprouts?
A: For sprouts like brassica, kale, kohlrabi and radish, I use a simple setup of large glass jars and mesh screens.
For the jars: the standard mason jars are OK, but they are rather small. I use large glass cookie jars and glass fish tanks. For the mesh top, I use mosquito netting. I bought a huge tube at the hardware store for about $30. You'll have enough to last for a long time. I cut the screen into squares larger than the hole opening of the jar. To secure, I use an elastic band that fits on the screen tightly. To wash: I wash the jars, screen pieces and elastics in hot soapy water and let air dry.
Q: How do I use my large glass fish bowls and cookie jars to grow sprouts?
A: The same way you would with smaller glass mason jars.
Put seeds in the bottom of the jar. I often cover the bottom of the jar, then add a bit more. I add water to the top of the jar, secure on the mesh screen with the band, then let sit overnight. Next morning, I drain and rinse the seeds very well, often several times until the water runs clear. By rinsing the seeds, I mean I add water all the way to the top of the jar, then let the water drain out. Then I prop the jars upside down at about a 45 degree angle. This is to let the water drain out. I've left my jars propped in the sink, but I also use a dish rack. The water drips down onto the plastic platter and I simply drain the water off into the sink. Like with beans, I rinse the seeds 2X a day very well until the seeds grow into sprouts. Rinsing means I add water to the top of the jar, and this time, I give it a good shake to make sure the seeds slosh around in the water. Germination time in days depends upon the sprout, but the usual timeframe is 3-4 days.
If the sprouts get tangled, I remove the mesh screen, fill the jar halfway up with water, and use a fork to untangle them. Then I put back on the mesh screen, add water to the top, and give a good shake before rinsing. I do this 2-3X to make sure the sprouts are well washed. If I ever over-sprout (there's too much in the jar), I simply take some out and put the growing sprouts into another jar. You'll know if there's too much because the sprouts are yellow and not green.
Q: What are my fave sprouts and how do I eat them?
A: My fave sprouts are mild tasting ones: red clover, crimson clover, alfalfa, and canola.
I eat these raw like in salads or tossed onto a burger or dogs, but I also add them to green smoothies, and I have juiced them as well. For the more expensive sprouts like broccoli, kohlrabi, etc. you want to sprout a tiny bit of those because they are pricey. They can also overpower the taste of a salad. Germination can be iffy depending upon the sprout (some plants are just like that), which can add to the cost of the sprout. While broccoli sprouts do have more bioavailable nutrients than broccoli, you might want to grow the whole plant instead of having a tiny handful of sprouts.
You can also gently steam or add sprouts to stir-frys. This is a good idea if you have sprouts and it's now gotten cooler because of fall weather.
Q: What are my fave shoots and how do I grow them?
A: My fave shoots are sunflower and buckwheat.
Buckwheat is a breeze to grow and is mild-tasting. Sunflower can be fussy- lots of sun, likes a breeze, and can get moldy if overwatered.
I've grown different types of grasses for juicing- sorry, but we aren't cows and no, you can't chew the cud! For wheatgrass, I've used both hard and soft wheat. No, there's no gluten in there. You're fine. It's grass. You can also do teff, barley and millet grass. Just remember that you need the seeds to be unhulled. For millet, I've bought seeds from the dollar store in the pet isle for birds. It says unhulled millet and it's what you need. Hulled means the shell has been taken off, like the difference between sunflower seeds which are white (hulled) and ready-to-eat and the unhulled ones which have a black shell that you have to crack open (you want this one for sprouting).
Q: What equipment do you use to grow shoots?
A: I use trays that I've bought from Mumm's.
They are a good quality plastic, better than the ones from the company Burpee and way better than the cheap ones from the dollar store. They last for years, and these ones come with holes for drainage and a second solid tray to hold any dripped water.
For earth, I use organic potting soil. If you make your own, great. Don't use black earth or topsoil. You want your plants to be mineral-rich, although most store-bought potting soil is a bit of overkill as there's enough fertilizer to last 3 months, which is a typical growing season. Your sprouts and grasses will be ready in 1-2 weeks, and will have plenty of nutrients. I don't ever add fertilizer or kelp meal, just plain water so the soil stays moist, but not soggy.
Q: What do you use for mold? Do you cut grasses 2-3 X ?
A: Humidity is the real killer during the summer months, even with air conditioning on, so I always keep a solution of 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide (H202) at the ready in a spray bottle.
The H202 is NOT the one you get at the drugstore, but at the health food store. Often it's sold as a concentrated liquid that you have to add water to (follow direction on bottle). I find sunflower tends to get moldy easily, and I spray the mold and surface of the soil with H202 at the first sign and thereafter until it's gone.
Grasses will come back after you cut them, the 2nd time being as viable as the 1st, the 3rd time being half as potent and looking rather sad-looking. It takes a lot of grass to make just a bit of grass juice, so I use 2 large platters. Once juiced, I pour the juice into large ice cube trays, pop out the cubes and keep them in a freezer-safe plastic bag or glass container.
Q: How do you sprout seeds that are high in mucilage?
A: Mucilaginous seeds like chia and arugula have different growing needs than other seeds, and while you can grow them in soil, the issue is that they get soggy with water.
I have grown these slippery seeds using paper towel as the "soil." I put a few paper towel sheets into a sprouting tray, add the seeds, SPRAY with water (you want to spray them using a spray bottle, NOT a watering can), and then put on the tray cover. I then monitor the moisture level of the sprouts daily, spraying just enough when needed. It can be tricky, because too little and they dry out; too much and they get mold. Mold is hard because the H202 helps, but can backfire with too much moisture. The paper towel as a medium can get too wet, whereas a jute growing mat stays rather dry and the water you spray evaporates more quickly.
In other words, try using a jute mat to grow slippery seeds. It's also reusable. You do the same thing as with paper towel: place mat in a growing tray, add seeds and spray with water. Cover and monitor seeds daily, spritzing with water or with a kelp solution for extra minerals. Once the sprouts have come in, you simply snip them off with clean scissors, then use a good brush and clean the mat out to re-use again. Spray with H202 to make sure it's sanitized.
FYI: I get my jute mat AND my seeds from Mumm's.
Q: What mucilaginous seeds do you grow?
A: I've grown chia, arugula and cress.
Chia, arugula and cress are nice, but in moderation. They are pungent! I grow a small tray at a time and add a tiny bit to add zing to salads. If you like a spicy tomato juice or veggie smoothie, you can try adding in a bit of these sprouts.
BTW, you can grow chia as a chia pet or as chia hair (grow chia in soil in a planter that is shaped like a head). Flax seeds planted in soil are lovely in flower boxes. Arugula can be planted like lettuce and makes a fiery addition to salads, green juices and smoothies!
To happy sprouting days ahead,
Blog Post Written 2021.
Photos: Sprout Poster & Collage by Cat.
Savvy Health &