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GUEST POST: Sprouting For Healthy Eating

by Guest Post on March 12, 2012

in Fruits & Vegetables,Indoor Gardening

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I am so excited to share this guest post about sprouting (which is a container garden of sorts…) by Phil Nauta. He is a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional and author of the book Building Soils Naturally, coming out in Spring 2012. He has taught for Gaia College and been a director for The Society For Organic Urban Land Care. He was an organic landscaper and ran an organic fertilizer business before teaching innovative organic gardening methods at SmilingGardener.com.

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In 2005, I started intensively studying organic gardening. That process inspired me to leave behind my junk food habit and seek a healthier lifestyle. I learned to grow my own food and I discovered sprouts, one of the most nutrient-dense foods you’ll ever eat. Since then, I’ve been sprouting year round, and especially in the winter when fresh food is not plentiful.

Sprouting is super easy, takes 2 minutes each day and saves a lot of money over buying them from the grocery store. Plus, it’s incredibly fun to see the process of how seeds become plants.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Buy your seeds. You may find them in smaller packages at a grocery store, but I buy them in bulk online from Mumm’s. Go for organic if you can. I generally stick to the seeds that are most versatile and simplest to grow – clover and alfalfa. Avoid alfalfa if you have arthritis or inflammation issues.

2. Get a container. A mason jar works well. Since I sprout a lot, I’ve found using specialized containers such as EasySprout and Sproutmaster are timesavers and grow nicer sprouts, but a mason jar is just fine.

3. Put the seeds in your container and add water to amply cover them. For bonus points, add a touch of liquid kelp or sea minerals for micronutrients. Soak for 4-6 hours, although if you forget them overnight, you’ll still be okay.

4. After soaking, drain the water off. Spread the seeds out in the container so that they have room to breathe and grow. If you’re using a jar, an excellent strategy is to cover the mouth with mesh or cheesecloth, secure it with an elastic, and set the jar upside down at an angle, with something under it to collect any water that drains off.

5. Rinse and drain the sprouts 1-2 times daily, with room temperature water. After rinsing, always make sure the sprouts are spread out a bit (a fork helps) and that you drain off all the excess water. If you can remember this rinsing step, you’ll be successful at this.

6. After a couple of days, once the seeds have sprouted tails, put them in sunlight for 2-5 days. They will green up. Every time you rinse, you’ll find you can rinse out some of the hulls. This isn’t necessary, but just makes your sprouts a bit tastier. This rinsing gets easier after a few days when they’re close to being ready.

7. You can now start eating them. I use them in sandwiches, salads and smoothies. Store them in your sprouter and continue to rinse them daily until you finish eating them. They will keep growing as you remove some to eat, since they have more space. You can also store them in a breathable container in the fridge for 7-10 days. Be sure they aren’t wet when you put them in the fridge or they may rot.

And that’s all there is to it. Any questions? Any tips to add?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

AJP March 12, 2012 at 6:12 am

I thought you had to clean the seeds before sprouting them. I’ve actually had a bag of sprouts seeds for awhile and have been nervous about using them because it says you have to wash them with bleach!

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Lkt March 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Oh dear, why would you wash anything you are going to eat with bleach?? what brand are they???

JessicaCRB March 12, 2012 at 7:03 am

I actually tried this for the first time with some old broccoli seeds I had laying around. I soaked them overnight in a mason jar and then rinsed them morning and night and it worked great! I hope you’re not using your mason jar on the balcony though…I keep having visions of it falling a few stories and hitting someone on the head!

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Fern March 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Hi Jessica–I think sprouting is generally an indoor activity, but I don’t see why there would be any danger of the sprouting jar falling on anyone, just like all other containers, it would take a pretty amazing gust of wind to pick the container up off the floor and carry it over the railing.

Misti March 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

I did this a few months ago and while it all worked great, I should’ve stuck them in the fridge the last two days because I ended up getting mold growing on mine.

And as AJP says, my seed pack also said to rinse them in bleach.

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Anja March 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I can’t imagine why they would want seeds rinsed in bleach??? I have never heard of that before. I always rinse my seeds in just plain water.

My question is about where to get the seeds? I have a health food shop where I go on holidays and they have sprout mixtures (Our fav is red clover, alfafa and radish mix) – but can you use any seeds or do they have to be specicifially for sprouting in this way.

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Fern March 13, 2012 at 12:20 am

Hi Anja–I responded on Facebook as well, but I found this collection of various kinds of seeds that can be used for sprouting. I don’t think you need to buy seeds specifically marketed for sprouting, but you should pick varieties of plants that are edible/taste good as very immature seedlings (essentially that’s what sprouts are).

http://www.groworganic.com/seeds/sprouting-seeds.html

AJP March 13, 2012 at 5:08 am

The bleach clean is because the seeds have a minute chance of being contaminated with EColi or something like that. I’m still not sure how necessary it is, or if you can use an alternative to bleach. Which is why I haven’t tried it yet.

Nicola Chatham March 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

From what I’ve read it’s recommended to wash seeds in bleach if the seeds aren’t organic. They can be coated in some pretty nasty chemicals – so when sprouting it’s always best to grow from organic seeds.

As an alternative, you could try using hydrogen peroxide – it’s natural and will kill any bacteria like ecoli. :)

You have a lovely site Fern! I just found it from Phil’s newsletter :)

Niesz March 13, 2012 at 6:51 am

Does anyone know if this method works with bigger seeds/sprouts like sunflower? Or do they need to be planted in soil?

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Linda March 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm

it works fine for sunflower seeds…a booth at our farmers market sells out of his sunflower sprouts every week. they are thick & delicious and he sells them when they are about 3 inches tall. He sprouts them in peat moss. you can cut off the amount you need & then keep in the fridge

Robin March 13, 2012 at 7:36 am

This post just made me want to go sprout some sprouts — it sounds quite doable. I like sprouts but what they charge for them at the grocery precludes my eating them very often. Now I’m going to try growing some myself. Thank you!

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Phil (Smiling Gardener) March 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

Hi everyone, great questions. Thanks Fern for the opportunity to guest post.

You don’t need to buy “sprouting” seeds, although Mumm’s specializes in that and they are a great place to buy from. But you can get them from anywhere that sells seeds, such as a seed company online. Clover and alfalfa are my favorites, and I try to get organic.

I’ve been sprouting for 7 years and I’ve never bleached my seeds, but I’m also not at all concerned about ingesting some E. Coli. If you do want to bleach, go for a natural bleach of hydrogen peroxide.

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Adria Afferino March 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for the post! I just sprouted some a few weeks ago but they spoiled before I ate them since I forgot to put them in the fridge! Thanks for the clarification about using bleach. It doesn’t sound appetizing…

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Fern March 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Hey Adria!!!!

Ken in Anaheim March 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

“Special” seeds might give ya more yeild…..but I’ve been sprouting plain old grocery-store-bought dried lentils for years….they come out fine and much cheaper !! Also use mung beans purchased from the bulk bins at Smart&Final. I use a glass gallon jar with a piece of fiberglass (?) window screen rubber banded to the top.

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VP March 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Great post! We’ve been doing lots of sprouting seeds this side of the pond too as part of a salad growing challenge I’m running during 2012.

If people are concerned about E.coli, rest assured if you rinse thoroughly every day and drain them as outlined in this post, you should be fine. The exception is storing beansprouts which should be for 1 day max in the fridge.

We’ve also found storecupboard seeds you would use for cooking are fine for seed sprouting purposes and much cheaper.

I came across using bleach for washing seeds last week, but this was in a commercial nursery which grows millions of grafted tomato, pepper, cucumber plants etc. They do it as part of their plant health regulations to ensure they don’t pass on plant viruses to commercial growers. I’ve also seen it used for cleaning potato seeds used for plant breeding work. Neither are quite the circumstances under discussion here.

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KRYS April 11, 2012 at 10:41 am

Alfalfa
Good for cystitis or inflammation of the bladder. Boosts sluggish appetite. Provides relief from bloating or water retention. Excellent source of nutrients. Relieves constipation. May reduce swelling and inflammation of rheumatism.
Caution: Alfalfa has been known to aggravate lupus and other autoimmune disorders. If you have an autoimmune problem, avoid this herb.

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Oakley October 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

Oh I have to try this! I love sprouts! Great in chicken pesto sandwiches. I have to try this my go around. I just started my balcony garden and I just planted some basil leaves. I hope it’ll grow soon. But I do have to try this one! Thanks for the info!

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Louis September 14, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I’m making a transition towards raw and fermented food. I know fresh is always better. I was wondering if anyone has ever tried to ferment sprouts.

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Phil (Smiling Gardener) December 14, 2013 at 7:25 am

I’m big into raw and fermented, too, Louis. Fermenting sprouts isn’t generally going to work out very well. In a way, those are 2 opposing forces – with sprouting we’re trying to grow a plant, whereas with fermenting we’re trying to break it down by encouraging specific groups of microorganisms. It might be possible to sprout whole grains just briefly and then ferment them for 12 hours in a warm place before cooking them.

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