I am a HUGE believer that most people can grow at least a portion of their own food. It is easier than you may think and easier than the companies that sell gardening supplies make it out to be.
In reality, all you really need to grow food, is soil, water, sunlight, and seeds.
When I teach people about gardening, I offer them my free gardening cheat sheet to help make things simple and do-able. On this one-page cheat sheet, the first thing to figure out is WHERE to grow your garden.
And the smallest, simplest version of a garden space is a jar on your countertop.
And your harvest will be ready in around 5-10 DAYS!!!
Can’t get much better than that.
Sprouting seeds is a fantastic way to grow fresh produce in the middle of winter when it is too cold to go outside but your body is craving extra vitamins and minerals from fresh food.
If you have struggled with traditional gardening, I encourage you to give sprouting seeds a try.
Especially if you are the type that has a self-proclaimed brown thumb. Or forgets to water the plants.
You only have to keep up with it for a few days.
And then you get your harvest!
Yes, but what about foodborne illness? Remember the sprout recalls from 2015? I thought sprouts were dangerous!
If you don’t remember the sprout recalls, here is a list of articles to remind you. There has been a myriad of sprout recalls from 2012-2018. These outbreaks are usually plastered all over the news.
And while, yes, they can be scary and should be taken seriously (especially if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system), they are nothing to panic about. Here are a couple of articles discussing homegrown sprout safety: here and here. Homegrown sprouts are generally safer than commercially grown sprouts, which is where you see the problems with food-borne illness outbreaks.
Why are commercially grown sprouts problematic? The short and dirty answer is that the large farms that grow sprouts were using unsafe farming practices. Such as using irrigation water to rinse the seeds. Ick! Add to that the fact that the sprouts are grown at room temperature (an ideal climate for foodborne illnesses to grow), the sprouts are often shipped great distances, and that sprouts are typically eaten raw, and yes, it is a recipe for trouble.
I have written an entire article on the problems (and a really great solution) to these problems with sprouts. If you are nervous about sprout safety, please read my post all about it here!
The quick answer is to use high-quality seeds and grow them in your fridge (because the bacteria that cause food-borne illness cannot grow at 40-degree temperatures!) instead of the countertop.
Whew, now that we have addressed that glaring concern, let’s move on to HOW to grow sprouts at home.
How to grow sprouts at home
Equipment you will need: To start sprouting seeds, the only thing you actually need to purchase is the seeds. You will also need a clean jar or container and clean water.
However, if you would like to purchase specialized equipment, it does make the process easier. Here are some items that I recommend.
3 Sprouting lids – for small, medium, and large seeds
Set of 4 Sprouting lids – for wide-mouth canning jars
Sprouting trays – 4 tiered
Stainless steel sprouting stands – Set of 2 – for helping the water to drain from your jars
Sprouting seeds complete starter kit
And here are some places where I recommend getting seeds for sprouting. Remember to do your homework on any company that you buy sprouting seeds from and buy organic whenever possible.
Your local food co-op or whole foods store
Terrior Seeds Company
High-Mowing Organic Seed Company
The Sprout House – these are the seeds I used in the pictures below!
Food to Live
The basic process of sprouting seeds goes like this.
- An initial 24-hour soak
- Rinse and drain the seeds twice per day
- Continue rinsing and draining until the sprouts are as big as you want them to be
Note: A few seeds (such as mung beans) are typically grown in the dark to prevent them from photosynthesizing to create white sprouts rather than green. This makes them taste more tender and sweet.
Here are pictures of what each step should look like. These pictures are of 1 Tablespoon of alfalfa seeds in a Pint-sized canning jar. This is typically what I grow my sprouts in because it is what I have on hand. I usually leave the jar next to my kitchen sink so I will have a higher chance of remembering to rinse them. As discussed above, you could certainly keep yours in the fridge if you want.
Your sprouts will (obviously) look different if you use other seeds besides alfalfa but the process will be similar.
Initial 24-hour soak – Don’t skip this step. This gives the seeds plenty of time to absorb the water they need to sprout. They will plump up and the water will probably change color. If you do want to save some time, you CAN do an 8-12 hour soak instead.
After about 24-hours, dump the water out (use a strainer or be super careful so you don’t lose too many seeds down the drain), rinse them with clean water and drain them again. From here on out, you will rinse and drain the seeds at least twice per day.
Day 1 – You probably won’t notice much change in the seeds at this point. They will pretty much look the same as when you started. You may seed some of the seed hulls starting to crack or some white spots appearing on the seeds.
Day 2 – You will begin to see white growths starting to come out of the seeds.
Day 3 – The white tails will begin to get longer and longer. The seedlings will start to fill up more and more of the jar. The plants are growing quickly and will begin sticking together in clumps.
Day 4 – You will probably start to see some of the tails growing into tiny green leaves. You will now need to be less vigilant about accidentally rinsing seeds down the drain. You may not even need a strainer at this point althought it is always a good idea to use one, just in case!
Day 5 – The green leaves will continue to grow and turn more green. At this point, my sprouts are all growing upward in one large mass and I don’t have to worry about losing any of them down the drain. Keep rinsing and draining until the sprouts are to your liking. Once they are tall enough, store them in the fridge, covered. They will last around a week in the fridge (if your husband doesn’t eat them all first like mine does!)
And there you have it! Your very own homegrown sprouts. Put them on your sandwich for lunch or add them to a salad for a fresh crunch. Yum!
Sprouting seeds really is one of the best ways to quickly grow your own food at home. You really can’t beat a “garden” the size of a coffee mug that is harvestable in 5 days!
Try it out!
And, if you are wondering what else you can sprout…well, you can sprout just about any seed (chia pets, anyone?!? Cha-cha-cha-chia!) but obviously, some will taste better than others. I will be doing a sprout comparison experiment with 12 common types of sprouts soon so stay tuned for that.
Before you go, tell me…
Have you tried sprouting seeds before? What was it like? Did you have success or failure? Tell me what your experience with sprouting seeds has been in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it!!