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How to Grow Sprouts

easy sprout

I love a thick blanket of alfalfa and other leafy sprouts on a sandwich, no matter what they are combined with. My husband loves them almost as much as I do, so I’m constantly sprouting something.  There are three different basic types of sprouts: leafy, brassica, and bean, and each has some specific sprouting techniques. All require that you clean and disinfect your sprouters before you begin. I soak mine in a sink full of hot bleach water for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and dry them before beginning. This disinfection helps to prevent the sprouts from rotting on your counter. You will be providing an optimal growth environment of moisture, warmth and light; you want to make sure you’re not growing any unwanted fungi or bacteria.

Leafy, grassy sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, cress, radish, dill, fenugreek, and mustard are all small seeds that will grow into beautiful tender tasty sprouts.  To sprout these, put one or two tablespoonfuls into your sprouter (if using the Easy Sprouter, make sure you have the alfalfa insert firmly pressed into the bottom.)  Fill it with cold water and let them soak for 8 to 10 hours. Make sure you stir them well and break up any clumps of seeds that are holding together. After they’ve soaked, rinse and drain them well, shaking off any excess water. I bang the plastic containers on the side of the sink a few times to get all the collected water to drain out. The Easy Sprout makers recommend putting them in a nylon net bag and spinning them over your head. This works, but makes a big mess and sends the cats running for cover. Both methods accomplish one thing: removing all excess water. This is very important. If you leave the seeds too wet, they’ll mold or rot instead of growing. Repeat this rinsing and draining every 9 to 10 hours or so. Taste the seeds as they grow. You may find you like the seeds before they’re fully sprouted. At any stage you eat them, they are packed with flavor, life and nutrition.

Once the primary leaves have sprouted, the hull will come off of the seed. These are simply removed by filling the sprouter with water and letting the hulls float off the top of the water where they can be scooped out with a tablespoon. On the smaller seeds, the hulls aren’t that big of a deal. Hulls from seeds like broccoli, radish and beans are more pulpy. If not removed, these hulls will begin to ferment (read: rot) because they are now dead. I float them off with my salad spinner. Place them in the spinner basket, run cold water into it, breaking up the sprouts with your hands. The hulls will break away from the sprouts. Push down on the sprouts and the floating hulls will run right over the edge of the basket. The hulls that sink instead of floating will be in the bottom of the basket after you spin the sprouts dry.

This is also the time when the sprouts’ leaves will begin to “green up” from the light. There is no need to put them outside or in a window sill. The simplest way to green them is to put the sprout containers on the counter and leave the kitchen lights on for a day or two during the day. Once they’re the green you want, they’re finished sprouting. Rinse them one more time, drain well, and leave them to sit out for another 6 to 8 hours before putting them in the fridge.  At this point, I usually put them into zipper bags and store them in my vegetable drawer.

Brassica sprouts include broccoli, cabbage and radish. Broccoli and radish seeds mixed make a delicious sprout “caviar” when eaten after soaking and then letting them drain for 12 hours. As they grow, their roots grow fine hairs on them and will look like mold growing on them. Don’t worry, it’s not mold. Just rinse them with cold water and all the little “hairs” will lie down. It’s important to break up any clumps that form when sprouting them, as this will affect the quality of the finished sprouts. These sprouts can be very spicy, and I love to put them in salads, salsas, and slaws.

Bean Sprouts: Traditional mung bean sprouts (the kind you get in Chinese food) are also easy to grow. Soak the beans for 12 hours. Rinse and drain well with cold water. Put a weight on them (I use another sprout container filled with water) and put them under the counter in the dark somewhere. They grow best under pressure and in the dark. (These sprouts will only get fat and white if you grow them like this. Otherwise, they’ll be skinnier and sprout green leaves, at which point they begin to get tough.) Rinse, drain and repeat three times a day. When the hulls separate from the sprouts, put them in your salad spinner filled with cold water, skim off all of the hulls, drain and spin several times and store in the fridge in a plastic zipper bag. They’ll keep for weeks.

Some legumes, like lentils, beans and peas are ready to eat in 36 to 48 hours. They are grown in much the same way. Soak them for 10 to 12 hours, then rinse and drain well and repeat the rinsing and draining until you observe the little germ emerge from one end of the bean. Lentils sprout in 24 hours. These are my favorites because they’re so versatile. We sprinkle them on salads, in soups, in mashed potatoes, in casseroles, really in just about every savory thing I make. They are little protein powerhouses and add a wonderful crunch and live taste to everything. Adzuki, garbanzo, mung, lentils, peas and peanuts are all great mixed together and sprouted together. Try making sprouted lentil soup some time.  Using sprouted lentils of every variety you can find, follow your favorite recipe as usual, only reduce your cooking time by half. Sprinkle some live raw sprouts on top of each bowl for a great garnish. Sprout multiple kinds of beans for soup. I often sprout the dry 15 bean soup mixes I find at the grocery store. Sprouting beans before you cook them provides the much needed enzymes that aid in digestion. If you sprout your beans before cooking them there will be no need for Beano.

Happy sprouting!

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