Sprouting is the method of germinating seeds and beans in a moist environment, increasing the nutritional value when eaten raw or cooked. It is a great way to provide a nutritional powerhouse of a vegetable for your table because sprouting increases the bio-availability of nutrients. Sprouting increases the nutrition of beans, seeds, and grains.
Not every seed is safe to sprout and eat. Never should you use any of the seeds from the Solanaceae or Polygonaceae families (these include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, rhubarb – check links for complete list) to sprout and eat, either raw or cooked, as they are poisonous and can be quite deadly. With that warning out of the way, there are many more completely safe sprout-able seeds and beans you will want to include into your family’s diet.
Best Sprouting Method
The best way is to start with a wide-mouth jar with a screw-on ring lid that can be fitted with a fine mesh screen or cheesecloth. Wide-mouth jars are best to use because they are easy to get the sprouts out after they’re finished sprouting and because the standard size sprouting screens bought commercially are wide mouth size. However, these screens can be easily homemade.
A simple way to “screen” your sprouting jar is to just secure cheesecloth with a rubber band. It works well if you are an occasional sprouter.
If you are serious about sprouting, you might want a more substantial screen made of metal, such as stainless steel or plastic. These come in a variety of diameters and mesh sizes. Check your local grocery, health food store or hardware store for these precut ones or buy a length of mesh screen at your hardware and cut it yourself.
After you get the jar and the screen ready, you are all set to sprout.
Depending on the seed size, place an amount of 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup raw seeds or beans into your jar and soak them in plain water for between 12 to 24 hours. Harder beans or seeds need longer soaking times than thin-hulled ones. After soaking, pour off the water (through the screen) and rinse them twice. You will need to remember to rinse them 2, maybe 3, times a day during growing to prevent them from souring.
Now the sprouts need to grow. If you let them grow in the dark, they will stay white and not form green leaves, giving you a milder flavor. Letting the sprouts stay out in the light while they grow might provide a bit more nutrition (subject to debate) but will definitely give a stronger taste to the sprouts. A bit of experimentation helps you to know which method you prefer.
How long do you let the sprouts grow? A good rule of thumb is 3 to 6 days. A simple way to know is to pull a few out and taste the sprouts after they emerge from the seed or bean. There are some preferred lengths: Small seeds are approximately 1/8″ to 1/4″ and bigger ones ranging from 1/4″ to 1/2″. You may prefer shorter sprouts or longer ones and there are exceptions to these general guidelines. Mung beans are usually grown to lengths of 1″ to 3″. As the sprouts separate from the hulls you might want to use a bigger mesh screen to remove the hulls.
Remember all through the growing process to rinse them 2 to 3 times per day.
When you determine the sprouts are at an optimum size, rinse them again very well, removing the hulls and let them drain. Store them, covered, in the refrigerator. Usually, the large sprouts will last about 3 to 4 days while the smaller ones can last around a week, there are exceptions to these storage times, of course.
Tip: Read more about How To Grow Sprouts
Seeds and Beans to Sprout
Alfalfa – These sprouts are especially good on sandwiches and in salads. Alfalfa sprouts usually take 5 or 6 days to sprout in a warm, dark place. To encourage all the good enzymes to activate be sure to set them in the sun for up to a half hour. Drain very well and refrigerate, should be good for about a week.
Chickpea aka garbanzo beans – Sprouted chickpeas or garbanzo beans, can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. After they finish sprouting, are rinsed and drained properly, they can last in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Fenugreek – The fenugreek sprout is spicy and is a good source of protein. Used in a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, it also has medicinal properties such as stimulating milk production and easing menopausal symptoms in women. A precaution here: Fenugreek stimulates uterine contractions and should not be eaten by pregnant women.
Lentil – Sprouted lentils are a good source of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc. They can be eaten raw (for maximum nutritional benefit) or cooked. When ready they will be about 1/2 inch long and can last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Mung bean – When most people think of bean sprouts they picture mung beans. These are a big part of many Chinese dishes. If you want the small mung bean sprouts of 1/4″ to 1/2″ let them grow for 2 to 3 days. The bigger sprouts that are 1″ to 3″ should be grown for 4 to 5 days. Properly stored they can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.
Pea – Green peas can be sprouted; split peas cannot. These sprout in 2-3 days and are good in salads and on sandwiches.
Soybean – When sprouting soybeans note that they need a short soak time and sprout best when rinsed every 4 to 8 hours.
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Sprout-able Cereals Grains:
Amaranth – Sprouted amaranth does not store well for long so make only enough for the single use: Approximately 2/3 cup of this small seed will equal 1 cup sprouts in 48 hours. These sprouts are best eaten raw.
Barley – Sprouted barley has a slightly sweet flavor with lots of chewy texture. Many people sprout it for animal feed. Fairly short soak of 8 hours and actual growing time is about 32 hours until you get 1/4 inch sprout although some like it 2 to 3 times the length of the grain… you be the judge here.
Buckwheat – There are lots of wonderful claims about sprouted buckwheat because it is high in bioflavonoids, flavonols, co-enzyme Q10 and is rich in lecithin. It sprouts in a couple days after a thorough overnight soak.
Oat – When sprouting whole oats you’ll need to soak them for 36 to 48 hours first. Keep them in the dark while growing to the desired length. Ready in 3 to 5 days.
Quinoa – To sprout quinoa soak about 12 hours and spout in darkness for 48 hours, rinse 3 times a day.
Rice – After an overnight soak sprout brown rice for 24 to 48 hours then cook rice by usual methods. This is commonly done to rice in Japan.
Rye – Sprouted rye has all 8 essential amino acids. After overnight soak sprouts appear in 2 to 3 days. Rinse at least two times per day.
Wheat – Use sprouted wheat berries in breadmaking, to sprinkle over salads, to eat as cereal, and in stir fry recipes. An overnight soak with 2 to 3 days sprouting time leaves a finished sprout that lasts approximately 5 days under refrigeration.
Almond – Almond sprouts are not really sprouted but are just soaked for 10 to 12 hours in the water, drained and stored in the refrigerator to be eaten whole, ground into powder or made into milk.
Read more about Sprouting Almonds
Sesame – The small sesame seed sprouts after a quick 2 to 8-hour soak and is complete in 1 to 3 days. Use 2/3 cup sesame seeds to yield 1 cup finished sprouts.
Sunflower – Sunflower seeds sprouts are among the easiest to grow. After an overnight soak, drain them and let them sprout for about 18 hours. After a final and complete drain, store them in the refrigerator.
Now you know how to sprout beans, seeds, and grains; and have many ideas for different things to sprout. You can increase the nutrition of the beans, seeds, and grains that you eat into nutritional powerhouses.
What is your favorite type of sprout?