I love sprouts. Not those overcooked slimy green things you were forced to eat at Christmas as a child, but the sprouts you can grow yourself from seeds, grains and pulses, such as alfalfa and chickpea. Not only are they deliciously crispy and crunchy and a great way to liven up a salad, they’re also stupidly good for you. For example, did you know the nutritional value (including the protein, fibre and vitamin content) of a seed, grain or pulse is improved when sprouted? There are also loads of other benefits to them – read this article at Living and Raw Foods for more information.
So, why not grow your own sprouts – it’s cheap, easy, and, despite what you might think, there’s no need for any special trays or equipment (says she who does indeed have a special sprouting tray).
How to grow your own sprouts from seeds, grains and pulses
As I just said, you don’t need any specialist equipment to grow your own sprouts. You can buy a fancy sprouting tray if you want to and although I do have a tray, it’s only because I saw it in a local garden centre and that gave me the idea to sprout my own seeds in the first place and I had no idea you could just sprout them in an old jam jar (although I do now seem to remember growing watercress on a bit of toilet roll or something in infant school). You can use any dried seeds or pulses you have in your kitchen such as lentil or chickpea (but please don’t try and sprout seeds that are sold for planting), or if you want to be more adventurous you can buy packets of all kinds of seeds online such as alfalfa, broccoli, or these bright pink daikon radish seeds. Personally, I started out with a ‘starter sprouting seed kit’ which had six packets of different seeds (and which I can’t find online now) but I recently bought this 1kg packet of mixed seeds, which contains chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, aduki beans and sunflower seeds and it’s flipping brilliant. In just a few days, I have a tray-full of fresh sprouts and now I’m going to show you how to grow them.
Step 1 – soak the seeds overnight
There is no scientific formula to this – just put a few tablespoons of seeds into a clean jar, cover with water (make sure the water covers it with about an inch above the seeds, as the seeds will expand) and secure a bit of muslin/cheesecloth to the rim with an elastic band. Leave to soak overnight.
Step 2 – drain the seeds and spread a thin, even layer in a sprouting tray (or put back in the jar)
Drain the seeds (see – there was a reason to cover the jar with muslin) and then, if you’ve got a sprouting tray, spread a thin layer evenly over it and rinse thoroughly (a sprouting tray will have drainage holes in it so don’t use a baking tray or anything like that). If you’re using the jam-jar method, rinse the seeds thoroughly then put in the jar, screw the lid (not the muslin) back on and punch some holes in it. Lay the jar at an angle so that air can circulate. Keep the tray or the jar at room temperature away from direct sunlight.
Step 3 – rinse a few times a day
To stop the seeds from going mouldy, rinse a few times a day (it doesn’t have to be at regular intervals – I do it first and last thing and a couple more times when I’m in the kitchen. If you’ve got a sprouting tray, as mentioned above it’ll have drainage holes, so make sure it’s drained thoroughly. If you’re using a jam jar, pour some water in the jar, swish it around a bit, then drain through the holes you punched in the lid.
Step 4 – eat them
You’ll begin to see them sprout after just one day and they’re ready to eat when they’re an inch or so long – usually around 3-4 days. Or you might be lazy like me and don’t get round to taking them out of the tray until after almost a week has gone by. Don’t worry about the bits of husk that are left – you can throw them away but they’re perfectly safe to eat and adds an extra crunch.
How to store sprouts
Remove the sprouts from the tray or jar and store in a lidded tupperware (other plastic containers are available) container and keep in the fridge. They should be fine for a week or so.
How to eat sprouts
So, you’ve got a load of sprouts and you don’t know what to do with them except eat them with a salad but it’s winter and you don’t want salad, you want chips. There’s no reason you can’t eat them with chips, but you could add them to sandwiches and wraps, chuck some in a juicer with other veg if you make your own juice, use them in an omelette, add them to a stir-fry or put some in soup. I must admit though, I’ve never been adventurous with sprouts and have only had them raw in a salad or sandwich, so maybe it’s time I started to use them in other ways too – I think I’ll start by using them as a pizza topping.