We’re sprout eaters. Tom heaps alfalfa and clover sprouts onto his lunch sandwich, and I love to sprinkle them on salads, or nibble them as fresh tasty snacks. That’s why I’m rather embarrassed to admit that until last year, we bought most of our sprouts from the store. Those containers-full of green goodness are expensive, and I never could think of a decent re-use for the plastic boxes they come in. One day I remembered the countertop garden my mom (and all my friends’ moms) kept in the seventies. Sprouts were in back in the day, and my sister Kelly and I were in charge of rinsing the sprouts whenever we walked by the counter in our platform sandals. I had another sprouting phase in my pre-marriage single-chick apartment, where I kept trays of sunflower seeds sprouting in the window. I wonder what happened? Lots of people still eat sprouts, but the habit of growing them is generally regulated to bygone faddishness.
As soon as I realized we needed to become a sprout farmers, I walked down to our local health food store, just the sort of place we would have obtained our sprout supplies when I was a girl, though even mainstream suburban grocery stores had sprout seeds, jars, and lids. No sprout seeds! (“Hmm…we should think about getting some,” the guy behind the counter mused.) But at our local food coop I found plenty of sprout-worthy seeds in bulk. Organic alfalfa or mixed clover are $9.95 a pound, which is almost free (there are about a trillion of those tiny seeds—several month’s worth– in a pound!). Claire is the Princess Sprout-Rinser-in-Charge. It’s been a delight to be growing food indoors throughout the winter, and benefiting from these yummy, vitamin-mineral-enzyme rich little wonders.
My favorite way to sprout seeds is the jar method:
- Place a couple tablespoons of seeds in a quart jar, then cover the opening with cheesecloth and a canning jar rim. Cover the seeds with water, and let sit several hours, or overnight.
- Rinse the seeds with cool water several times a day, and invert them to drain. We keep ours in the dish drainer.
- When the sprouts are the size you want, pop them into the fridge. You can set them in a window for a few hours first, if you want them to green up a bit. If they are tiny alfalfa/clover sprouts, you might want to rinse the hulls off–just put them in a bowl, cover with water, and the hulls will float to the top where you can pour them off.
- Don’t forget to start some more right away so you won’t have a lull between harvests!
There’s a terrific article on sprouts and sprouting, with recipes, in the current Mother Earth News article, “Kitchen Counter Gardening: Try Sprouts.” If you can’t find sprouting seeds in your local shop, try one of the online sources, such as Sproutman.
So far we’ve mainly sprouted sandwich/salad mixes (alfalfa/clover/mustard), lentils, and mung beans, but you can also sprout chickpeas, radish, adzuki beans, and much more. I’m ready to try some more adventurous sprouting, as I wait for the earth to warm for the spring garden.. It hardly gets more simple, local, healthy, delicious, or cheap—Happy sprouting!