What can you grow from seed when the days are cold, dark and short? Answer: bean sprouts!
Sprouts can be grown at any time of year in even the smallest home, and on the smallest budget. What’s more they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients, good for your health and fighting off those pesky colds that abound in cities in winter.
A huge variety of seeds can easily be grown to eat as sprouts including radish, pea, chick pea, mung beans, alfalfa, fenugreek, sunflower, lentil, and broccoli. Each has its own unique flavour and can be eaten on its own or used to add crunch and flavour to winter salads. You can have fun experimenting.
You don’t need to buy the small, pricey packets of sprouting seeds either. Many dried pulses like mung beans or chick peas from the supermarket or health food shop will sprout just as well at a fraction of the cost. Or the large 500g bags of seeds for sprouting, sold online, can be very good value, too.
How to make your own sprouter
Sprouters are readily available to buy or its super easy to make your own. You may even find that a sprouter made from a glass jam jar is easier to use and gives you better results than many commercial sprouters. All you need to do is
1. Find a decent sized glass jar, preferably with a lid.
2. Drill small holes in the lid – 3mm is fine or punch them with a hammer and nail. Or you can dispense with the lid altogether and use some hessian or a piece of old shirt instead, attached with an elastic band (this is also a better option for very small seeds like alfalfa that can fall through the holes of a lid).
That’s it. Your sprouter is finished and ready to go.
How to grow sprouts
1. Put some seeds in the bottom of the jar and cover with water to soak for twelve hours. You can add just one type of seed or a mix of varieties, it’s fun to experiment. The seeds will expand a lot as they grow. Half to one inch (1cm – 2cm) of dried seeds will usually fill a jar. It varies between seeds – radish expand more than sunflowers, for example – you’ll quickly learn as you grow them (and it doesn’t matter if you put too few or many in).
2. After twelve hours rinse the seeds in water (ideally the water should be at room temperature – not too cold and not too hot), then drain the water out of the holes in the lid, leaving the seeds damp but not swimming in water.
3. Repeat the rinsing process at least once every 12 hours until the sprouts are ready – usually about 2 to 4 days.
4. Eat the sprouts straight away. Or transfer them to a plastic bag in the fridge where they keep well for several days (my family has happily eaten them at least a week later).
How do you like ’em?
If you grow or buy sprouts, I’ll be fascinated to hear how you like to eat ’em in the comments below – which varieties do you like best and what’s the tastiest ways to eat them?
You should be aware that, like some other foods (oysters for example), sprouts have on occasion been the source of Ecoli and Salmonella food poisoning (carried inside the seeds). The chance of buying contaminated seed is very small, but it does exist. Please take particular note if you do not enjoy strong health.