6 easy steps to sprout heaven

What can you grow from seed when the days are cold, dark and short? Answer: bean sprouts!

A mix of rose radish, chickpea, pea, mung bean and lentil sprouts

A mix of rose radish, chickpea, pea, mung bean and lentil sprouts

Why sprout?

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.

Fantastic value

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).

Drill approx 3mm (1/12th inch) holes in the lid. In this one I also drilled a couple of large holes (5mm) to drain the water faster - hold the larger holes at the top so that the smaller sprouts do not fall out of them.

Drill approx 3mm (1/12th inch) holes in the lid. In this one I also drilled a couple of large holes (5mm) to drain the water faster – hold the larger holes at the top so that the smaller sprouts do not fall out of them.

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).

Soaking the seeds for twelve hours helps speed the germination process. The seeds will swell to double their size, too.

Soaking the seeds for twelve hours helps speed the germination process. The seeds will swell to double their size, too.

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.

Rinse the sprouts in water and drain. Try to avoid rinsing them in very cold water as this can slow the sprouting process.

Rinse the sprouts in water and drain. Try to avoid rinsing them in very cold water as this can slow the sprouting process.

3. Repeat the rinsing process at least once every 12 hours until the sprouts are ready – usually about 2 to 4 days.

After three days, these sprouts are nearly ready to eat. As you can see they're already trying to escape the jar so I probably started with a few too many in the first place.

After three days, these sprouts are nearly ready to eat. As you can see they’re already trying to escape from the jar – so I probably put a few too many seeds in this jar in the first place.

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?

 

Health warning

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.

 

 

45 comments… add one

  • Hi Mark,
    Just had my first sprouted salad, and loved it! Thanks for your advice and clear instructions.

    Reply
  • Hi Mark: Great site – I’m new here and to sprouting : ) Have a rather strange question – can you sprout Banana and/or Acorn Squash seeds ?? that come inside each ??? Sorry, I looked at all the comments and your replies and no one asked this question. Also, is there a greater risk in buying and sprouting from just regular old fashioned seeds from the grocery store ?? like mung beans, peas, lentils, etc. in a package rather than “organic” only ??? just wondering ????
    Thank you in advance for your reply – I will check back often.
    Sandra in AZ : )

    Reply
  • Dear Mark,
    I would like to know why is it necessary to drain out the excess water if you wish to sprout any of the pulses. I guess the pulses will not sprout. But my question is why?

    Reply
  • I made a sprouter from a jam jar, however the pinned metal top started rusting :( Has anyone this experience? or advice on how to avoid?

    x

    Reply
  • Carrot I eat carrot from seedlings? Been told I need vitamin A and wondered if I could get it better from sprouting and eating carrot seedlings?

    Reply
    • Hi, very interesting question. I’m not sure. You can definitely grow and eat carrot shoots – carrots sown thickly in a tray and then harvested for the leaves when an inch or two high – good added to salads. This would be a quick and easy way to get the leaves. Carrot sprouts? I’m not sure. I can’t see why not but I’ve never seen them or heard of anyone doing them so I can’t really advise. If you find the answer, I’d be very interested to hear what you learn.

      Reply
  • I’ve sprouted for a decade or more in 70′s & ’80′s. Would like to have a go at it again. Loved article/blog and would like to Subscibe please.
    Thanks,
    Linda

    Reply
  • How do I grow sprouts in a tray?..ie…I bought broccoli and mung seeds, can you explain how to use the trays and tray liners?

    Reply
  • where do you put the jar in the house to sprout, windowsill, warm place,etc ?

    Reply
    • Hi Brenda, somewhere that is comfortable for people will usually also be comfortable for sprouts. Ideally out of the drafts and not too cold or hot. A window sill is OK – as long as it doesn’t get too much direct sunlight (they’ll dry out if there is too much).

      Reply
  • Some helpful sprouting tips. Example: how to disinfect the seeds before using, also, the white fuzz on your sprouts could just be roots!
    https://botanicalinterests.com/articles/view/59/General-Seed-Sprouting-Questions-and-Answers
    Thanks for the info, I’m looking forward to growing my own sprouts at home too! :-)

    Reply
  • Hi Mark, I’m just about to start my first sprouting session and read through your blog and saw that someone recommended adding vinegar to the water to prevent salmonella, do you recommend this? as I couldn’t find your reply and are the beans/seeds etc from the link you added better than that found in health stores?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Hollie, the risk that any seeds are carrying salmonella or e-coli is very small. I know people who eat sprouts sprouted from beans in health food stores nearly every day of their lives without ever having any issues. That said, seeds sold specifically for sprouting, particularly from a reputable trader like Sky Sprouts, will be the lowest risk. Sky Sprouts supply sprouts all over the UK, and, to my knowledge, there has never been a problem with any of their seeds. (I’m sorry, I don’t know if the vinegar helps.)

      Reply
  • Just tipped my fenugreek sprouts down the sink- lid came off silly me.all sprouts,especially mung beans,are wonderful for stir fries.just a little bit more protein,tofu or quorn and you have a really quick tasty veggie snack.chicken fish etc also work well.

    Reply
    • Mung beans are so easy and quick, too! Thanks for the tip Valerie – and hope you managed to rescue most of your fenugreek sprouts!

      Reply
  • I sprout alfalfa seeds and my favorite way to eat them is on an avocado sandwich. I use a large mason jar and substituted stainless steel window screen for the solid lid and just screw the top down and it holds the window screen in place

    Reply
  • Thanks, some great tips here. My staple is brown lentils and puy lentils. Apart from being tasty, they are very easy and quick to sprout, whereas I’ve had mixed results with alfalfa and others.

    Reply
  • Hello, I do think your blog may be having browser
    compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your web site
    in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, fantastic website!

    Reply
    • Mmm, thanks v much for letting me know. I always use chrome or safari and it looks fine – but I’ll check on Explorer, too. Very useful to know this, appreciate it. Mark

      Reply
  • Hi. Just started first batch. Cant wait.
    Green lentils, black & green mung beans.

    Reply
    • Good luck Kirsty, hope you enjoy them.

      Reply
  • Thanks Mark,
    I’ve done some tests in the meantime. I use a three-layer container with ventilation holes (sold in health food shops, at least in Belgium, where I am). I found that if I move the sprouts away from any corners or edges and make sure they have access to air, the mould seems to not appear anymore.
    Thanks again for your wonderful tips!

    Reply
    • Hi well done for solving that puzzle, Natalie! You’re welcome for the tips – great to hear they’re working for you. Happy sprouting! Mark

      Reply
  • Hi Mark,
    I hope you don’t mind me coming back with another question. In having a close look whilst sprouting begun, I found a small portion (just on a few shoots) of white, hairy looking stuff which I assume might be some kind of mould. This happened on the mixed seeds, but not on the lentils and other beans. I removed it and it doesn’t seem to affect the rest. Have you ever had this problem and do you know how to avoid it?

    Reply
    • Hi Natalia
      It sounds like it might be mould. I’ve occasionally found that on mine. If it’s just a little I don’t personally worry about it – having said that, I’m not a health expert so I’m not in a position to offer reliable advice to you on the subject. I do, however, find that mould appears less if I rinse the sprouts more often, sometimes three times a day. So that maybe something you’d like to try.
      Mark

      Reply
  • Where do you buy the seeds to start sprouting?

    Reply
    • Frank, you can either use dried pulses from health food shops – like mung beans, chick peas, whole lentils or peas – as these will usually sprout OK. This is usually by far the lowest cost way. Or you can buy seeds sold for sprouting, available online in many places. Buying in bulk is usually much better value than buying small packets. Quality can vary so shop around. I use http://www.skysprouts.co.uk/ – I’ve been delighted with the quality and taste of their seed sprouts, and they are great value, too.

      Reply
      • Thank you!

        Reply
        • My pleasure – I hope you have fun growing them!

          Reply
  • Hi. Thanks for these tips. I was just wondering how you know when they are really ready to eat? I’ve been trying to find this info on the net but cannot find anything specific. Is there any sign to look out for like the splitting of the bean, leaves on seedy sprouts or something like that? I’m on day three of my first sprouting ever (lentils on one level and a mix of alfalfa, roquette, radish, etc on the other) and I have no idea when I should consider that they are ready to eat.
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Natalia

    Reply
    • That’s a very good question and you’re right, no one ever really explains that. It varies a bit between seeds but usually there is a window of a few days in which you can eat them. Most sprouts take 3 – 5 days, although it can be a bit longer in cold weather. I’m not really sure how exactly to explain it! But my guess is that – if your seeds have grown small roots and shoots – you can eat them now. What I’d recommend is eating a few now and leaving some for tomorrow and the next day so you can see how they develop. Eat a few on each day and discover what stage you like best! Once the sprouts have developed a proper pair of leaves they are full grown and at this point its usually best to transfer them to a plastic bag and keep them in the fridge. They’ll stay fresh and tasty for a few days in there. Oh dear, I’m not sure if that helps?

      Reply
      • Thanks for this very clear reply, which is indeed very helpful. With your explanations and your photos, I now have more of an idea of what to do. I tried them today and indeed had the intention to try some today, some tomorrow and some the next day… but I got so carried away that I have almost eaten them all! some had the little roots and shoots and some didn’t. I definitely have to be more patient with my next batch, which is already on it’s way. I can tell I’m going to get addicted to this new form of gardening and eating! Thank you again for your precious advice.

        Reply
  • I’m new to sprouting so this may be a dumb question. After they sprout, do you cut the sprout off the seed or eat the entire thing?

    Thanks,
    Duane

    Reply
    • Hi Duane, thanks for asking that – no such thing as a dumb question here… When sprouting you can eat the whole plant, roots and shoots.

      Reply
      • But what about the seed? Can I eat it in cases like pea?

        Reply
        • Yes, you can eat the sprout and the seed case, Neta. (apologies for the slow reply, just back from hols).

          Reply
  • I love growing sprouts, too! They’re great not only with salads, but are great in sandwiches or my favorite: with cream cheese on a cracker.

    Love your site, I’m also a fellow small-space grower and have begun my blog at: http://ediblebalcony.blogspot.com.

    Reply
    • The cream cheese and cracker idea sounds tasty, I look forward to trying – sprouts are a bit addictive aren’t they? Thanks, too, for sharing the link to your site, it’s looking good, lots of useful stuff on it. Cheers, Mark

      Reply
  • I just heard due to the potential risk of salmonella, a tsp. of vinegar added to the water can be beneficial.

    Reply
  • Great article, guys.I am very passionate about sprouting. For how I eat ‘em ‘n’ how I grow ‘em please see here: http://www.facebook.com/TheClayLikeCompany . Please ‘Like’ if you like :)

    Reply

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