Winter brings about a time where short days and low temperatures result in people having much less to do outside. Luckily, there are still things to do for the next growing season, such as preparing seed lists, repairing tools, and digging (if ground conditions permit).
For some people, these preparations are simply not enough; they still want to grow something. There is a way to avoid getting frustrated at the long wait. You can keep your green fingers busy with kitchen-grown sprouting seeds or simply ‘sprouts,’ until it gets warm enough to sow outside.
What are Sprouting Seeds?
Sprouting seeds simply refer to seeds that have been germinated and then grown to produce their first root or shoot. This process takes only two days, and rarely more than one week. It allows you to have a steady supply of nutritious sprouts even during hard winter days when your home-grown salads may be scarce. Sprouts are delectable and fresh which is definitely welcome during this time of the year.
What are the Best Seeds for Sprouting?
You can sprout almost any vegetable or herb seed and have it eaten as soon as possible. But there are some sprouts that are perfect for this purpose such as the mung bean (the common Chinese bean sprout), the adzuki beans, lentils, alfalfa, fenugreek, radish, sunflower, and peas. Each sprout has its own unique texture and flavour which makes them great for salad garnishes, soup toppings, and other uses.
How To Start Sprouting Seeds?
The first step that must be accomplished is finding the right seed. Some gardeners recommend that you sprout seeds to get rid of excess veg patches. However, it is best to only buy seeds intended for sprouting. Seeds for outdoor sowing may have been treated chemically to improve germination; definitely not intended for human consumption. Some of the above-mentioned seeds can also be purchased at health food stores. This route is much cheaper so make sure you check this first.
You now have the option of using either a sprouting kit, a jar, or the sack method to germinate your seeds. The type of sprouting method you choose will depend on the seed you are growing and whether or not you plan to be very active at sprouting.
Sprouting Seeds in a Jar
Any sprout seeds of your choosing can be grown in an old, clean jam jar or pots. This method is readily available and is perfect for people who are trying to see if sprouting is right for them.
Steps for Sprouted Seeds in Jars
Start by adding one to two tablespoons of seed to the jar and then add water. Avoid adding more, as the seeds grow up to 30 times their original size. Allow the seeds to soak overnight for at least eight hours, and you may soak larger beans or seeds for up to 24 hours. The seeds are primed for germination by being soaked overnight.
After soaking, drain the water. You can do this by attaching a square of cheesecloth, gauze, muslin, or other free-draining cloth to the mouth of your jar with a rubber band or elastic. To drain the jar, turn the it upside down and hold the draining cloth in place with your hand in case the rubber bands fail. Tapping the draining cloth gently will dislodge any seeds attached to it. Be sure to store your seeds in a warm and dark place to promote germination.
The seeds need to be rinsed twice daily, once during the morning and again in the evening. Fill the jar with water and gently stir the seeds. Drain off the excess water as before. To prevent seeds from drying out and being contaminated by airborne molds, keep the muslin cover on the container between rinses.
When are Sprouted Seeds ready to be Eaten?
Once they reach 1-5cm (0.5-2in), the sprouts can be eaten. To give them some color and enhance their flavor, be sure to let them out in the light for a few days before you eat them.
Sprouting Seeds in Kits
The sprouting kit is a natural progression to the jar method. These kits are cheap and make the easy process much easier. Each kit contains two or more tiers of trays with slats at the bottom to allow water to flow through. You can grow different types of sprouts in the trays or at different stages of development to have a constant supply of fresh sprouts.
Rinsing the sprouts is much easier. The entire kit is run under a steady stream of water. Allow the water to drain through to the bottom tier and onto the trays below. After draining, a reservoir collects any remaining water. It can be emptied within a few minutes after draining. Like in the jar method, keep your seeds in a dark and warm place to promote germination, and let them out in the light for a few days before consumption.
Sprouting sacks are burlap/hessian sacks that can be used to sprout beans. They don’t need any light at any stage of sprouting. You can make a drawstring version using any permeable material. This includes cotton and linen fabrics.
To germinate your seeds, place the pre-soaked seeds in a sack. The seeds can be rinsed by dipping the entire sack in water for one minute two times daily. You can move the seeds around in the bag by gently shaking the sack while in the water. This will prevent them from growing into the fabric. Between soakings, hang the bag up to drip-drain.
If you want your shoots to be thick like store-bought beansprouts, you may place a weight on top of your beans as they germinate. A sandwich bag filled with water or a large chopping board can be used as weights. The shoots grow stockier to counteract the added pressure applied on them.
When are Sprouted Seeds are Ready to be Eaten?
Your sprouts are best eaten as fresh as possible. Freshly harvested sprouts are rich in vitamin C and other vitamins, which will give them a nutritional boost that is far greater than their small size. Plastic bags can be used to store the sprouts for up to seven days in the refrigerator. To preserve their crunchiness and freshness, rinse them after three days.
It’s fascinating to watch the seeds germinate and grow. This is something that we can’t see in our vegetable garden. Indoor sprouting has so many options that there is no reason that your indoor garden can not be as diverse as your outdoor garden.