Seed sprouting is one way to unlock the nutrition stored in seeds and provide yourself with great fresh green food in the winter.
Alfalfa might be the best known, but dozens of other seeds types are also good for seed sprouting.
For variety in your salads and sandwiches, consider adding sprouts. Our info-packed Seed Sprouting Chart provides method, temperature, time, and cost information for 39 different types of plant seeds, from aduki bean to wheat.
SEED: All seeds should be raw and untreated. In addition, other bean seeds—including fava, black, and navy—can be sprouted by following the information given for pinto beans.
METHODS OF SPROUTING: Jar. Soak the seeds for the specified length of time (or overnight) in three times their volume of water. Then place the swollen kernels in a jar fitted with a nylon mesh, cheese-cloth, or plastic screen cover that's secured by a canning ring or rubber band. Invert the container, at an angle, so the water can drain and leave the jar in a convenient place (but not in direct sunlight). Flush the developing sprouts with clean water two to four times a day, as specified, until the shoots are ready for eating (Suspended nylon or cotton bags can be substituted for jars in this method.)
Tray: Soak and rinse the seeds as above, but use a perforated plastic tray or wooden box with a plastic screen bottom as a container for the growing stage. Keep the top of the tray or box covered with a clear sheet of plastic and the bottom of the container propped up to allow drainage. This method is especially useful for shoots that you want to expose to sunlight so they can develop chlorophyll.
Towel: Spread presoaked seeds evenly over the surface of one moist towel and cover them with another. Put the cloths and seeds in a plastic bag and set the bundle in a warm place. Give the seeds fresh moisture each day by misting them. If the sprouts are not ready to eat after two days, the towels should be changed to prevent spoilage. This method works well for grains and larger seeds.
Clay: Seeds listed for this method produce a gel when soaked and are difficult to rinse. Put such "mucilaginous" seeds with an equal amount of water into an unglazed clay flowerpot saucer, then set the saucer in water—the liquid can reach up to one-half inch short of the rim—and cover it with a plate. No rinsing should be needed. If the seeds become too dry, mist them. If they're too wet, remove the top plate for a day.
Soil: Soak the seeds and let them sprout in a jar (or other container) for 16 to 24 hours. Then spread them in a box that's lined with a one-inch layer consisting of equal parts moist peat moss and topsoil. Cover the container with a black plastic sheet. When the plants are an inch tall, remove the sheet, place the box in sunlight, and add water as needed. This method is commonly used to sprout immature greens for salads. It can also be used to grow wheat, rye, and triticale grasses, which are then juiced for their nutritional content.
SOAKING TIME: The number of hours listed need not be followed exactly. Most seeds will do fine if soaked for anywhere between 8 and 14 hours.
BEST TEMPERATURE RANGE: Sprouts will usually grow at slightly higher or lower temperatures than the figures given, but at lower temperatures, fewer seeds will germinate and the process will take longer.
RINSES: Rinse water should be coot or room temperature, but not cold or warm. It you use city water, let it sit in a window for a day or more so the chlorine can evaporate out. Sprouts will need to be rinsed most often when the weather is hot and dry.
SPROUTING TIME: The flavor of sprouts changes constantly as they grow. Sample them at different stages to find out when they best suit your taste.
AVERAGE PRICE: Seed prices can vary greatly from store to store, and change drastically in short periods of time, so these figures are rough estimates only.
SUGGESTED USES: In most cases, eating raw sprouts is the best way to obtain their full nutritional benefits.
All the information comes from Jeff Breakey's bi-monthly newsletter, The Sproutletter.
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