Sprouting 101: Tips for growing delicious, healthy microgreens at home

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FEATURE — Sprouting is the practice of getting seeds to grow just until the plant first emerges, usually taking only a few days. The process can easily be done indoors at home using a variety of seeds. 

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Alfalfa is the most popular choice, although clover, broccoli, radish, wheat, garbanzo and mung beans are also common. Sprouting activates the nutritious contents of seeds as they become tiny edible plants that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Sprouts are low in calories, sodium and fat, and are packed with health-promoting fiber, protein, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals, which show promise as cancer-fighting agents. Broccoli sprouts, for instance, are rich in phytochemicals, calcium, fiber and vitamins A, C and E.

Sprouting is another way to get the benefits of vegetables, especially for homes without garden space, during winter months or simply when looking for ways to increase healthy eating. Sprouts can be blended with green smoothies, used as snacks or added to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

Sprouting is a simple process of soaking, draining and rinsing the seeds over several days.

You’ll need the following:

  • Sprouting seeds.
  • Clean 1-quart glass jar.
  • Strainer lid (available at health food stores or online) or a piece of cheesecloth secured with a metal ring or rubber band.

Here’s how:

  • Pour about 1/4 cup of seeds in the jar and fasten the strainer.
  • Run cold water into the jar through the strainer. Swish the seeds around, then thoroughly drain the water out back through the strainer.
  • Now soak the seeds by adding about twice the amount of water as seeds, and let the jar sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  • Drain the seeds. Then rinse and drain using step two. Place the jar on its side (or tilted into a bowl) and keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Rinse and drain at least twice a day. The sprouts will be ready to eat in two to seven days.
  • Rinse and drain the sprouts a final time. Enjoy them alone or in recipes. They can also be stored in a plastic bag or sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Sprouts, like any fresh food, can potentially carry harmful bacteria. Sprouts have been associated with several foodborne disease outbreaks over the past 20 years, most originating from contaminated seeds. Once exposed to warmth and moisture, the bacteria – usually salmonella or E. coli – can multiply to harmful levels. While serious complications from these outbreaks have been rare, care should be taken to minimize the risk.

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Use only seeds that are certified as specifically grown and tested for sprouting. When growing at home, make sure to wash your hands and use sterilized containers when handling your seeds and sprouts. Refrigerate the finished sprouts in airtight containers. Recent experiments have found that sprouts can even be “cold-grown“ in the refrigerator at 40 degrees, remarkably reducing the chance of bacterial growth.

Some sources advise against eating uncooked sprouts for people at high risk for food poisoning, including children, pregnant women and older adults. In general, however, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “the health benefits associated with savoring raw or lightly cooked sprouts outweigh the risks for healthy individuals.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of HEALTH Magazine.

Copyright © Southwest Utah Public Health Foundation, all rights reserved.

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