Sprouting 101

I was recently asked for tips on sprouting, which happens to be a passion of mine. Sprouting is one of the best, cheapest, FUNNEST ways to get uber-healthy, homegrown goodness right smack dab into the center of your body.

So, here's the complete 101, taken directly from my vegan mega-book, Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. Happy Sprouting!

Sprouting 101

I've always been intimidated by those endlessly long charts of what to sprout and how long to sprout. Therefore, I’ve simplified things here by giving you just the basics, plus a few tips to help you avoid some common obstacles. Why sprout at home, you ask? Mainly, sprouting at home will ensure that you have truly fresh sprouts, rather than the half-gone ones you often see at the market. Plus, sprouting provides you with an incredibly inexpensive and nourishing food source. It is also surprisingly easy to incorporate into just about any daily routine. Notably, sprouts are one of the most nutritious foods available, as sprouting a seed or legume makes it exponentially higher in nutrients.

Easy, Foolproof “Sproutables:”

* Alfalfa seeds (one tablespoon seeds=about one quart of sprouts)
* Dry barley and dry amaranth (these will only double in size at the most)
* Dry garbanzo beans/chickpeas (¾ cup dry beans=about one quart of sprouts)
* Dry lentils (¾ cup dry lentils=about one quart of sprouts)

Things that Make Sprouting Easy:

* Wide mouth Ball glass jars
* Small dishes or bowls (about 4 inches wide) to set the jars in (for drainage)
* Sprouting lids (these screw onto wide mouth jars and come with various sized holes to accommodate different sized sprouts)
* Also Good to Have on Hand: Powdered kelp

How To Sprout:
1. Place the appropriate amount of sproutables (alfalfa seeds, barley, amaranth, or legumes) in a wide mouth glass jar. Cover with plenty of water, keeping in mind that the sproutables will expand in size as they soak. If desired, you can add a pinch of kelp to the soaking water to increase the mineral content. Alfalfa seeds seem to do better when soaked for around 6 hours or less, while the other items can be soaked overnight (8-10 hours).

2. After your sproutables have soaked sufficiently, you will want to screw on one of the sprouting lids (or secure some cheesecloth around the top with a rubber band). Choose a lid with appropriately sized holes. For example, for alfalfa sprouts or amaranth, use the lid with the smallest sized holes. Pour all of the soaking water out, through the lid and into the sink (please see note on the bottom of page 192). Next, fill the jar with water, allowing it to overflow until the water runs clear. Pour the water out.

3. Gently shake the sproutables around the jar to spread them out as much as you can. Give them a little elbow room. Place the jar upside-down to drain at a 45° angle in the small dish or bowl. Leave them until that evening (or the next morning if you are doing this at night).

4. From that point, you will be spending about 30 seconds on them every morning and every night until they’re done. Each morning and night, rinse them well until the water overflows and runs clear. Then pour the water out, shake the sprouts around the glass jar gently, and store them at a 45° angle in the small dish until the next session.

5. As the sprouts get bigger, you may wish to change the type of lid you are using. This especially applies to alfalfa sprouts. As they get bigger, using a lid with larger holes will help wash away the hulls during the rinsing times.

6. Continue to rinse and repeat until your sprouts are done. For alfalfa sprouts, this usually takes about four days, or until the end splits into two parts (kind of like a “T”). For barley or amaranth, this usually takes two or three days, or until they are tender enough to chew. For garbanzos, this usually takes about four days, or until they are just under one inch long. For lentils, this also takes about four days, or until they are roughly half an inch long.

7. For the barley, amaranth, garbanzos, and lentils, you can now refrigerate your sprouts for a few days in an airtight container. For the alfalfa sprouts, you will want to “green” them in order to increase their nutritional content (chlorophyll = goodness). To do this, place them in sunlight for a few hours (in their clear glass jar), turning them toward the sun as needed, until the tops have turned a happy shade of green. Then place them immediately in the fridge in an airtight container where they will usually last for a few days.

Troubleshooting Tips:

♥ There is a fine line between perfectly pleasant and spoiled rotten—don’t let your sprouty babies sprout too long, as they can spoil very quickly. Even just an extra half day in the jar can make a good sprout turn bad.

♥ If you are using the recommended lids, be careful not to screw them on too tightly. I have often screwed them on so securely that I almost had to get a hammer! I am not sure how they mystically expand, but it’s something to be aware of.

♥ If your sprouts are spoiling or not coming out as you had hoped, you can try varying the soaking time. The perfect amount of time for one person may not work for another, due to climate differences and amount of exposed light, etc. You may also try keeping your sprouts out of the light (aside from greening the alfalfa sprouts) and see if this helps. Another thing you can try is adding an extra rinse session daily. It is important to remember that sprouts generally prefer to be kept moist. Sometimes learning to sprout can take a few tries, but I know that if I can do it, you definitely can too!

GF/SF/Green (according to the nutritional guidelines in my books)
* Sprouting lids are available in many health food stores and online. However, you can instead use cheesecloth (fastened with a rubber band to keep it on the jar). I much prefer the lids, though, because they are so user-friendly, easy to clean, and work wonderfully to eliminate hulls.

* Instead of pouring the kelp-laden soaking water out into the sink, you can instead water your plants with it. They’ll love you for it!