In most areas, it's easy to pick up sprouts in the produce section at the local grocery store, but for the freshest sprouts and widest variety of options, try sprouting seeds in Mason jars at home.
Steps to Sprouting Seeds in Mason Jars
Although there are kits available for sprouting seeds, no specialized equipment is required. You'll need a clean glass Mason jar, or you can substitute another wide-mouth glass jar. Use cheesecloth, hardware cloth, stainless metal screen or even old pantyhose to cover the mouth of the jar, and secure the covering with a ring lid, rubber band, or string.
Start by soaking your seeds in lukewarm water. For a quart-sized jar, use two to three tablespoons of seeds. Cover them completely with water, with roughly two inches of water above the seeds, and set the container in a warm place out of direct light. Use purified or filtered water to avoid contaminates being absorbed by the seeds. Most seeds or beans should be soaked about 24 hours, although very small seeds can be soaked as little as six hours. Seeds expand as they absorb water, and may be twice their original size after soaking.
Drain and Store
Drain the remaining water from the jar completely. This will be easier with large seeds. You may need to shake small seeds vigorously to get as much water as possible out of the jar. After draining, place the jar back out of direct light. If possible, place the jar tilted downward at an angle, which will allow fresh air into the jar while still draining excess water. Be sure to place something under the jar to catch moisture.
Rinse and Repeat
Seeds will need to be rinsed several times a day. Fill the jar with fresh cool water, swirl and shake gently for 10 to 15 seconds before draining. Repeat once or twice, and then drain the excess completely before returning the jar to its original position. Repeat this process two to three times a day for three to five days.
The last stage of the process is to expose your sprouts to the sun. Rinse and drain seeds before placing the jar in bright indirect light. This allows the sprouts to develop chlorophyll and 'green up.' The amount of time will depend on the type of seed, but this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Continue to rinse the sprouts regularly.
When ready to harvest, seeds will require a final rinse. Fill the container with water, and skim off any hulls or debris before draining thoroughly. Once sprouts are dry, they can be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Types of Seeds to Sprout
Most people are familiar with the big white sprouts on salad bars, but these are not the only option. Make sure seeds you use are intended for food and not for planting, however. Seeds for planting are often treated with insectides or other chemicals that may be dangerous to consume.
- Peas, Lentils, Soybeans and Mung Beans - Mung beans are used for the common white sprouts seen in most grocery stores. Peas, lentils and soybeans produce similar sturdy sprouts.
- Radish, Clover, Broccoli and Alfalfa - These small seeds grow thin, delicate sprouts that develop tiny leaves.
- Wheat, Rye, Barley and Oats - Although most people are more familiar with growing these grains like grasses, they also can be sprouted in only a few days.
- Sunflower - Hulled seeds can be sprouted in the jar, or the intact seed can be soaked and grown like grasses in a tray.
What About Mold?
There are few hazards in sprouting seeds in Mason jars, but it is important to watch for mold. If you find mold on your sprouts, throw them out and begin fresh. These tips should help prevent the problem:
- Make sure there is plenty of air circulation. Try placing the jar in another location, or add a small fan near the jar to keep air moving. If you use a fan, make sure it is not blowing directly on the jar.
- Use colder water when rinsing, and rinse more often.
- Make sure the sprouts are drained thoroughly. Too much moisture encourages mold.
- Thoroughly clean and sterilize the jar and other equipment. Use one tablespoon of bleach per pint of water. Soak the equipment for 20 minutes before scrubbing thoroughly.