- Natalie Che/Shutterstock.com
- Sprouts — the edible first growth from germinated seed — are loaded with nutrients.
If you want to garden but don’t have access to an outdoor space, you can still grow a bumper crop of sprout varieties in jars on your kitchen counter. Sprouts — the edible first growth from germinated seed — are loaded with antioxidants, proteins, vitamins and minerals and can make crunchy flavor magic happen on otherwise basic salads and sandwiches. Your harvest might include one fresh flavor or a mix, from alfalfa, clover, mustard, radish and broccoli, to onion, lentil, sunflower and more.
Regular garden seed or lentils from your pantry won’t do. Because sprouts grow best in warm, wet conditions — conditions also favored by bacteria — you will want to buy organic, chemical- and pathogen-free seeds specially produced for sprouting, and focus on cleanliness and daily rinsing in cool water as your crop grows.
To get started, you’ll need a sanitized wide-mouth jar with a purchased fine mesh lid (or a layer of cheesecloth and a rubber band). Rinse the seed (Larry Stebbins goes a step further, soaking seeds for five minutes in a half-gallon of water to which he’s added 6 tablespoons of Clorox, then rinsing thoroughly three times). Add a tablespoon or two of seed to your jar and cover them with a few inches of water. Let the seeds sit for eight hours at room temperature. Drain out the water, add fresh cool water, swish the seeds about, then drain again and place the jar upside down at an angle to promote drainage and air circulation. Keep the jar out of the sun. Rinse gently two times a day so the sprouts never dry out completely.
Depending on the variety you’re growing, it may take from three to seven days until your sprouts are at their best for eating — still relatively small and just starting to green up. Give them one last rinse and drain thoroughly in a colander, picking out any unsprouted seeds. When they’re dry, store them in the fridge in a covered bowl lined with paper towel and eat them within a week.
You will find seed locally at Mountain Mama (mountainmamanaturalfoods.com) and Natural Grocers stores, or online at Sproutman (sproutman.com). The internet also offers a stunning array of unnecessary but cool-looking trays and towers for the committed sprouter.