Sprouting Seeds for Big Nutrition or a Classroom Activity
You Don't Need Sun or Dirt
Do you want to plant a garden that will grow in any season or climate. Do you want an edible crop you can harvest in only four or five days?
You can actually sprout a garden that provides a fresh, healthful, delicious crop that is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. You might also want to avoid the mess of dirt, soil or growing medium. How about growing some vegetables that don't need to be peeled or involve a lot of waste in preparation?
YES, it can be done! I've done it in a classroom, and at home.
What You Need
Sprouting seeds is a simple process, and one that children enjoy a lot, especially when they can get quick results and actually see the seeds growing.
You need only a few items to produce a jar of fresh sprouts:
- A packet of seeds -- alfalfa, cress, mung beans, lentils, onion, radish seeds or a mixed batch. These are available in many supermarket produce sections, at health food stores, at plant nursuries or online.
- A quart size jar -- canning or large mayonnaise jar
- Cheesecloth or nylon net-- (A commercially made sprouting jar with a plastic straining top can also be used-- but it is not necessary.)
If you are growing sprouts for a classroom project, you might also want:
- A tray or platter
- Paper towels
- Water spritzer.
Classroom Project: Sprouts to Snacks
This is how one kindergarten teacher proceeded. (pro-seeded?)
Get a package of mixed seeds for sprouting. A single kind of seed can be used, but it is more fun to use a mixed batch so you can see the differences in each kind. This particular mixture was an assortment of alfalfa, mung bean, lentil, radish and cabbage seeds.
Place a tablespoon full of the mixed seed in a wide-mouthed jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Cover the seeds with water and soak overnight. Drain, and shake gently to distribute the seeds along the sides of the jar.
Take a few of the remaining seeds and sort them into groups of six or seven of each type. Place the sorted seeds on on four layers of paper towels on a cafeteria-type tray. Mist the groups of seeds with water from a spritzer until completely dampened, but not swimming.
To keep moisture in, cover the tray with saran plastic wrap. Place both the tray and the jar in a dark cupboard.
Each day take the tray and jar out of the cupboard so the children can observe what growth has taken place. Seeds in the jar are rinsed and drained, and seeds on the tray are "spritzed" if needed.
The class uses magnifying glasses to watch the seeds begin to break out of their shells, grow a root, and develop tiny leaves. Differences and similarities are noted among the different types of seeds.
On the last day of the week, the jar is placed in a sunny spot for a couple of hours as the leaves magically became greener. Finally everyone who wants to tastes a few sprouts on crackers with cream cheese. Please check with your school administrators of there might be restrictions on projects with edible elements..
Most all of them will agree that the sprouts are crunchy and tasty.
Grow Your Own
Growing your own sprouts in you kitchen is quick and simple. They make a tasty addition to sandwiches, omelets, salads and even soups.
Larger seeds like mung beans, small red beans and lentils are great in stir fry dishes. You might want to experiment with several different kinds. You will find that they are much fresher, tastier and crisper than bean sprouts you may find in a supermarket.
How to identify seeds in a mixture: Mixtures might contain an assortment of the following:
LENTIL-- flat, reddish or green "lens-shaped" seed.
MUNG BEAN-- small , almost round, greenish-brown. Sometimes has a small white spot.
RADISH-- small, round, brick red.
CABBAGE- tiny, black, round.
ALFALFA-- tiny, "bean shape", color varies -- tan, reddish, greenish-tan.
You can also sprout soybeans, broccoli, clover, cress, flax, onion, wheat, barley, mustard, sunflower, and several other seeds and beans. In fact, all edible seeds, grains, and legumes can be sprouted.
Cress sprouts in Five Days
Chronology of a Sprout
If you have never "sprouted" before and you want to do this for a classroom activity, you might want to try it at home first so you can make your own observations.
As with any lesson, you will have a better idea of what to expect if you actually try the activity before presenting it to a class. It will also give you an idea of what kinds of seeds work best.
Day one: Your seeds should have been soaked the night before -- this gives them a "head start". They should be drained and rinsed in the morning. By the end of the school day you may see some of the seeds have split and a little white "knob" appears on some of them.
Day two: Seeds are rinsed and drained again. A definite root, perhaps three or four times as long as the seed, appears from most of the seeds.
Day three: Rinse and drain again. Things are really popping now! The growing material resulting from a mere tablespoon of seeds has increased from 400% to 600%.
Day four: Rinse and drain, again. Your jar is about 3/4 full. Leaf structures become apparent. Some secondary root hairs may be visible if you examine the sprouts carefully.
Day five: Rinse and Drain. You might want to place the jar in a sunny spot to see if these "baby plants" begin to develop some green color.
Your sprouts are now crispy and ready to taste-- but you can wait another day or two (rinse and drain) if you want them to grow a little more, but this timeline is to show that it can be done in a five-day school week.
If you don't use all of them, they can be rinsed and kept in the refrigerator for several days. Rinse occasionally as you use them.
Germinating Seeds in a Paper Towel
Why Grow Your Own ?
They are easy to grow, require little space and attention. They can be grown at any time of year, even when there is snow on the ground and you are craving something green.
They are a a good source of fresh food when you are camping, or in an emergency when you can't easily get to a store.
They have super nutritional benefits, being a good source of protein, vitamins C, D and A plus B-complex and phytonutrients.
They are easy to prepare and to digest. Certain kinds are high in anti-cancer properties and calcium. They provide nutritional fiber and are low in calories.
They also have essential minerals, carotene, chlorophyl and amino acids. In fact, they are probably the most nutrient dense of any fresh and organic foods.
Kids enjoy participating in the natural miracle of a growing seed . If they have helped to grow them they are also likely to enjoy eating them.
© 2008 Rochelle Frank