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Save Money And Eat Healthy: Grow Your Own Organic Sprouts

Updated on June 23, 2009
Day 5 of sprouting. This is a one pint mason jar (500 ml) with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of alfalfa seeds.
Day 5 of sprouting. This is a one pint mason jar (500 ml) with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of alfalfa seeds.

For frugal shoppers who want to eat organic, cost is a big issue - especially for healthy greens. Organic greens tend to be more perishable - and very expensive. While organic food in season may be priced comparably with its conventional counterparts, buying it during the winter months can cost a fortune!

This is where you can take aim at high costs and still provide yourself with premium-quality organic greens - all from the comfort of your own home. You'll have food that is grown without pesticides, insecticides, fungicides or herbicides, which will help to reduce your family's exposure to chemicals. With as little as a simple jar, a piece of screen and a few seeds, you can have delicious sprouts in just 3-6 days.

Sprouts provide you with a lot in a very small package.

  • Recent research shows that broccoli sprouts are a significant immune booster that reduce inflammation. In fact, sprouts have more of the compound sulforaphane than the full grown plant.
  • Studies show that alfalfa sprouts have anti-cancer properties.
  • Mung bean sprouts pack a lot of nutritional punch - including high amounts of Vitamin A, B, C, and E, as well as the key minerals Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.

Sprouts may be nature's green super food - available year round and with minimal fuss or effort.

Sprouting 101

It really couldn't be simpler.

  1. Buy some good quality sprouting seeds. Generally, you should opt for organic over conventional seeds, for better quality nutrition and less exposure to chemicals. Also, keep in mind that not every kind of seed is healthy to eat as a sprout, so focus on designated sprouting seeds from a reputable source. I purchased a small bag of sprouting seeds at my local health food store. Also, seeds that come from plants that had to grow without chemicals might just be a bit hardier - although there isn't research yet that can prove that organic seeds pack more vitamins and minerals than conventional. However, there is research to show that organic produce has more nutrition like antioxidants (and less anti-nutrients like pesticide) in it, so the likelihood is that organic seed will be the best choice.
  2. Get a jar. Once you have your seeds, any reasonable sized glass jar will grow your sprouts for you. Use glass for the best quality finished product: science is just discovering that plasticizers may leak from plastic products. While some plastics claim to be completely safe, why take the chance? It's just as easy to grab that empty glass jar from your favorite tomato sauce, or an old-fashioned mason jar from last year's canning season and put it to good use. The bigger the mouth on the jar, the better - it means better air circulation and less chance of mold setting in.
  3. Put your seeds in your jar. If they are very small seeds, like alfalfa, use 1-2 tablespoons. (If you don't eat sprouts a lot, start with just 1 tablespoon. You get a lot of sprouts from a little bit of seed.) Use less of larger seeds like sunflower.
  4. Cover your jar with a screen. Usually a small piece of screening, secured with a rubber band, will do the job nicely. You want a nice, taut screen. Some retailers now sell lids for wide mouth mason jars that have a screen built in. These are great - they are my new favorite tool for sprouting!
  5. Soak the seeds for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 12. I soak most of my sprouting seeds for an afternoon because I tend to start them just before lunch and drain the soaking water at supper. Just run your water right into the jar, through the screen. You should have at least 4 or 5 times the water that you have volume of seeds.
  6. Rinse and allow to drain. Once your soaking water is dumped, rinse your seeds and allow them to drain. Your dish drain rack makes a perfect location (as long as it's not full of dishes!) Leave the jar on a 45 degree angle, and ensure that there is lots of space above the seeds (which will lie against the screen at the bottom).
  7. For the next 3 to 6 days, rinse and drain your sprouts twice a day. I just do them at breakfast and supper. Allow them to drain slowly each time by putting them on your dish rack, in that tilted 45 degree position (as opposed to completely upside down).

You decide when you want to eat them simply by looking at how they are doing! If you can't finish them at one sitting, place them in the refrigerator. This will slow the growing process and help to prevent any mold.

Quick Overview Of Seed Sprouting

Scared Off Sprouts?

There have been a lot of news stories recently, highlighting problems with commercially produced sprouts. Almost everyone asks about salmonella when I tell them I've grown my own sprouts.

Here's the scoop: if you have salmonella in your sprouts, it's either a water problem or a seed problem.

Unless you are using untreated water for your sprouts, you should NOT get salmonella from your water source. Simply use your own safe tap water for sprouting and you are taking the best possible precaution against water-borne salmonella.

The only other issue is a seed problem. Buying from reputable seed companies generally ensures that you won't get salmonella-contaminated seeds. So, check that vendor's reputation carefully. If a seed company has been part of a recall, consider another grower!

Still worried? Your other option, if you want to be extremely careful, is to "disinfect" your seed. The FDA recommends that commercial growers treat seed in 20,000 parts per million calcium hypochlorite solution with agitation for 15 minutes. You can approximate this approach at home with common household bleach. Bleach is a solution of sodium hypochlorite. You simply add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of common household bleach in a quart of water (approximately 1 liter) and shake your seeds in this solution, picking the jar up to shake every minute or so, for 15 minutes. Then pour off the liquid and proceed with your regular soaking.


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    • profile image

      Jerilyn 6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading the comments, ideas and advice here. I have been sprouting for many years and have so much fun and love the good food all year round that I can grow. I enjoy reading what others have to say and learning new Ideas. Just wanted to say thanks to you all.

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 6 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      Thanks for introducing yourself! I figured I had to know you from somewhere, because most folks are unaware of the issue of oxalate... ;-)

      I'm not exactly sure what is causing your issue with the mung bean sprouts... Usually I am eating my sprouts after about 5 days. Are you rinsing them twice a day and then letting them drain slowly? I definitely have to leave my sprouts on an angle in my dish drain board - but not too high an angle, so that the sprouts are holding a bit of water while they drain...

      Hope that helps! ;-)

    • profile image

      dorajane 6 years ago

      Thanks Monique. I love seeing your picture here, now I know who I am talking to. You know me as janew on the other website. I'll leave the husks and get the benefit of fiber.

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 6 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      I don't think you have to worry about the "husks" of the alfalfa seeds... When these were tested for oxalate, I don't think they removed the husks. And the sprouts were very low! (For those who don't know, oxalate is an "anti-nutrient" and your diet is healthier when you keep the levels of this down.)

      I'll get back to you on the mung bean sprouts...

    • profile image

      dorajane 6 years ago

      I sprout alfalfa seeds and was wondering if you remove the brown husks or do you eat them? Also thinking that the husks may be a source of higher oxalate. I do try to float away the brown husks with multiple rinsing in a colindar with large holes.

      zi have a problem with mung beans sprouts not growing long enough. If I leave them more days the tips turn brown and dry. What am I doing wrong?

    • profile image

      Tess Rousseau 8 years ago

      Great article and for sure easy to follow. I'm going to try the mung beans this week, it sounds as though they have a lot of good nutrition and are a larger seed, so they will be easy to handle. I'm going to use a glass jar too! I read the other comments and it seems like a better idea, and having read your previous article about plastics - I'm sold. I'll let you know about my results.

    • profile image

      MurrayGunson 8 years ago

      Perfect timing! I was thinking a few days ago about doing some sprouts and then forgot about it. I'm going to try some pumpkin sprouts - should be good. I've tried and enjoyed alphalfa, lentil, and radish in the past, of which I loved the radish, though my son wasn't crazy about them. He might like them now that he's older and more into spicy food. I've always used a commercial sprouter, but, due to what we've learned over the last couple of years about plastic, I think I'll switch to a glass jar. Thanks for that tip! I probably would have used the plastic sprouter without thinking about it, if you hadn't mentioned it.

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 8 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      Thanks for dropping by, Gypsy Willow! We enjoy sprouts at our house - in smoothies at breakfast or on sandwiches and salads. There's no easier way to enjoy them than making them yourself! And no plastic or packaging involved. ;-)

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thanks for reminding me about this fun, nutritious food. Tasty and good for you. Good instructions easy to follow. Nice hub