In the depths of winter, fresh produce is less bountiful, and many of us eat less fresh fruit and vegetables than we do in the summertime. But did you know that if you start planting today, you could have fresh, ready-to-eat sprouts in your kitchen within three or four days? Growing your own sprouts is really easy; you don’t need a green thumb, or even have access to outdoor space. A jar is all your need. You don’t have to stick to plain old bean sprouts, either. There’s a whole world of sprouts – with different nutritional profiles – for you to discover.
Nutritional Value of Sprouts
Sprouts pack a lot of nutrition into a tiny package. Here are five popular sprout varieties to try for yourself. The calorie counts are courtesy of Barbara Sanderson of the International Sprout Growers Association.
- Broccoli sprouts: Broccoli sprouts contain high levels of antioxidants, plus an enzyme called sulforaphane. Broccoli sprouts have been receiving a lot of attention lately, as some researchers suggest they may help prevent cancer. These sprouts taste like radishes, and are great in sandwiches.Calories per cup: 35.
- Alfalfa sprouts: Alfalfa sprouts are the sprouts often sold in grocery stores. They contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, plus phytoestrogens and antioxidants. They have a mild taste that makes them great for adding to smoothies, or adding to sandwiches.Calories per cup: 25.
- Sunflower sprouts: Sunflower seeds, being quite large, produce larger sprouts. They are loaded with Vitamin A, B, C, and Vitamin E, plus a number of minerals, including calcium and potassium, and amino acids. These sprouts have a nutty taste that is excellent in salads, or they can even be used instead of pine nuts to make a unique pesto!Calories per cup: 45.
- Pea sprouts: These sprouts have a similar taste to peas themselves, and can be added to salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries. They are a good source of Vitamins A and C, plus folic acid.Calories per cup: 40.
- Mung bean sprouts: Sometimes simply called bean sprouts, these are the sprouts traditionally used in Asian dishes like stir fries and pad thai. They are filled with Vitamins A, B, C, and E, plus calcium and iron.Calories per cup: 30.
How to Grow Sprouts at Home
The first step to growing sprouts at home is to find high-quality, organic or food-grade seeds for sprouting, to avoid chemicals or manure traces that may be found on seeds meant for growing full-sized plants. You can find seeds for sprouting at many health food stores, or online. Once you have the seeds, soak them for 8 hours or overnight, then rinse. From there, you can use the jar method or the tray method to grow your sprouts.
- Jar method: Place seeds in a mason jar. Instead of the regular lid, place cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar, then screw the ring on to hold the cheesecloth in place. Rinse your seeds about four times a day. After each rinse, place the jar in a container that allows it to sit at a 45-degree angle, with the cheesecloth pointing down to allow for drainage.
- Tray method: Place two thoroughly moistened paper towels on plate on a tray. Place your seeds on top. Whenever you pass by your tray, check to make sure the paper towels are still damp. When they start to dry out, spray the paper towels with a water bottle to add moisture without disturbing the seeds.
Neither method requires direct sunlight. In fact, sprouts will grow better without direct sun. If you want your sprouts to turn green, place them in a sunny spot for the last day of their growth. Then just rinse and eat!
The Bottom Line
Growing sprouts is an easy way for anyone to grow fresh, nutritious food, and can also be a fun project for kids. Depending on the variety you choose, and how big you want your sprouts to be, you can have fresh nutritious sprouts in as little as three days, or as long as a week.