One of the most affordable and emotionally satisfying ways to eat healthfully is to grow your own food. But not everyone has the space, time, or skills to cultivate a garden. Luckily there is a way to grow nutrient-packed food in a tiny space, for pennies a serving. Homegrown sprouts are little powerhouses of nutrition, and are both easy to grow and easy on your budget.

Choosing Sprout Seeds

Now that you know why sprouts are great, lets talk about choosing the right seeds for your needs. If you want green vegetables with lots of vitamins and phyto-nutrients, go for sunflower, alfalfa, radish, broccoli, clover, or lettuce seeds.

For protein and fiber, choose bean or lentil seeds. Know that only mung and garbanzo (chickpea) bean seeds can be eaten raw without potentially causing gas or stomach upset. Other bean sprouts, especially kidney and black (turtle) beans, need to be cooked for at least a few minutes. Most lentil varieties make great raw or cooked sprouts.

Grain sprouts can be made from buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, or oat groats (be sure to get a gluten-free batch if you are celiac/gluten sensitive) and can usually be eaten raw. Buckwheat and oat tend to have the sweetest flavor and can be used for raw cereals, while quinoa and amaranth are more sour and are better for salads and savory dishes.

Actually most green vegetables, seeds, legumes, and grains can be sprouted if they are still in their whole, unheated, unprocessed form.

It is important to get organic, unprocessed seeds, still in their hulls/shells. Hulled seeds will not sprout. Some stores carry specific sprouting seeds which are usually fresher and higher quality, but even the bulk seeds/beans in most health food stores will sprout just fine.

Sprouting: The Jar Method

This is the simplest method and works well for most sprouts. The only drawbacks are that sometimes the bottom of the jar can get a little soggy, and the sprouts get tossed and turned when you rinse them. This makes it a less-than-ideal method for sunflower sprouts, which prefer soil to maintain an even moisture level.

You will need:

~ A wide-mouth quart or half-gallon (1 or 2 liter) glass canning jar such as Mason or Ball.

~ The screw part of the lid

~ A mesh screen cut to the size of the jar opening, a special sprouting lid, or a piece of cheesecloth, muslin, or thin organic cotton that is a few inches larger than the jar opening.

  • Pour 4 ounces of seed into the jar. Rinse well with lid on to clear any debris or dust.
  • Add filtered water until the jar is 1/2 to 3/4 full.
  • Seal by screwing the mesh or cloth covering onto the jar with the screw-top part of the lid. Be sure to make a tight seal.
  • Let the seeds soak for several hours. Small seeds like clover and quinoa require 4-6 hours, while large bean seeds need 12 hours.
  • Drain the soak water and rinse the seeds.
  • Hold the sealed jar upside-down at an angle to drain as much of the liquid as possible. If the sprouts can sit on an angle in a dish rack while sprouting to keep draining, even better.
  • Rinse and drain the seeds 2-3 times per day until the sprouts are 3-4 times bigger than the seeds (in most cases beans will be shorter when ready, while some greens will be much longer).

This is the key step, as the most common cause of failed sprouts is forgetting to rinse them.

Sprouts prefer dark, warm environments, like the soil that would otherwise be their home. In colder locations sprouts take longer to grow.

Veggie sprouts need sunlight at the end of their growth cycle to develop chlorophyll and turn green. Put the jar in a sunny window for the last day or two of sprouting, and make sure they have darkness at night to digest the light.

Handy Pantry Sprout Jar 1 Qt & Alfalfa Seeds 2oz

Sprouting: The Bag Method

This method takes up even less space, as you can hang the bag on a hook over your sink. Most types of sprouts (except sunflower) do well with this method, though very thin sprouts like clover sometimes get stuck in bags with a wide knit.

You will need:

~ A small drawstring cloth bag made of natural, unbleached, organic fabric (hemp, cotton, linen). Do not use a brand new cotton bag unless it is organic, as the chemical residue from the growing process will leach into the sprouts.

  • Fill the bag 1/8 1/4 full with seeds.
  • Rinse the bag with the seeds inside.
  • Place the bag of seeds in a bowl of filtered water for 4 -12 hours.
  • Rinse the seeds well.
  • Hang out of direct sunlight and rinse 2-3 times per day until sprouts are the desired size.

Sprouting: The Tray Method

This method is best for sprouts from which you only want the green part, such as sunflower, young lettuces, and alfalfa. It is also sometimes called the micro-greens method.

You will need:

~ A large tray (plastic or clay) with good drainage. Seedling trays work well.

~ Fresh organic soil to fill the tray

  • Spread your seeds evenly in the tray of soil, just a little under the surface, an inch or so apart.
  • Keep the soil moist but not too wet, in a dark warm place for the first few days.
  • Bring the tray into sunlight for a day or two.
  • When the sprouts put off at least two green leaves, you can begin harvesting.
  • Cut the amount of sprouts you want to eat just above the soil, and enjoy them one serving at a time.
  • Once you have harvested all the greens, the soil can be used for two or three more rounds of sprouts, and then added to your compost.

It can take a little perseverance at first to grow sprouts, especially if you tend to be the forgetful type. But eating a mouthful of high-vibe living sprouts that grew in your own kitchen is worth the few minutes of rinsing each day to grow them. Sprouting is a simple and affordable way to include more living, nourishing foods in your healthy lifestyle.