Sprouting Seeds at Home for Winter Nutrition
Finding and Starting Organic Seeds for Sprouting
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Sprouting seeds at home has long been an easy and delicious way to gain nutrition when greens are scarce. You can do it for you or your chickens.
During the springtime and summer, sweet greens grow all over our yard in the forms of cultivated vegetables or simple grass and weeds. We’re growing lettuce in containers, raised beds, even cracks in the sidewalk where seed blew last year. In the winter, I try growing arugula from seed indoors, finding the right balance of daylight and UV bulbs.
We get all the greens we need in the summer. In the winter, our only sources are at the grocery store … or sprouting seeds at home.
New sprouts are extremely high in nutrients. Seeds contain what plants need to emerge in spring and burst through the soil, continuing to grow until the plant can set roots and gain its nutrients from the dirt. This translates to nutritional benefits for you, but those benefits are locked up within the seed, bound by “anti-nutrients” like phytic acid. Sprouting neutralizes that phytic acid to make elements like magnesium and zinc available in forms you can use. Hard-to-digest seeds and legumes are also easier to consume now that enzyme inhibitors are also neutralized.
Broccoli sprouts are high in antioxidants while mung beans, low in calories but high in protein, are a guiltless addition to any salad. Have you seen that sprouted grain bread in grocery stores? Sprouting cereal grains reduces the amount of starch and also harnesses the aforementioned nutritional value. It even helps break down the sugars responsible for post-legume gassiness. Sprouting seeds at home increases vitamin C, B, and carotene in your diet.
Not all sprouts should be eaten raw. Some sprouted legumes are toxic or difficult to digest prior to cooking, and grains should be steamed because they contain substances which prevent ruminants from eating young shoots. These substances, which can irritate your stomach, neutralize with cooking. Broccoli, radish, and chia are fine eaten raw, as long as they were sprouted using clean jars and were rinsed often to avoid microbial growth.
Sprouting seeds at home is much easier than you think. Essentially, you’re germinating seeds indoors … and that’s it. Germinate then eat the resulting sprouts. Whether you do it yourself or for your chickens, you just need a wide-mouth quart jar, a screen or a lid with lots of holes punched in it, and a few days.
What to sprout for yourself: About anything you can proceed to eat in leaf form.
Do not sprout nightshades, such as tomatoes and peppers, because the plant contains a toxin called solanine. But you can sprout beans, brassicas (broccoli, radishes, and cauliflower), chia, grains, lettuce and spinach, alfalfa, and even onions.
What to sprout for chickens: Really, the same thing!
Again, do not sprout nightshades for your chickens or allow them to eat large quantities of the plants or raw potatoes. But cheap ideas include hard winter wheat and scratch grain.
Where do you get sprouting seed?
If you look up “sprouting seed” on the Internet, you’ll find many online stores that specialize in sprouting seeds at home. These are great for variety, supplies, or tutorials. Many articles recommend purchasing seed sold specifically for home sprouting because the tangled mat of roots and stems can harbor bacteria. Commercially sold sprouting seed is sanitized. To increase safety, cook your sprouts before serving or prepare them with antimicrobial foods like vinegar. Garlic and onions also kill some pathogens.
Sprouting Seeds at Home
For sprouting seeds at home, you need sprouting seed, a clean jar, screen material, a rubber band or jar ring, and fresh water. As mentioned above, seed sold especially for sprouting is best because it’s sanitized to avoid microbial growth. Mason jars work great, though wide-mouth jars provide the best airflow. The screen can be mesh sold at fabric stores, old window screen, or even a metal lid with holes punched in. The screen should be nylon, not metal, so it doesn’t rust. And it should be disinfected with bleach or isopropyl alcohol before use. I recommend screen over a lid with holes punched in because the screen allows more air flow. Fresh water can be bottled or tap. Some home sprouters even use food-grade hydrogen peroxide to avoid microbial growth in the water, as show in the video below.
Fill a Mason jar ¼ to 1/3 full of seed. Cover seeds with clean water and soak on a countertop overnight. The next morning, fit the screen over the jar’s mouth and drain the seeds. Rinse the grain a couple times but do not refill the jar with water. Each day, rinse two or three times, continuing until the seeds sprout. This may take up to five days. Rinse the sprouts again then either cook or consume raw.
If your jar smells foul, moldy, or sour, discard seeds and water. Do not eat them or feed them to your chickens.
This video shows the same method I use while including a few very useful tips!
- Obtain sanitized sprouting seed, a clean jar, clean mesh, a rubber band or jar ring, and fresh water. An additional option is food grade hydrogen peroxide to reduce microbial growth.
- Fill jar no more than 1/3 full. Mixing seeds, such as radish with sunflower, is perfectly fine and provides a wider spectrum of nutrients. Remember sprouting increases volume exponentially as plant growth stretches out. Some seeds expand more than others. Leave enough room in the jar.
- Soak seeds for 12 hours. Some websites provide different sprouting times but experienced sprouters claim 12 hours is perfect for all seed.
- Drain the water through the screen. Rinse and drain several times. Regular rinsing is crucial to avoid microbial growth. The sprouts will grow despite rinsing, but they won’t be safe to eat raw.
- Rinse and drain at least once every 12 hours, 2-3 times a day, until seeds sprout. Sprouting normally occurs in 2-4 days. Rinsing also moves seed around to provide more room for sprouts to grow.
- Either eat sprouts right away or store in a plastic container, refrigerated, for several days. Check refrigerated sprouts often and discard if they smell foul or are surrounded by sticky slime.
- Remember which sprouts must be cooked before consumption. Even sprouts that can be eaten raw should be cooked to avoid e. coli or salmonella, especially if you purchased them, already sprouted, from a store.
Have you tried sprouting seeds at home? Tell us your experiences!