I've had some emails asking how I went about growing mung bean sprouts. Sprouts have to be the easiest way to get some homegrown greenery in your life so I thought I'd share what I've learned so far.
What is sprouting?
Sprouting is the fine art of soaking, draining and rinsing seeds and beans until they germinate, or sprout.
The most common kind you see supermarkets are alfalfa and mung beans but there's gazillions of sproutables, such as adzuki beans, broccoli seeds, chickpeas/garbanzos, hemp seeds, lentils, quinoa seeds and sunflower seeds.
Why should I grow spouts?
- They're dead tasty – they're magic on sandwiches (my favourite chicken, alfalfa and avocado) and have a magic way of pulling a salad together. Try the Leon superfood salad if you need convincing!
- They're cheap – a little bag of alfalfa costs £1 in my local supermarket and I get a maximum 3 salads out of it. 100g of alfalfa seed is £2.70 and you can grow piles more.
- They're good for you – see below.
- They're easy greens –You don't need a garden. You don't need dirt. You can grow them any time of year. They hate direct sunlight so they're perfect if you live in the dreary north.
What you do need is…
- Water – as they need to be rinsed twice a day. So if you live in Australia or lived there for a long time you'll have to deal with great stabs of guilt every time you rinse.
- A decent memory – it's so easy to forget to bathe the little fellas!
Why are they so good for you?
I don't know. I just like how they taste! Allow me to cut and paste some information from the internet.
Sprouts are highly nutritious because "they contain all elements a plant needs for life and growth." This is from World's Healthiest Foods:
“In the life of a plant, sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy. The seed, after having remained quiet for an often long period of time, becomes more and more active and begins its journey up through the topsoil and into the open air. When it sprouts, a healthy seed activates many different metabolic systems. It converts some of its sugar content into vitamin C, to act as an antioxidant in the new open air environment. It also begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes… On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants they eventually become, because this moment in their lifecyle calls for a high level of vitality. For you to get the benefit of healthy sprouts, the sprouts need to be very fresh, and carefully refrigerated and handled.”
Now I shall quoth lazily from Wikipedia:
“Sprouts are rich in digestible energy, bio available vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, beneficial enzymes and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow.”
What do you grow them in?
You can be as cheap or as fancy pants as you like. Sprouts will grow in a simple glass jar or in a made-for-purpose sprouting vessel, like a tiered plastic one.
Where do I get the seeds and beans from?
I got my first packet of radish seeds from B&Q, a popular hardware shoppe here in merry old Britain. I later Googled "sprouting seeds" and ordered more from Living Food, a Cornwall company. The seeds are organic which is great because according to Wikipedia, "with all seeds, care should be taken that they are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing. Seeds intended for sowing may be treated with chemical dressings."
Now how does one sprout?
- Soak your seeds in a little dish for time period that is correct for your chosen sprout type – it will usually say so on the packet. I just soak mine overnight whatever the type.
- Drain the seeds into mesh sieve, rinse and drain again.
- Transfer to your clean jar or sprouting container. Spread them out evenly.
- Cover the container (with muslin or cling film or a lid) to prevent the sprouts from drying out. (Note: Most instructions I've read have this step but my three-tier sprouter doesn't have a cover. The top layer of sprouts seem to be working okay without being covered)
- For the specified number of days, rinse and drain the sprouts every morning and evening to prevent mould forming. I do this by emptying the contents into a fine mesh sieve, rinsing, draining then shaking thoroughly then putting back into the jar/sprouter.
- After the specified number of days your sprouts are ready for ‘harvesting’. Rinse the sprouts with fresh water and transfer to a bowl.
- Eat immediately for maximum nutrition or store in the fridge for up to a few days.
Note: Let me know if any of the above makes no sense or seems grossly inaccurate, as I woke up at 4am today for no good reason and my brain is mush!
Now here's some photographical evidence.
This was my first ever batch of radish seeds, in for the soak
… until disaster struck. Mould!
Okay it was an entirely preventable disaster. I kept forgetting to rinse them.
Despite this setback I'd seen it was possible for those little puppies to grow even during the miserable armpit that was February 2010.
Keen to try other varieties, I took the plunge and spent £20 on a three-tier sprouter.
Snow peas after about five days
A mix of mung beans and snow pea sprouts, ready for scoffing
Alfalfa on a salad. Sure it looks kinda hairy but it tastes great!
This is a resident Eating Disorder Pigeon, flopped on the needs-a-mow grass having just munched all the Brussels Sprout seedlings in the veggie patch. Moral to the story: Stick to indoor seed sprouting and you'll never know such heartbreak!