Got Sprouts?

They're not only good for you, but they taste good, too. Sprouts are also a great source of vitamins, fiber, protein, anti-oxidants, and enzymes. A sprout is produced when a seed starts growing into a vegetable. Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables, from grains such as buckwheat, and from beans. While Mung beans are perhaps the most common source of sprouts, you can also obtain good results from lentils, soybeans and chickpeas just to name a few.

Sprouts can be grown almost anywhere and the best part is you only need a few basic supplies to get started. By following a few simple steps, you can receive a continual supply of nutritious sprouts.

While there are several commercial products available to cultivate sprouts, here are some of the easiest methods to help you get started.

- Growing Sprouts in Flower Pots -

1. Start with a clean clay or plastic flower pot. Make sure there is a hole in the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage. Then place a piece of cheesecloth or muslin in the bottom of the pot over the hole so that the seeds/beans cannot fall out.

2. Next, soak the seeds or beans overnight and then put them in the pot. Remove any that are broken or damaged. Cover the plant pot with a dish.

3. Once a day, hold the pot under running water for a few minutes. This is to soak the seeds/beans thoroughly.

4. Once the sprouts begin to show, remove the dish and cover the pot with a piece of clear plastic wrap to let in the light. Place the sprouting pot near a window that allows daylight but is not in direct sunlight.

- Growing the Sprouts in Trays -

1. Soak the seeds or beans overnight. Remove any that are broken or damaged before you begin the sprouting process.

2. Select a low, flat dish (like a pie plate) or tray. You can purchase growing trays wherever planting supplies are sold.

3. Next, spread out a 2-inch layer of soil and then sprinkle the soaked seeds or beans on top of the soil.

4. Cover the seeds/beans with four layers of damp newspaper.

5. Cover the top of the tray with clear plastic wrap.

6. When the sprouts start to lift the plastic cover, (usually about three days) remove the newspaper.

7. Place the tray in a window so that the light can turn the sprouts green. You will need a space to place the sprouting tray that receives daylight but is not in direct sunlight.

8. Because the thin layer of soil dries out quickly, water twice each day.

9. After about 8-10 days, you will have sprouts tall enough to harvest.

- Growing Sprouts in a Jar -

1. Soak the seeds, grains, or beans in lukewarm water overnight in a wide-mouth glass jar. Remove any that are broken or damaged before you begin the sprouting process. (Sprouting increases the seed volume. 4-tablespoons will be sufficient for a quart size container.)

2. In the morning, pour off the water in the jar and rinse the seeds/beans thoroughly.

3. Place a piece of cheesecloth or muslin over the mouth of the jar. Use a rubber band to hold the material securely in place. This makes rinsing easier.

4. To keep the sprouts constantly damp, repeat the rinsing 2-3 times a day. Remember to drain any excess water because the sprouts should not stand in water.

5. Keep the jar away from the light for the first few days.

6. When the seeds/beans begin to sprout, (usually about the forth day) move the jar into the light to activate the chlorophyll and turn the sprouts green.

- Harvesting and Storing the Sprouts -

Newly germinated grain, seed, and sprouts, increase in food value in the very first period of growth. Grains should be harvested and eaten from when they are six days old until they are 4-5 inches tall. To harvest, just take your kitchen scissors and cut what you need.

Sprouts from beans, peas, etc., are ready earlier and can be eaten when they are 3-6 days old, depending on the type of sprout. For spouts grown in no soil or in seed trays, you can harvest the green "grass" when it starts to grow. Sprouts, from grain sown in jars, are ready sooner and are edible even before they turn green. Seeds sown in soil take a little longer.

If necessary, wash the sprouts thoroughly to remove the seed coat. Sprouts need to be stored in the refrigerator once they are ready to eat. Put the sprouts in tight sealing bags, and they will remain flavorful and crisp for one to two weeks. Rinsing the sprouts daily under cold water can extend their life.

Sprouts may be frozen by blanching them over steam for three minutes and then cooling them in ice water. Drain them and pack into freezer containers.

By growing your own sprouts, you will save yourself money because it is less expensive to buy sprout seeds and grow and harvest the sprouts yourself than it is to buy the sprouts from a market. Sprouting at home takes only a few minutes a day, and can produce a good part of your daily requirements of the nutrients you need from fresh produce. The hassles are minor, the costs are low, and the freshness is wonderful.

Pia Nutro operates http://www.forvegetables.com She has studied nutrition and understands the importance of vegetables in the diet. Visit http://www.forvegetables.com often for up to date information on vegetables.

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