If you know me, you know that I value nutritious, whole food, but I am also frugal at heart, a quality I have my dad to thank for. But it can be hard balancing these two, often opposing, values – I know that keeping fresh and/or organic produce stocked in your home can break the grocery budget, especially in the winter when produce prices are higher. Of course starting a garden is a great solution, but a small step you can take now is to grow fresh, nutrition-packed sprouts in a jar on your countertop. I promise, anybody can do this, and it’s a great solution for fresh food without paying several dollars for a small plastic clamshell’s-worth at the grocery store. Although my dad never grew sprouts to my knowledge, he did grow a large and – to my childhood self – wondrous garden, full of nooks and crannies and delicious food. I think this project would have appealed to both his green thumb and his frugal sensibilities.
You can sprout almost anything – some sprouts commonly eaten raw and good for indoor growing include alfalfa (shown above and below), broccoli, radish, mung beans, lentils, chickpeas and adzuki beans. The larger legumes will have less “sprout” and more of a crunch, such as the chickpeas shown below. You can sprout a variety of other seeds, but make sure you look up their suitability first – some are not appropriate for eating raw. Sprouts add a tasty crunch to sandwiches, salads, wraps, as a garnish on entrees and soups, with hummus or other dips, or even on their own. While I was taking photographs of my tasty lunch, my four-year-old even started assembling her own little cracker sandwiches featuring alfalfa sprouts. She loved it!
A drainable glass jar. The simplest method is to use cheese cloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a canning ring or rubber band. Special screens and lids are also sold specifically for this purpose, but are not necessary.
Seeds. You can typically find a good variety of seeds for sprouting right from the grocery store. Bagged lentils and chickpeas, for instance, work just fine. Your grocery store’s bulk area may have more options, especially if it is a natural foods store. My local co-op (I love you Lakewinds!) also stocks seeds such as alfalfa and radish specifically for sprouting. If all else fails, you can order whatever you’re looking for online, including blends of seeds that go well together for different recipes or cuisines.
Water. If it’s suitable for drinking, it’s suitable for growing sprouts.
1) Put your seeds in your selected jar, fill with water and soak them overnight. Generally, the smaller the seed, the less you use. As a reference, I used one tablespoon of alfalfa seeds for a pint-sized mason jar, whereas you could fill the same jar about one-third full with chickpeas. Cover your jar with the cheese cloth and secure with a canning ring or rubber band – you will leave this in place until your sprouts are ready to eat.
2) The next morning, drain the seeds and rinse them twice. Then shake the jar a bit and lay it on its side so that the seeds are somewhat spread out, as shown below.
3) Continue rinsing and draining your seeds (give them a good three washes) every morning and evening, about 12 hours apart. Most seeds will be ready in 4-6 days. When they are to your liking, rinse one last time, drain well and move the jar the refrigerator for storage. Voila!