Yes, you can buy sprouts in the produce section of your local grocery store, but growing your own sprouts is easy, even if you don't have a green thumb. All you need is a wide-mouth glass jar, some cheesecloth and a rubber band. And something to sprout, of course!
Why sprout? Seeds, beans, and even grains contain anti-nutrients, mechanisms that prevent your digestive system from easily breaking apart the seed, which is basically the reproductive force inside a plant organism. It’s essentially a defense mechanism against your digestive system (because the plant can’t run away like other living things).
As Diane Sanfilippo writes in "Practical Paleo," “Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting them essentially ‘tricks’ grains and legumes (as well as seeds and nuts, for that matter) into thinking they’ve been planted, allowing them to release some of their anti-nutrients and make their actual nutrients (vitamins and minerals) available and accessible.” Because they’re more readily absorbable by the human body, they are significantly more beneficial.
So how do you get on the sprouting train?
First, get yourself some seeds made for sprouting. You don’t want regular seeds that are used for planting for this purpose. Those seeds usually have not been cleaned sufficiently and can more easily grow mold or bacteria. You can buy them online or visit your local health food store. Once you have the seeds, beans or nuts, you’ll need to complete the first part of the sprouting process — soaking.
Put the seeds in a glass bowl and fill the bowl with lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Cover with a cloth and let sit for a number of hours, depending on the type of seed . Most beans should soak for about 8-10 hours, most nuts for 8-12 hours, but quinoa, for example, only needs to soak for 4-6 hours. See chart below.
This germination chart shows how long you should soak individual types of sprouts. (Photo: Dining in the Raw)
Once the time is up, drain thoroughly and transfer the seeds to a Mason jar, filling the jar about 1/3 full of seeds. Fill the rest of the jar with lukewarm water, and cover with a cheesecloth. Either use a rubber band to secure it or use the part of the metal lid that screws on. Invert the jar on an angle to let the water drain and air circulate and let sit for a few hours, again depending on the kind of seed you are trying to sprout.
After you’ve let it sit, remove the mesh insert of the lid, drain the water that’s been in the jar with the seeds, fill it with new water, and replace the mesh lid with the metal insert that came with the jar. Shake the jar up to rinse the seeds, replace with the mesh lid and drain again.
Invert the jar in the same manner as before and place it in a well-lit place. This will keep the sprouts dry enough to prevent mold growth. Repeat this process a few times a day and in 2-4 days, the sprouts should be ready. When they are, rinse them well, drain them, and store them in the fridge in a jar with a dry paper towel inserted (to absorb moisture). You can usually keep them for a few days in the refrigerator.
It’s that simple, and significantly more instant gratification than, say, planting a cucumber. Happy sprouting!