05 June, 2012

Sprouting 101

In my experiments with raw food I could not pass by sprouting - a popular "technique" for getting super-beneficial nutrients from grains and a way of eating grains without cooking. Here is what I learned and what you need to know when sprouting.

First, you will need some raw grains or seeds. Popular choices for sprouting are: mung beans, alfalfa,  raw sunflower seeds, radish seeds, buckwheat, mustard seeds.  You can find them online or in a natural/health store.  Garden seed distributors occasionally have a section of seeds for sprouting.

There are two main sprouting techniques: the tray method and the jar method (those are not official names).  I've tried both and found that the jar method works better for me.  However, certain seeds (like raw green buckwheat and quinoa) are easier to sprout with a tray.  So even if you do not have an empty jar ready, give sprouting a try.

The steps for both methods are the same:

1. Soak your seeds
You could follow specific time tables for soaking but an overnight 8-10 hours soak is all it really takes.  When you soak the seeds make sure to use clean water.  Simply fill a jar (or any deep dish) with water and put your seeds in.  Make sure you have at least twice the volume of water per seeds.

2. Rinse 
Use clean water to rinse your seeds.  You want to rinse them as thoroughly as possible so use lots and lots of water.  You might also need a fine-mesh sieve (sifter) to catch all the seeds.  Or you can choose to use a glass jar for rinsing (and sprouting).  It is also recommended to use high water pressure to better clean the seeds and to oxiginate them.

Here is my jar set up.  To make a similar one you will need to:
  • remove a metal flat lid from a mason jar
  • use 3 or 4 plies of cheesecloth to cover the top of the jar
  • use the circle lid to keep cheesecloth in place
Using the jars this way I do not need to open them every time for seed rinsing - the holes in the cheesecloth are large enough to let water through.  I also like to swirl seeds around when rinsing and it is done easily in the jar.

Once rinsed, seeds need to be drained
3 Drain
You want to keep your seeds slightly moist without having too much water accumulation.
For the tray method this is achieved by placing a damp peace of clean fabric on the tray, spreading the seeds, and covering them with another wet fabric.  Depending on the ambient temperature and air dryness you might need to wet the fabric several times per day.
If using the jar method simply turn your jar upside down and place it in a bowl.  Make sure to have air circulation in your jar, otherwise the seeds will go bad before sprouting.

Here is how my set up looks like:

Wait for 8-10 hours and
4. Repeat: rinse - drain, rinse - drain
It is recommended to rinse your seeds a couple of times per day.  I usually do it in the morning and at night before going to bed.
Several days later you will see tiny white sprouts 'growing' from your seeds.  At this point you can choose to eat the sprouts or let them grow bigger, by repeating the rinse-drain cycle.

Tray vs jar.
As I've mentioned earlier, I prefer the jar method: easy to rinse and to drain, no need to worry about seeds drying up (unless you are sprouting during hot, dry summer days), and I kinda like the way those jars look on my kitchen counter.
However, when I tried sprouting green buckwheat I've noticed that tiny fragile sprouts were getting damaged by excessive swirling around the jar.  I opted for the tray method, which proved to be more successful for buckwheat .
I also used the tray method for quinoa, which requires only one or two rinse-drain cycles (although you could sprout it for longer).

store you sprouts in the fridge to prevent them from going bad and continuing to grow.

Sprouting is lots of fun and super easy - give it a try!  I think it could also be an interesting project to try with kids; not only they could help with simple task of rinsing but they would get to see and learn how new growth happens from a seed.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments below and stay tuned for a yummy sprouted quinoa recipe coming up later this week.


  1. This is a great tutorial! I've only done a little bit of sprouting before (quinoa, which I soaked and rinsed in a jar, then used the tray method with the damp cloths to keep it moist), and this has reminded me how easy it is, and how great it is to have fresh sprouts on hand. You've inspired me!

    1. Thank you, Willow!
      As I was going through the posts for my monthly favourites I re-read this one and thought exactly the same thing: it's SO easy, why don't I sprout more often? We should take a sprouting pledge together ;)