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Grow Your Own! (Sprouts, That Is!)

By John DiGilio in Food on Aug 22, 2012 8:40PM

20012_8_DiGilio_Sprouts.jpg When it comes to nutrition, there is nothing small about the tiny sprout. They may not look like much on a sandwich or in a salad, but each tiny shoot is packed with vitamins—more so than any adult plant or its fruit. Health and raw food fanatics have been extolling the virtue of these puny powerhouses for quite some time now. It is quite common these days to find a variety sprouts available in local shops and farm markets everywhere. The higher the quality of the sprouts, the more expensive the little buggers are. The good news is that with a little know how and the right tools, you can grow your own sprouts right at home, year round.

We started growing our own sprouts for two reasons: economics and nutrition. A container of alfalfa sprouts at our local grocer costs just a couple bucks. But when you eat a lot of them, those bucks add up fast. Our local farm market offers a much bigger selection, with spicy varieties like radish and onion sprouts, the sweet crunch of mung bean sprouts, and the nutty flavor of alfalfa sprouts to just name a few. They are organic and, of course, priced accordingly (read: expensive). We have always shelled out the cash because we knew of their health benefits, especially on a vegetarian diet. When vegetables are young like that, their stores of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants have yet to be depleted by growth and the environment. As much as well love the colors, textures, and tastes of mature, ripe veggies, the sprout is literally the plant at its very best.

When we first learned about growing sprouts at home, we were skeptical of the claims of ease and low-cost. What we quickly learned, however, is that with the right tools, you can indeed grow plenty of delicious, healthy sprouts for a fraction of the market cost. The simplicity of it will astound you. All you need is a supply of sprout seeds and some kind of growing apparatus.

The Seeds

Sprout seeds are plentiful if you know where to look. Many health food stores stock them, but they also can mark them up. Our favorite place to find quality, organic sprouting seeds is online. Sites dedicated to home-grown sprouts abound and the various blends of seeds available online seems almost endless. Some of our favorite internet purveyors include Sprout People and The Sprout House, both of which offer an amazing array of economical choices. Most varieties cost you less than $10 per pound of seed. How many sprouts is that? Well consider that most sprouters start with two tablespoons of seeds at a time and you get the picture. You'll have sprouts for months!

When choosing your seeds, look for guaranteed organic selections from reputable sellers. We chose the companies above based on the enthusiastic recommendations of their large and vocal clienteles. Be sure to thoroughly read the instructions on how to store your seeds, sprout them, and then store your harvest. Did you know that most sprouts are ready to eat in just two to four days? It is amazing how quickly these things grow and go from seed to table!

The Apparatus

There are many different ways and tools you can use to sprout seeds. One of the most common is to simply use sprouting jars. You can buy these and even make your own rather inexpensively. Indian sprouters have been growing their own for centuries, using just cheese cloth and a pot that keeps out light. For just a few bucks, you can find plastic sprouting trays on the market and even more elaborate mechanical sprouters. What makes them different is really the amount of work you have to do to grow fresh sprouts. Trays and jars require that your rinse the seeds several times a day with clean water. They usually have some sort of drainage holes, so you literally just add the water. The mechanical sprouters do most everything for you. However, they come with a much steeper price tag and usually require more room. It is up to you how much time and energy you put into growing your sprouts.

Our tool of choice is a set of sprouting trays from Victorio Kitchen Products. Their four tray seed sprouter costs less than $20 direct from the seller and is even cheaper through sites like Amazon. This stackable system takes up almost no space, requires only two rinsings a day, and drains itself with ease and efficiency. The stackable sprouter is nice not only because it saves space, but also because you can grow different types of sprouts on each level. Each tray produces several days’ worth of tender sprouts.

Whether you are into the raw food or vegetarian lifestyles, or you simply love the taste and nutrition of sprouts, growing your own is a fun and economical alternative to paying big money at the market. You do not have to have a green thumb or even a garden to grow healthy deliciousness yourself. We’ve become sold on sowing our own sprout seeds and have found awesome ways to incorporate our daily harvest into our meals. Give it a try. Growing sprouts at home is . . . well . . . a sprout of genius!