Featured, Food, Health

Sprouts: Alaska’s Cheapest Superfood

By Allison Sayer for Seward City News

Mmmmm… Egg Bagel with Mixed Sprouts. Photo: Allison Sayer

Sprouting is a great way to save money and eat healthy food. Most people know the basic procedure to make sprouts: Add a small amount of seeds to some kind of container, rinse and drain frequently, enjoy. I would like to share some tips and ideas to help you get the most out these awesome superfoods.

What do you do with sprouts once you have made them?

There’s no sense in making something you won’t eat! My big uses are: sandwiches/wraps, green salad additions and stir fries. I love to make brown rice salads, where I combine sprouts, brown rice, and whatever else I have on hand in a big bowl. I have also used them as soup garnishes, eaten them on scrambled eggs or atop fish fillets, and rolled them into sushi and spring rolls.

Like everything else, sprouts are awkward until they become a habit. Now that I am used to sprouting, grabbing a handful of sprouts out of the sprouter seems a lot easier than the washing, coring, peeling, and chopping other vegetables require. I throw them into everything, and I almost always like the results.

Sprouts in a square plastic sprouter. Photo: Allison Sayer

Sprouters

I typically endorse upcycling, but I absolutely prefer square sprouters to the homemade variety.

The sprouts these produce are never slimy. The units are stackable, which allows you to start sprouts a few days apart and keep them all in a compact space. Then you can always have fresh sprouts to eat while others are still growing. They are also very portable.

To use square sprouters, sprinkle a small amount of seeds on the bottom. The seeds need plenty of space to expand and grow, so a light sprinkle is plenty. Rinse the seeds in the container about once per day. Don’t fret if you go away for the weekend. They will usually be fine.

Round, stacking sprouters are the best for tiny little seeds. You can often find these at thrift stores if you keep an eye out for them. Water poured into the top trickles through to a tray in the bottom. The little valves between layers tend to get clogged, but you can clean them easily. I usually pour a fresh rinse over once per day or more.

Jars with screen tops, store-bought plastic lids, or lids with holes punched in them are very commonly used. Sometimes sprouts in jars get slimy. If you use a jar, one trick that will improve your quality dramatically is keeping your jar lid side down in your dish drainer at all times. This will give you good drainage and prevent sprouts from sitting in water. Rinse at least once per day, religiously.

Where do you put your sprouters?

I put my sprouters on the counter right next to the sink so I won’t forget to rinse them. Otherwise, I forget them and they die. Keeping your unsprouted seeds in a cool, dry place is important. Dampness can rot the seeds, and heat will reduce their viable lifespan.

The conventional wisdom on sprouts is to get them going in the dark. This theoretically improves the germination rate and tenderness. The sprouts will be pale from this, but they will turn green after a short time in the light.

I have found that for many varieties of sprouts I can not tell the difference between sprouts I grew in the dark and the light. My advice is not to worry about the darkness unless you have tried to sprout something in the light and do not like the results.

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Sprouts grow faster if they are in a warm place, but if they are in a spot that is too hot they can become gross or die. If I am going to be gone and my place is going to cool down or freeze, I either put them on a high shelf in a cooler or take them with me.

If you have wood heat, you need to water sprouts more often to keep them from drying out. You should also put them on a high shelf to keep them from getting too cold when the fire gets low. If you live in a cabin but have an office job, you might try keeping a sprouter or two in your office.

Big sprouts

Mung beans, brown lentils, and other legumy-beany things make great sprouts. I usually stir fry these. You can purchase beans specifically for sprouting. They will give you a good germination rate, and some of the mixes have great flavor. They are also a lot more expensive than ordinary beans. I use a mixture of “sprouting” mixes and ordinary beans.

I sprouted black beans once by accident when I soaked them and forgot about them. They turned out to be incredible sautéd. Now, I try to sprout every bean, pea, or lentil I have around. The only exception is anything “split” such as red lentils or split peas. These definitely do not work.

Some beans will sprout and some won’t. Sometimes a bean won’t sprout because of its variety. However, sometimes the beans might be too old, or might have been exposed to extreme heat somewhere in transit that killed them. Just try a small amount of each batch at first to see what happens.

I usually sprout large beans in a sprouting jar, but if I want a lot of sprouts I use a bowl or pitcher. I dump the beans into a colander and rinse them well once or twice a day, then return them to the bowl. I cover the bowl with a dishtowel.

Green sprouts

Radish seeds and mustard seeds are extremely easy to sprout successfully. They germinate well and grow quickly. They also don’t mind growing in cool temperatures. They give you hot, spicy sprouts that add a great kick to salads and wraps.

I usually buy small amounts of mustard seeds from spice bulk bins. I have had good luck with using mustard seeds marketed either for eating or sprouting. I order radish seeds specifically for sprouting from seed catalogs.The price per pound for sprouting seeds is high. However, a bag of seeds lasts a really long time. One tablespoon of seeds yields a lot of sprouts. I have been able to keep some of the same bags for years, and they are still going strong.

Sunflower seeds are my absolute favorite. They make a big sprout with a mild, slightly nutty flavor. These sprouts take a longer time to germinate and grow than most. They will not grow in a jar. You can grow a little field of these as “shoots,” or “microgreens,” or you can grow them in a square type sprouter. I usually don’t grow these in the winter because it is too cold.

Alfalfa seeds are the classic seeds to sprout. They grow fast, and germinate in a wide range of temperatures. I honestly don’t grow them much but they are cheap and easy. I do buy mixes sometimes that have alfalfa, fenugreek, and radish seeds pre-mixed together.

Just like with beans, my sprouts are a combination of random seeds and grains and seeds marketed specifically for sprouting.

The most unique sprouts I have ever grown came from amaranth. I had ordered a big bag of amaranth for baking and I was only using a tiny bit of it at a time. So, I tried sprouting the seeds. Since the seeds were tiny, I used the round, trickle through variety of sprouter. The sprouts tasted exactly like sweet corn and they were delicious on top of tomato soup!

Enjoy!

I hope this article inspires at least one person to try something new with sprouting. I sure enjoy having fun little life morsels around to add to my food, and I hope you will too!

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One Comment

  1. Jennifer Swander

    Enjoyed the article! I’m a fellow sprout grower, so thanks for some new ideas! 🙂

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