Growing salad sprouts

How to grow your own salad sprouts

What you need:

  • a big jar or pot with a wide neck
  • a piece of muslin cloth
  • a rubber band
  • a water jug
  • some sprout seeds (alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, chickpeas or a ‘sprout mix’)

Instructions:

  1. Put a small amount of seed in the bottom of your jar.  If you are doing alfalfa sprouts just use a teaspoon of seeds.  For mung bean sprouts or mixed sprouts you can use a  couple of tablespoons.  Fill the jar about half-full with water, put the muslin over the top of the jar and put the rubber band round the top to hold the muslin on.
  2. Leave for about two hours, or overnight if you like, then empty the water out of the jar by turning the jar upside down until the water has all gone.  It is best to tip the jar slowly so that not all of the cloth gets wet because the air will go in through the dry cloth but not so well when it gets wet.  The water this time will be a funny colour but that is OK.  Leave the jar upside down for about five minutes so all the water drains out and then put it the right way up.  Tap the cloth so the beans fall to the bottom – if they are stuck on the cloth they will start growing into it.  The sprouts don’t need sunlight but a little bit won’t hurt them.  Too much will make them dry out too fast.  Fill your water jug with water and leave it with the sprout jar.
  3. After that you need to rinse the sprouts twice a day by filling the jar three-quarters full of water and swirling the sprouts around a bit.  This washes them and stops them getting too tangled up.  You then tip out the water slowly as you did before.  Use the water in your jug to do the rinsing and fill the jug up again afterwards.  This is so the sprouts get water at the right temperature – if you use water straight from the tap it will be too cold and will slow down the growing process.
  4. Most sprouts will be ready in 3-5 days, depending on the weather.  Alfalfa should be about 2 cm long (but they will be tangled, so it will be hard to tell!), mung bean, lentils and chickpeas are good when they are only about 1cm long.
  5. Sprouts from small seeds can be eaten when they have tiny green leaves but if you started with things like lentils or chickpeas they are best before the leaves come.
  6. You can try the sprouts any time you like – some people like them young and small and others like them older.  You’ll know if they are too grown up as they get a bit stringy.   Don’t worry about the seed husks – you can eat them too. 
  7. If you have started with small seeds you can eat them raw in salads or on their own, if you’ve started with bigger things you may like to steam them or put them in a stir fry. 
  8. If your sprouts are ready but you don’t want to eat them all at once you can keep them in the fridge in a closed pot or a plastic bag.  They keep fine this way for several days.

Trouble-shooting

  • If your sprouts grow very slowly they may be too cold.  Make sure you are using water at room temperature.  In winter you may need to put the jar in a room which is warmer.  Don’t put them on a radiator as they will dry out. 
  • If not all of your seeds start growing the batch of seed you have is probably a bit old.  You can sometimes sort out the ones that aren’t growing and keep going with the ones that do.
  • If the tips of the shoots start dying your sprouts have probably dried out at some stage.  You can still eat them but they won’t grow much more. 
  • If your jar of sprouts starts smelling bad you need to throw out that batch of sprouts as it means they are going mouldy in some way.  Clean your jar and the cloth well before starting again.  Try with fewer seeds in the jar so they have room to move around when you swish the water about in the jar because it helps to wash off any mould spores.  Make sure you drain the jar well before turning it the right way up as the shoots don’t like sitting in water.
  • If your sprouts seem tough and the roots are hairy they are just a bit too grown up.  You can still eat them if you like but catch them younger next time.