Saturday, March 16, 2013

Growing Your Own Sprouts

radish sprouts
(1 week later)
Growing your very own sprouts is easier than you may think.  This is low maintenance which is my kind of gardening!  You can grow them inside your home even in the bleak winter months.  All you need is to soak the seeds/sprouts with water and drain them a few times a day.  No soil or light needed.  After a week you can harvest your crop and eat them!!  They are fun to use as garnishes, making your dish tasty and pretty!  

Recently I came across a package of sprouting seeds at a hardware store in Cambridge, MA during my lunch break.  I purchased a variety of seeds and started to experiment growing them.  After a little research I learned that in order to grow sprouts you must buy seeds that have been grown specifically for sprouting.  Other type of seeds (for gardening) may have been treated with fungicides and they may be harmful to your health.  Another interesting piece of information that I came across is that the sprouting seeds need to be soaked in a 2% bleach solution for 15 minutes prior to using.  This disinfectant process help eliminate certain bacteria such as E. coli and other foodborne pathogens.  There are several ways to sprout seeds.  Below is a method that worked for me.  Maybe after you sprouts your own batch you will find that you have a better method.  When you buy the sprouting seed package there are instructions inside so you can just follow them.  


Equipment:

Sprouting seeds (sprout as much or little as you prefer, if this is the first time you may want to start with a smaller crop such as 1 1/2 T to 2 T of seeds)
Cheese cloth (1-2 pieces large enough to cover your container)
A rubber band
A square or rectangular glass container
Water
Bleach

Preparation & Process:

1) Disinfect the seeds prior to using by soaking them in a 2% bleach solution (1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.  Rinse the seeds with tap water thoroughly.
2) Put the cleaned seeds in a clean glass container.  Add water to the container, enough to cover twice the depth of the seeds.  Cover the container with a piece of cheese cloth and secure it with a rubber band.  Let the seeds soak for about 12 hours (I soaked mine overnight for convenience).
3) Drain and rinse the seeds with fresh water.  Spread the wet seeds in the container.  I use my chopsticks to help spread the seeds.
4) Rinse with water and drain the sprouts completely 2-3 times per day.  If you find that the sprouts are too dry then rinse and drain more times.  However, I find that 4 times are more than plenty despite the low humidity during the winter months here in the Northeast.  Keep the container in a dark place.  I keep my container in an oven.  If I am using the oven then the kitchen cupboard is another good alternative. 
5) Once the sprouts have grown to about 2-4 inches tall they are ready for harvest (between 5-7 days of sprouting time).
6) If you want to green up your crop before harvesting then keep them in bright light (not direct sunlight) for 2-3 hours (longer exposure time in the light will make them tough and bitter).
7) After you harvest the sprouts, soak them in water. Swirl the sprouts a few times to loosen the hulls (outer seed covering). The hulls will float to the top.  Remove the sprouts and soak them in another batch of clean water.  Repeat the process a few times and this will rid most of the hulls.
8) Drain and use a salad spinner to dry the sprouts.  If you do not have a spinner then use paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to dry the sprouts.  The dry sprouts will keep longer in the refrigerator (as with any greens moisture will make them rot quickly).
9) Store the dried sprouts in a container or plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.

*During the my trial of growing sprouts I realized that it worked well if I start my crop on Thursday evening (especially when I have the weekend off and will be around to care for them).  I have more time to rinse the seeds, 3-4 times each day over the weekend and this worked very well.  
*Too much exposure to light will make your sprouts tough and taste bitter.  Keep the container away from light as much as possible.  This is easy for me since it is winter and we have many dark and dreary days.
*According to Jim Mumm, use luke-warm water for soaking and rinsing in cool room temperatures and cold water in hot room temperatures.  The sprouts are best grown between 65 to 75 degrees F (18 to 25 C).  Please refer to the article links below for more information.
*My package insert tells me that these sprouts can be kept up to 4 weeks in a refrigerator if the conditions are optimal.  I don't think my sprouts will last 4 weeks for me to test this experiment!

disinfect the seeds by soaking them
in a bleach solution for 15 minutes
72 hours later
scallop salad with a tropical sauce
(garnish with radish sprouts)
spicy scallop tartare
(garnish with radish sprouts)
soy sesame seed crab salad roll
(garnish with radish sprouts)

*I found two interesting articles on-line on sprouting that have useful information.  If you are interested in learning more about sprouting please see:  http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3385.PDF and http://www.cityfarmer.org/sprout86.html

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