With at least 30 reported outbreaks of food borne illness during the past 20 years coming from sprouts, it's understandable that we are wary about enjoying those delicious little nutrient packed spouts. Since most contamination comes from the seed itself, rinsing will not be enough to eliminate the risk. And since most sprouts are meant to be eaten raw, cooking them isn't always a palatable option either.
So what is a sprout-lover to do? Consider growing your own sprouts, but please do so safely. And remember that individuals with compromised immune systems are better off avoiding sprouts.
Here's the easy how-to for growing delicious, pathogen-free sprouts at home:
Sprouting in a Jar
Equipment for Growing Sprouts in a Jar
- Wide mouth jar canning-type jar with a screw on ring. Sanitize well in dishwasher.Path
- Sprouting seeds (more on this below.)
- 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Solution for cleaning seeds
- Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- Bowl with lid or plastic storage bag for storing sprouts
Seeds and Varieties
The important thing to note about buying seeds for sprouting is that you should look for seeds specifically labeled as "sprouting seeds" or "for sprouting." The reason behind this is that they have been cleaned well and are pathogen-free. Sometimes you can find packets of sprouting seeds in garden centers, but if not, check your favorite seed catalog or health food store – most now sell sprouting seeds.
As far as varieties go, you may be surprised at how many types of veggies you can eat as sprouts. Most of us are familiar with alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts, but consider radish sprouts, beet sprouts, pea sprouts, and sunflower. In general, any plant from which you might eat the stems and leaves is a good option for sprouting. Plants from which you only eat the fruits (such as tomatoes and peppers) won't work.
How to Grow Sprouts in a Jar
Growing sprouts in a jar is easy. Here's how to do it:
1. To ensure pathogen-free sprouts, heat some 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to 140° F and allow the seeds to soak for 5 minutes. Then remove, drain and rinse under running water for 1 minute.
2. Place one to two tablespoons of seeds in your jar, and cover with approximately two inches of warm water. Skim off any floaters – they often can be the source of potential contamination. Change the water and let soak overnight.
3. Drain the water, by placing a couple layers of cheesecloth over the jar opening and screwing the ring on. Lay jar on its side and cover with a dishtowel (germination likes darkness)
4. Twice daily, rinse the seeds by adding water the jar (pour water in and out of jar through cheesecloth – no need to remove the ring), swishing the seeds around, and draining.
5. Once your sprouts are the desired size - this takes anywhere from 3-7 days - depending on the variety of sprout you're growing, place them in a bowl and cover with water. The seed coats will float to the top. Skim them off, and drain the remaining sprouts. Place in a clear plastic bag in the sunlight for them to “green up”.
6. Store your sprouts in the refrigerator in a covered bowl or food storage bag with a paper towel inside to absorb excess moisture. Use the sprouts within a week.