- Author: Paula Pashby
Do you like mixed greens and bean sprouts? I do – I love their flavor and textures in both sandwiches and salads. Unfortunately, the store-bought sprouts never last long, and often they are not available in the stores. So I looked into growing my own sprouts and found a wealth of information from UC Davis - not only on how to grow sprouts but also about how nutritious they are to eat.
There are so many nutritional benefits when we eat sprouts on a regular basis. According to UC Davis Nutrition Department studies, “research studies conducted in recent years have suggested that consuming vegetable sprouts, such as broccoli sprouts may have increased levels of nutrients in comparison to the mature plant.” The studies also noted that the nutritional structure of sprouts has higher amounts of certain compounds that could reduce the risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, I also found out that there have been outbreaks and concerns about E. coli and salmonella bacteria in sprouts. We certainly do not want to invite these types of bacteria into our home-grown sprouts! So, what can we do to minimize risk?
First, we need to figure out the likely sources of pathogenic bacteria when growing sprouts. UC Davis Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources reported that the source of contamination seems to be coming from the seed itself. If this type of bacteria is already on the seed and then exposed to certain conditions that also happen to be the most ideal conditions for the seeds to sprout, the bacteria will thrive.
Not to worry though, we can still grow our own sprouts safely at home. There are ways to prevent pathogenic bacteria from ruining our sprouts. Here are some suggestions from UC Davis ANR for growing sprouts safely at home and a link to their document:
- Buy certified (pathogen-free) seeds – (note that ‘organic' does not necessarily mean that the seeds are pathogen-free).
- Soak the seeds for 5 minutes in a solution of 97% water and 3% hydrogen peroxide at 140°F using a clean cooking thermometer. Discard the solution after use.
- Rinse the seeds in water for 1 minute and then place in a container filled with water. Remove any seeds and debris that float.
- Use sanitized containers, keep the area sanitized and keep them away from areas where food is prepared.
Once I understood how to grow sprouts safely, I experimented with just a few types, like broccoli seeds to get a feel for the different flavors. I used mason jars and cheesecloth for the jar covers and followed these instructions:
- Day 1: Put the seeds in mason jar, fill with water, cover with cheesecloth lid and place away from food preparation and direct light for 12 hours. I left mine overnight.
- Day 2: Rinse the seeds a few times twice per day. Lay jar on its side so seeds have more room and make sure they have ventilation to dry (on my first try I forgot about the need for air…the jar openings were blocked and the seeds became moldy).
- Day 3: Rinse the seeds twice per day. Lay the jar on its side so seeds have more room to grow. You should be seeing some sprouting going on!
- Day 4: Rinse the seeds twice per day. Lay the jar on its side so the sprouts have more room to grow. Should be ready to harvest most seeds.
- Harvest: It can take up to 7 days for the sprouts to be ready, usually when the first pair of leaves have opened and the seed shell has fallen away. Rinse the sprouts in cold water, drain and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. They usually last around 3 days in the refrigerator for the best flavor.
Have fun and do experiment with different types of seeds and flavors! I tried Broccoli, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Cilantro. So far, the Broccoli seeds (in the pictures here) germinated quickly and are very tasty. Next up to try will be the Radish, Kale, Arugula, Mustard Greens, and Dill…