Sprouts: easy DIY winter greens

Sprouts: easy DIY winter greens

I’ve been eating sprouts during the winter for a number of years now. Sprouts are a quick and easy way to provide the family with fresh veg all year long regardless of where you live. They’re pure, fresh, and nutrient-rich food that can be produced easily whether you’re 3 or 103. I like to use the jar method because I already have a bunch of mason jars handy, and I’m willing to sacrifice a cupboard close to the sink to keep them handy for easiest propagation.

People have been growing sprouts for more than 5000 years; in 2939 BC the emperor of China wrote about the versatile qualities of sprouts─and to this day sprouts are still one of the most nutritious foods on Earth. That’s because sprouts increase in nutritional content as they grow, especially in vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. The vitamin C in sprouted peas increases 8-fold in 4 days─compared to dry peas. In sprouted wheat, the vitamin B-complex increases 6 times and the vitamin E 3 times in just 4 days of sprouting. Many different minerals abound in sprouts in an easily digested form having already been processed by the sprouts for your body’s immediate use.

sprouts-easy-diy-winter-greensWhen eaten raw, sprouts provide a storehouse of enzymes, and homegrown sprouts are the freshest, most assuredly organic food available to you. It just makes good sense to keep them in your home and utilize this easy food source.

I buy my sprouting seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds where they have a wide selection to choose from, and the sprouting seeds have all been tested for the presence of E. coli and salmonella. That’s important because these seeds are being used in a different manner from the seeds you’re using to put in the ground and the potential is there for those bacteria to take hold if we’re not careful.

What you need:

  • Sprouting seed of choice: check out Johnny’s sprouting seed selection here.
  • Glass jar or other such container: wide-mouth glass canning jar, quart size.
  • Lid: made of cheesecloth, muslin, or nylon screen, secured with a rubber band or canning lid rim, or a special sprouting lid which screws onto the jar and has a built-in screen, which makes rinsing easy
  • Drainer: we use a small plastic dish strainer to set the glass jars in for draining after they’ve been rinsed.
  • Air & water: should be easy enough!
  • Space & darkness: I prefer to designate a cupboard next to the kitchen sink for my sprouts. Usually the lowest shelf houses the jars and strainer with the growing sprouts, and the shelf above that is where I store my packets of sprouting seed and other related sprouting-equipment.

General rules for sprouting

There are a number of different methods to grow sprouts. I prefer the jar method because I happen to have numerous canning jars handy, but with any of the methods you will follow the same basic procedure.

Measure out your seed accordingly.

1. Measure & cull:  Check out this sprouting seed pdf from Johnny’s; they give you the quantity of seed and the estimated yield for 11 different varieties of sprouting seed. You should measure out your seed for sprouting and check it over before putting it in the jar. Pick out any stones or dead-looking seeds.

2. Wash & skim: Put the seed in your chosen jar and fill it three-quarters full with water. Swish and swirl the seed around to rinse them clean. Pour of the UFOs (unidentified floating objects).

3. Soak overnight: Soaking times vary depending on the seed size, but generally the common denominator is 8 hours or overnight.

We like to use cheese cloth on our sprouting jars.

4. Drain: We’re using cheesecloth and rubber bands on our sprouting jars; you can easily adjust the cloth to suit the seed you’re sprouting. The smaller the seed the more layers of cheesecloth you need. We just cut large squares and fold them to fit, then we fix it to the top of the jar with a rubber band. Drain off the soak water. This water is rich in water-soluble vitamins and minerals so if you have houseplants you might consider saving it and using it to water you plants with; it will give them a nice boost.

5. Rinse & drain: 2-3 times a day you need to rinse your sprouts with room temperature water. Cold water will set the sprouts back, and hot water will kill them. Use room temperature water to rinse them for about 30 seconds, then drain the water off again. Sprouts are very forgiving, so if you forget to rinse them one time it’s not the end of the world.

6. Sun: If you’re growing leafy sprouts like alfalfa, clover, cabbage, kale, radish, spinach, mustard, and turnip, as well as the more difficult chia, cress, and flax. Your sprouts will eventually grow leaves, and when exposed to light those leaves will begin to develop chlorophyll. Simply keep your sprouts next to the window on the fourth and fifth day cycle or on the fifth and sixth days. I find that even just one day in the sun is enough to green up my sprouts. Beware that some sprouts─like fenugreek─turn bitter and tough when exposed to light.

7. Hull (optional): Often this is unnecessary and some folks skip this step altogether─considering it less trouble to simply eat the fibrous hulls along with the sprouts. However if you choose to remove the hulls you can do it either rinse-by-rinse or all-at-once at the final rinse. To remove hulls rinse-by-rinse begin on the third or fourth day by affixing the widest mesh possible to your jar and flush water through the jar. Many of the hulls will float up and out the top. You can also fill the jar with water and skim the floating hulls off with a spoon. To remove hulls at the final rinse put them in a bowl in the sink and fill it half-full with water. Loosen and agitate the sprouts to comb out the hulls. The trick with this is to hold the sprout midway under water so that they neither sink nor swim.

8. Cull & store: The final rinse should always precede the harvest by at least 8 hours. Never refrigerate wet sprouts─this can lead to mushy and moldy sprouts after just a couple of days. Store dry sprouts in the fridge.

9. Clean the jar: Be sure to wash your sprouting jar with hot soapy water between each batch, rinse clean and allow to dry before use.

10. Begin again: Keep the cycle going for a continuous supply of fresh, organic, nutrient-rich vegetation for your consumption.

Eat more sprouts!

eat more sprouts
Salads of sprouts and shoots are quite a treat in the midst of winter!
I like to take a sprout/shoot salad to work with me in a jar with the dressing at the bottom. Dump the contents onto a plate and PRESTO! Instant salad!

I’m making every effort to eat a less processed diet─a diet in which I’m either growing my own or sourcing as much of my food as much as possible from local farmers. Eating more sprouts is a quick and easy way to provide a form of fresh vegetables that are nutrient-rich and they’re so versatile.

My goal is to grow and eat more sprouts every day, and to get my family to eat more sprouts. I love sprouts on my sandwiches and in a salad. Check out this great website with lots of recipes for using sprouts in everything from stir-fry and salads, to tortillas, pizzas, soups and sandwiches. Everyone should eat more sprouts!


Do you grow sprouts too?  Which are your favorites and how do you like to eat them???

More recommended reading:

How to sprout fenugreek – from Eight Acres

Growing sprouts at home – via Mother Earth News

How to grow your own sprouts – from They’re Not Our Goats

Perfect sprouts every time; how to sprout seeds to eat – this by the Healing Harvest Homestead

Sprouts for Backyard Chickens – by Imperfectly Happy Homesteading


    1. Samantha Burns

      We purchase heirloom seeds almost exclusively, the lion’s share coming from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but a few select varieties we purchase from Johnny’s Seeds or Fedco–which are both local to us here in central Maine.

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