Our winters in Montana are long and cold so having access to fresh, homegrown greens is tough. I have plenty of homegrown greens preserved in the freezer like spinach, kale and beet greens but they just aren’t the same as fresh, crisp homegrown greens. We typically end up buying lettuce from the natural grocery store in town over the winter but it is shipped in from out of state. To provide our family with fresh homegrown greens throughout the winter, I set out on a mission to learn how to grow sprouts at home!
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Last year I invested in one of these sprouting tray sets from the Amish market we shop at every couple months. They have one whole aisle dedicated to homesteader supplies which I always peruse when we’re there since we’ve found some great tools for our homestead. I bought our seed sprouter last winter but somehow it got pushed back into a corner of the cupboard and blocked by a bunch of canning jars so I forgot about it.
This winter I dug the seed sprouter out from the back corner of the cupboard one afternoon and Little A and I embarked on our new adventure of learning how to grow sprouts at home. We couldn’t believe how easy it is to do! The hardest part is remembering to water them a couple times per day. The seeds start sprouting within a few hours and a couple days later are big enough for us to eat. Amazing!
There are a variety of methods out there for growing sprouts at home. What I love about the seed sprouter we bought is that there are four different trays which allows me to grow in succession. Our family can’t eat a huge pile of homegrown sprouts before they go bad. Instead, I start seeds sprouting in one tray then a few days later start seeds in the next tray and so on. I even sprouted some seeds in a tray to share with our chickens since they’re also not getting fresh greens this winter unless we have some in our food scraps!
My favorite type of sprouts are alfalfa sprouts, the type that are most commonly found in the grocery store. They have a mild flavor and even Little A will eat them! We also bought a bag of this seed sprouting salad mix which is a mix of broccoli, alfalfa, clover and radish seeds. This mix has a little more spicy flavor and some of the sprouts grow a bit stockier than the alfalfa.
How to grow sprouts at home in a seed sprouter:
1. Pre-soak the seeds. Soaking the seeds for a few hours helps them to germinate more quickly. We use 1 TBS of seeds per tray in our seed sprouter. To soak them, I pour the seeds in a glass jar or bowl, cover them with water and let them sit for 4-6 hours. 2. Drain the seeds. Drain the water off the seeds and pour the seeds into the seed tray. One of the features I love about our Seed Sprouter is that there are drain holes on the bottom of each tray. This makes it easy to drain the water off after soaking the seeds. After soaking the seeds for a few hours, some of the seeds start to sprout! 3. Let the sprouting begin! I sit the seed tray on top of the base tray and loosely sit the lid on top of the tray without sealing the lid. Our house is so dry thanks to our wood stove that sitting the lid loosely on top helps hold in some moisture. I sit our seed sprouter on the north facing kitchen windowsill. This allows them to have a little light but not so much bright sunlight that they burn up or dry out. By day two there are definite signs of seed sprouts in there! By day three there are lots of little green leaves visible on the sprouts!
4. Water the seeds. The seeds should be watered about three times per day. I try to remember to water them first thing in the morning, around lunch time and then after dinner. When sprouting seeds in a seed sprouter like the one we have, all you need to do is pour about two cups of water into the seed tray. The water will slowly drain out the holes in the bottom of the tray and filter into the base tray. Just remember to empty the base tray each time before you water or it will overflow and create a big mess! When sprouting more than one tray at a time, I water the top tray and then the water flows down through the holes in the tray to water the next tray. The excess water ends up in the bottom base tray.
5. Harvest the seeds and eat them! The seeds start sprouting quickly and we’ve been able to eat fresh sprouts as early as three days after we started sprouting them. I’ve also let them grow as long as four or five days. To harvest them, remove the sprouts from the seed tray and place them in a bowl. Fill the bowl with water and swish the sprouts around. This will loosen up any seed hulls that will float to the top and you can scoop them out. You could skip this step but I’ve read that the seed hulls can be bitter at times so I try to remember to scoop them out. Any seeds that did not germinate will float to the bottom. Scoop out the sprouts and place them on a towel to let the excess water drip off. Now you can eat your delicious homegrown sprouts!
6. Storing homegrown sprouts. If we have any sprouts that were harvested and not eaten right away, I put them in a covered glass storage container in the refrigerator. As long as most of the moisture is drained off, we’ve had them last up to four days in the refrigerator.
If you want to learn how to grow sprouts at home in a glass jar, here’s a great post from Grow Forage Cook Ferment. Another option to have fresh homegrown greens in the winter is growing micro greens. We currently don’t have a good spot in the house to try this but some day I hope to. Here’s a post from Attainable Sustainable that explains how to grow microgreens at home in case you want to give it a try!
Do you grow sprouts at home and have any tips to share?