Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Sprouting at Home

Fresh organic vegetables every day
from a square foot of counter space


(C) 2000, Jim Mumm
Web Site:
Mumm's Sprouting Seeds
Hazelridge Farm, Box 80 Parkside, SK, S0J 2A0
ph 306 747 2935 fx 306 747 3618

Why Eat Sprouts? quoted from The Wonders of Sprouting by Lucie Desjarlais, RNC

"Lots of reasons! They carry plenty of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes, all necessary for the body to function optimally. In addition to providing the greatest amount of these nutrients, sprouts deliver them in a form that is easily digested and assimilated. In fact, they improve the efficiency of digestion. Sprouts are also deliciously fresh and colourful!

Sprouts are very inexpensive (even when organic), always fresh (they grow until you chew them) and have the potential to help solve hunger and malnutrition problems in our communities and in developing countries, because they are so rich in nutrients, affordable, and easy to transport before sprouting. Sprouts are precious in winter, when the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables is declining as their price increases."

"(Sprouts) supply the highest amount of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. of any food per unit of calorie."

"... sprouts nourish and strengthen the whole body, including the vital immune system."

Why Sprout at Home?
Most of us in North America depend on fresh produce that is transported across half a continent. Though we may garden in the summer, winter stops all but the most dedicated, or most southern, gardeners. Home sprouting can supply delicious fresh food, without the environmental drawbacks of the Mega-farm produced fresh produce, and at a fraction of the cost. Sprouting at home takes only a few seconds a day and can produce a good part of your daily requirements of the nutrients you need from fresh produce. The hassles are minor, the costs are low, and the freshness is wonderful. If you can supply a jar, some screen or netting, and rinse the sprouts twice a day, you can grow delicious organic sprouts in 4 to 6 days.

Sproutable Seeds
Most seeds can be sprouted and eaten but avoid sprouting any seeds from plants that may have poisonous parts. Common seeds for sprouting include alfalfa, fenugreek, lentils, peas, radish, and red clover. Mung beans have been sprouted in Asia for thousands of years, but take more equipment and time than other seeds. Other less common seeds include cabbage, broccoli, garbanzos, mustard seed, and quinoa. Most grains can grow chlorophyll rich grass crops in soil, and grains without hulls can be used as short sprouts. Save garden seeds (radish is easy, just let them go to seed and harvest when dry and ripe). Caragana seeds make delicious sprouts. Spread a blanket or tarp by the bushes just before the pods pop open to catch the seeds.

Food Poisoning and Sprouts.
There have been several recent news stories regarding salmonella contamination in sprouts. These have been combined with warnings from the FDA and the CFIA that sprouts could be contaminated with food poisoning bacteria and advising the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems to avoid raw sprouts.

I feel that the stories were far overblown because it made interesting news - the original "health food" might be bad for you.

What can you do to be extra safe?
Use certified organic seeds. Organic certification assures that seeds have been grown and handled in a manner that helps minimize possible sources of contamination. Manure used on organic fields, for example, must be composted for a long period. Composting has been shown to reduce or eliminate pathogens in manure. Organic farmers are also required to use rodent and bird proof storage for seeds destined for consumption. Organic sprouting seeds haven't been implicated in any outbreak of food poisoning.

Make sure that any seeds you buy have been handled as a food crop and not a farm planting seed crop. Seeds that have been in contact with animals or animal waste could be contaminated with salmonella or e-coli O157 H7, leading to food poisoning. Reputable sprouting seed suppliers test all lots of seeds for contamination.

Refrigerate finished sprouts. Treat sprouts and foods containing sprouts as you would any nutritious food - refrigerate until used.

If you collect your own garden seeds, make sure to dry them and store them in a clean and rodent free environment.

For more information on the relative risks of sprouts compared to other foods, see this article by the Sproutman, Steve Meyerowitz. I feel that home grown sprouts, especially grown from certified organic seed are far safer than a hamburger or potato salad at a picnic.

What You Need

  1. A jar, 1 liter to 4 liter (1qt. to gallon) size, depending on your appetite for sprouts and size of your family.

  2. A bowl of the right size and weight to prop up the jar.

  3. Some screen or netting and a rubber band, either nylon tulle from a fabric shop or gray fiberglass screen from a hardware store, will work fine.

  4. Fresh water.

  5. Seeds with good germination, preferably grown organically. Avoid purchased garden seeds unless you know they aren't treated. Most natural food stores have the common sprouting seeds; if in doubt, ask if it's organic. If you know a farmer who grows the seeds you want without chemicals, buy in bulk. Most seeds keep for a year or more in a cool dry place.

(You can also use a home sprouting device, such as the SproutMASTER tm. Follow the directions that come with the device. )

Easy Sprouting Directions (for most small seeds)

  1. Soak Put 1 to 4 TBS. seed in a wide mouth jar. Cover with mesh and secure with rubber band. Add water, swirl, and drain. Add 1 cup cool water and soak for 4 - 8 hrs.

  2. Rinse Twice a day, refill jar with cool water, swirl, and drain. Invert jar and prop at angle in sink or bowl.

  3. Enjoy In three to six days, when sprouts are 3 to 5cm (1 to 2") long, enjoy. Cover the jar with plastic and a rubber band, or transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate to store.

Hints and Options for small seeds
You can grow alfalfa, red clover, radish, fenugreek, and other small seeds up to 4cm (1.5") long. A 250g bag of alfalfa seed can grow 45 cups of sprouts, or even more. Lentils and peas are best small, with sprouts .5 to 1cm(1/4 to 1/2") long. They get tougher with more growth. Miss a rinsing? Just continue normally if the sprouts appear alive and show no signs of mold. The sprouts should be fine. If you do see a spot of mold or rot, remove it with a good margin of healthy sprouts and discard. Don't mistake the fuzzy white root hairs of radish, canola, mustards, and other crucifers for mold. Be sure to taste sprouts as you go along; use them when you like them. To green up sprouts, leave them without a cover for a few hours in bright light, but not direct sunlight. Sprouts grow best between 18C and 25C (65F and 75F). Use luke-warm water for soaking and rinsing in cool room temperatures, and cold water in hot room temperatures. Drain the sprouts well before they go in the fridge. Rinse in the morning, cover and refrigerate in the afternoon. Mung beans (for Chinese bean sprouts) grow best in a drainable tray or basket. They like extra rinsing, and are best grown in complete darkness to prevent bitterness.

Soil Sprouting
Soil sprouting can be used to produce lettuce-like buckwheat greens or pea shoots, crunchy sunflower greens, or chlorophyll rich wheat or barley grass.

  1. Fill pots, trays, or other containers (with drainage) 1/2 to 2/3 full of soil, compost, or potting mix. Ensure that the growing medium doesn't contain artificial fertilizers or chemicals.
  2. Soak wheat 8 hr., buckwheat or sunflowers 12-18 hr., and spread on the soil surface just touching. Water the soil well and cover with plastic. Leave one side slightly loose for ventilation.
  3. Mist or sprinkle daily; uncover after three days.
  4. Put the container(s) in sunlight or bright light for 5-8 days, until the crop is 5-6" tall. Keep growing medium moist.
  5. Cut as needed, but before plants become too old and tough.

Hints and Options for soil sprouting
Wheatgrass may be left for a smaller second crop. Buckwheat, peas and sunflowers cut only once. Spent soil and roots can be composted or dug into the garden. These crops can also be grown in baskets or tray type sprouters. Baskets are more trouble to clean and sanitize. Sunflowers grown in a perforated tray without soil really do well with wet feet. After 2 or three days, when roots have started to form, set the tray in a pan containing about .5cm (1/4") of water. Change or add water as needed until you have delicious 3" or 4 " tall shoots.

Serving Suggestions

A good basic 24 page booklet on sprouting is The Wonders of Sprouting Easy and practical steps to grow sprouts in your home
Lucie Desjarlais, R.N.C. Nutritionist
Good directions with emphasis on nutrition and economy of home grown sprouts.
Available from Mumm's


Sprouting Web Sites

The Sprout House
Home of the Sproutman, the nation's (United States) largest supplier of organic sprouting seeds and unique sprouting supplies.

"We manufacture automatic sprouting machines. The appliance saves all the soaking and multiple daily rinsing operations. No mold or rotting!"

Big Herb
"Big Herb is an automatic sprouter that can be installed in your kitchen. About the size of a dishwasher, it has a spray system built inside with lighting above. There are 6 trays where the seeds are sprinkled."

Wheatgrass and Mold
"There are a couple things that always bothered us about the juice and that is the reactions many people (including us) had after drinking the juice, such as nausea and headaches within seconds after drinking." Posted December 21, 1999


Sprouting Books

Sprouts: The Miracle Food
A Complete Guide to Sprouting

By Steve Meyerowitz
The most comprehensive resource in print of nutritional information on sprouts including their nutritional properties. A complete step by step indoor gardening guide including seed by seed information. Soil & non soil. Harvesting, cleaning, mixing. Storage, refrigeration, light, water. Toxins in beans: no cause for alarm. Eliminate mold. Resources, index.
Illustrated with Photographs & Charts. 1996.
Price $12.95
ppbk. 210 pages.

Sproutman's Kitchen Garden Cookbook
by Steve Meyerowitz
Turn nuts, vegetable seeds, grains and beans into gourmet food! Sprout breads, cookies, crackers, soups, dressings, dips, spreads, sautˇs, non-dairy milks & ice-creams. Chapters on making sprout bread, food dehydrating, juicing, natural sodas, alternatives to dairy and salt, smart vegetarianism. Glossary of healthy foods. Recipes are raw, flourless, dairyless, low temperature, low salt & vegetarian.
250 Recipes. Fully illustrated. Photographs & Charts.
$14.95. 1994. 336 pgs. ppbk.

The Sprout Book
by Mark M. Braunstein
The Book Publishing Company, Summertown, TN
ISBN 0-913990-99-5
This is a good basic guide to sprouting, with recipes included.

The Sprouting Book
by Anne Wigmore
Avery Publishing Group Inc., Wayne, NJ
ISBN 0-89529-246-7
This book concentrates more on the health benefits of sprouts.


Go to Small Scale Commercial Sprouting of Alfalfa or Red Clover

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Revised February 18, 2007

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture