How to Grow… Sprouts

Natalie Crofts

Inexpensive and exceptionally easy to grow, even for complete novices, sprouts are a true powerhouse food perfect for growing as things quieten down in the winter garden. High in nutritional benefits, sprouts are not only tasty to eat but full of vitamins, amino acids and enzymes too, grown in just a few days from the likes of beans, seeds, nuts and grains.

Cheap and simple to grow from the kitchen countertop at any time of year, there are a wide range of healthy sprouts to choose from including sprouting lentils, alfalfa, broccoli, radish, tatsoi, red and white clover, mung bean, mustard and snow peas. And the equipment? Easy! All you need is a tray, some clean water and your chosen seeds.

Seed and bulb experts Mr Fothergill’s have their own Sprouts Alive seed range and sprouting containers to help make growing easy and accessible for everyone. All seeds are microbiologically tested, non-GMO and chemical-free to ensure your home-grown crop is as healthy as possible. To help you choose what to grow, we’ve put together this handy guide to nature’s own superfood:

What are sprouts?

Technically, sprouts are tiny plants grown without the need for soil, germinating with water and air alone. Growing from seed in as little as four days, the entire young sprout is edible and can be consumed raw or cooked.

How do they grow?

Though you can grow sprouts without any special equipment – a glass jar, cheesecloth and rubber band will do the trick, it is easier to use a sprouting container designed for sprouting several varieties at once to get the most out of your seeds, plus it saves time on watering and soaking. These containers can be purchased online, at some plant nurseries and from Mr Fothergill’s.

Start with clean, sterilised equipment and spread one tablespoon of your chosen seeds per sprouting tray. Add water to the appropriate outlet, allow to drain and soak through then pour away any excess liquid. Leave to germinate, watering in this way at least twice each day. Most sprouts are ready to harvest in 4-7 days.

If growing in a jar, place one tablespoon of seeds in a large jar and cover the opening with a sheet of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Add enough warm water to cover the seeds and soak overnight at room temperature. The next day, pour off excess water through the cloth and add fresh water to rinse thoroughly, then drain. Rinse and drain the sprouts in this way at least twice per day. Ensure seeds are kept moist.

You should discard any sprouts that grow with a dark brown or grey discolouring that have a pungent smell.

Which seeds should I choose?

Any seed meant for sprouting will be suitable to grow and eat, as these are free of any chemicals and nasties. The likes of radish sprouts, sunflower sprouts and mustard sprouts are distinctly peppery, even spicy, whilst mung beans, clover and alfalfa hone more of a mild flavour. Mr Fothergill’s offers the following tasty seed mixes to grow at home:

Red and white clover – Clover has a mild flavour, is very tender and is packed with nutritional benefits. Red clover is a rich source of isoflavones, which has been linked with improving cardiovascular health, amongst other benefits.

Asian greens mix – This flavoursome blend contains mizuna, tatsoi, Chinese cabbage and wombok, perfect for adding to an Asian stir-fry.

Alfalfa – This sprouting variety has a fresh, nutty flavour high in essential antioxidants.

Hot & spicy mix – This blend does what it says on the tin, it’s packed with powerful flavours. The brightly coloured sprouts include radish, radish red arrow, kale red Russian and broccoli.

Mixed salad – Adzuki beans, mung beans, lentils and fenugreek make up this blend of delicious flavours and textures, also rich in protein.

Mustard – This sprouting variety is quick to grow, resulting in a delicious spicy garnish for everything from scrambled eggs to salad. Easy to grow, this sprout’s tiny leaves pack a real punch.

Sandwich mix – Find alfalfa, radish and broccoli in this sprouting mix designed to add crunch and a nutty, tangy flavour to sandwiches.

Snow pea – These lush green shoots are traditionally used in Asian cuisine as a garnish.

Stir-fry mix – Grow a tasty blend of high-fibre mung beans, chickpeas and soya beans to add to your stir-fries and salads.

What can I use them for?

Sprouts make flavoursome additions to sandwiches, salads, stir-fries, dips, spreads and soups, and can also be eaten raw. They can even be grown to feed to your chooks for a nutritional boost to their normal daily food.

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