Guide to growing your own sprouts

Growing homemade sprouts can be so satisfying and is a fun midwinter project for the kids. By growing your own sprouts, you will always have a fresh supply and you won't need to buy them in plastic bags at the supermarket.  Urban Bounty has pulled together this beginners guide to growing sprouts so you can discover how easy it is to get sprouting!

What are sprouts?

Sprouts are basically the wee baby shoots that grow from bean and vegetable seeds.  They have been grown and eaten in Asia for thousands of years, and were brought to New Zealand by early Asian settlers.

In little ol' New Zealand, the most common types of sprouts are: alfalfa, mung beans, snow pea shoots, broccoli sprouts and radish sprouts.

What can bean sprouts be used for?

Sprouts are tender, sweet and crunchy, so they are perfect in salads, sandwiches and wraps.  Larger sprouts, like mung beans, are also good in stir fries.  Who doesn't love Asian broths piled high with fresh mung beans, chillis and herbs?

What do salad sprouts look and taste like?

Sprouts come in a variety of textures and flavours:

  • Alfalfa are very fine and tiny sprouts that have a mild, sweet and nutty flavour.
  • Mung beans are a larger sprout with a white shoot and yellow/green bean.  They are crisp and have a sweet but fresh and earthy taste.
  • Broccoli sprouts look like alfalfa but have a stronger flavour.
  • Snow pea shoots taste...like snow peas!  They have a long skinny white shoot (about 5cm) with a small leafy green head.
  • Radish sprouts have wee green leaves and a pink-tinged shoot.  They pack a peppery punch in a salad!
Are sprouts good for you?
Yes, sprouts are a healthy and nutritious snack and are packed full of vitamins!  You do need to be careful about how you store them though.  Leaving sprouts in a warm, moist environment for too long can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
How do I grow sprouts?
The good news is that growing sprouts from seed is super easy, very quick and takes up hardly any space.  Anyone can do it - even the kids!
We sell amazing sustainable Goodlife sprouting kits.  They include everything you need to get started (including a starter pack of organic sprout seeds).  Their nifty design solves the problem of how to rinse and drain your growing sprouts with the minimum of fuss.  They handy lid also fits on most 86mm jars, so you can sprout more than one jar at a time.
To get sprouting:
  • Pop your seeds in the jar and cover with cold water.  (Use about 1 - 2 tablespoons but no more than quarter of your jar).
  • Leave them soaking for 8 hours (this activates the seeds).  Screw the jar lid on while you leave your sprouts to soak.
  • After soaking, agitate the seeds, drain the water and then rinse with fresh water until the water runs clear.
  • Turn your jar upside down on the kitchen bench to drain after rinsing.
  • Rinse your seeds at least twice a day, draining the water off each time.  (You may need to rinse more often once they are in full growing mode.)
  • Shake the jar at least once a day to ensure there is good air flow around your seeds.
Sprouts don't need much light to grow and too much light can actually dry them out, so avoid putting them in direct sunlight.  Also avoid dousing them with hot/warm water.
How many sprouts should I grow?
A one litre jar makes enough sprouts for a family, whereas a 500ml jar is better suited to a one - two person household. 
When are my sprouts ready?
Your sprout seeds will start to grow edible shoots within one - two days, but they won't be ready to harvest until about day 4 or 5 (depending on the variety).  When you sprouts are ready, they will almost fill the jar.
How should I store sprouts?
Fresh sprouts should be stored in the fridge in a container lined with a paper towel or a sealable bag.  The most important thing you need to do is rinse then dry them off before storing.  Your sprouts will keep for about 5 days in the fridge.
How do I know if my sprouts have gone bad?
Like life, sprouting can sometimes go wrong.  Usually this is because the sprouts haven't been rinsed regularly enough, drained properly, or shaken often enough to get good aeration happening. 
Signs that your sprouts have gone off:
  • There is a film of white, fuzzy mould on top of the sprouts in the jar
  • They smell really bad and kind of swampy!
  • They taste sour.

Unfortunately if you notice any of these signs, it is time to ditch your sprout crop, clean the jar and start again.  

As an aside, if you notice your alfalfa sprouts are a little yellow, don't worry.  This usually means they haven't had quite enough sunlight, so the green chlorophyll that colours their leaves hasn't fully developed.