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!
- 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.
- 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.