Growing Sprouts for Food

I’ve been growing shoots for years under lights, giving me some fresh microgreens in the winter. “Shoots” means I have planted the seeds in potting soil, watered them, and grew them as normal small plants before trimming them with scissors and eating the trimmings. You can keep shoots going for weeks, letting them regrow and trimming them again.

However, I have had mixed success with sprouting seeds. “Sprouts” means you aren’t using soil, just soaking the seeds and getting them to start to sprout before eating them. You must eat sprouts within a few days of the sprouting occurring.

So far I have put the seeds into a plastic bag, added a damp, almost wet paper towel to the bag, and closed the bag with as much trapped air as possible. Sometimes this has worked, other times not really. It’s difficult to keep the seeds damp, but not too wet.

Looking online, I see recommendations of soaking the seeds in a glass Mason jar, under a couple of inches (about 5 cm) of water for about 12 hours, draining off the water, then rinsing and draining the seeds about 2 – 3 times a day for several days while they sprout. A jar lid consisting of a fine mesh is recommended, but I have never seen one of these. Cheesecloth and a rubber band is supposed to be an alternative.

Does anyone here regularly sprout seeds? What has worked for you?

I suggest that a whole “Microgreens – Shoots and Sprouts” course would be a good addition to the Academy. (It’s not the same thing as growing vegetables in containers.)


  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I use lids that are similar to this. I couldn't find a link for the exact once that I have but this will give you an idea. Mine fit wide mouth mason jars.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I ended up buying two different types of wide mouth sprouting lids on Amazon.

    One is a set of three plastic lids with different size holes. The idea is that you start the sprouts soaking using the lid with the smallest holes, to trap the seeds in the jar when you drain. After the seeds take up water and sprout, you switch to a lid with larger holes that is easier to drain after rinsing.

    The second is two identical plastic lids that were a little more expensive, but more frequently bought and with slightly better ratings.

    I chose plastic because many of the competing "stainless steel" lids had reports of rust, indicating that they aren't really made of stainless.

    After I get some experience with both types I'll write a mini review here.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences with this. I have not used the plastic lids.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    I've been sprouting on and off for many years. Alfalfa, red clover, radish, mung bean, broccoli, mustard, fennugreek, sandwich mix.

    I have a set of 3 plastic lids with different sized holes. They work very well just as you have described @VermontCathy.

    The smallest size hole is perfect for starting things like alfalfa and then progressing to the larger size holes for more aeration. The largest size is great for starting larger seeds like mung bean and chick peas.

    "Add a Few Sprouts" by Martha Oliver is a really good cookbook.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,024 ✭✭✭✭

    I've grown sprouts for years using many different types of sprouting devices at various price points. The simplest and cheapest way is to use a wide mouth mason jar with these sprouting lids. The ones I use come in three sizes. I rarely use the largest size, it seems best suited for garbanzo or similar size beans

    The key to sprouting is soaking the seeds approximately 8 hours and then rinsing and fully draining 2-3 times a day. With a mason jar as a sprouted a good way to make sure it fully drains is to prop it at an angle. You can buy stands specifically for this purpose or I set the jar in a small bowl at an angle and then prop it against the wall.

    This is another good option I've used. To help with the draining, I used to put it in a panty hose knee high and twirl it several times.

    Your climate also can affect sprouting. I've found takes almost half the time as in the winter where I live. Plus I live in a humid climate so the draining is super important.

    There are lots of other sprouting options, some getting rather expensive and in the early years I did try a few. But I didn't have any more success than with the two simple options above. Another tip is to start with beans or lentils as they are a lot more forgiving and sprout faster than seeds.

    Also I've found that if I make sure they're not wet when I store them (typically in a produce bag in the produce section of my fridge) they last for a week or more no problem.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    @annbeck62 I read about your experience with sprouting. I think I try the way you do. I do not have any special lids, but I think I could use a sieve instead for washing and draining.

    @VermontCathy I tried sowing the seeds in the soil, but, as these were sprouting seeds of different sizes and kinds, they ended up in my greenhouse. Not sure whether they survive 🙄. Now I will try sprouting without soil. Thank you for starting this discussion. Winter is a time when one needs more greens. For me it is a new experience.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've been growing a lot of shoots this winter, including the usual peas, buckwheat, scallions, and so forth.

    I'm trying to keep the i'itoi onions going too, but it's challenging. Too wet or too dry and they have problems. They do much better for me outside than inside, but they aren't adapted to Vermont winters, even under a layer of mulch and snow.

    I prepared alfalfa sprouts in jars a couple of times this year, which is a first. The jars work so much better than the plastic bags and paper towels I tried initially that there is just no comparison. The trade-off with sprouts is that you have to rinse them every day, morning and night, so if you have to be away for a few days, you can't keep them going.

    This issue with being away is a problem for me for any type of indoor plants. Most want regular watering and care.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,162 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I love sprouts on my sandwich, in my salad (actually sometimes they are the salad, on top of baked potatoes, sprinkled on soup, --getting the idea that I love sprouts? lol

    I use a mason jar with cheese cloth at home or my son will take some hiking in a hemp bag I made for him. They sprout and he has a good snack when camping. (no weight to carry!)

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The hardest thing I find about keeping fresh food available through sprouts, and to some extent shoots, is the need to tend them every day. For shoots, you need to rinse them morning and night; for sprouts, water them every day.

    If you need to go away for a few days for any reason, you may have to start over again when you return. And I find that it takes at least 4 days for sprouts to become ready to eat, and a week for shoots.

    Has anyone found good solutions to this?

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,116 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If you need a cover for a mason jar until you decide what type you want or your just testing and don't want to buy until you've tried growing them.

    You could use cheesecloth or even easier to me would be a knee-high stocking and a rubber band over the mason jar or any other jar with a wide mouth.