Alfalfa sprouts are fun, easy to grow

I’ve finally found something to fill the colossal void of missing out on having a Chia pet as a child.

I remember really, really wanting the Chia teddy bear, but it was discontinued when I was in kindergarten. Sure, there was one that kind of looked like a sheep, but I wanted the teddy bear. Why a child who grew up on a farm would want a Chia pet makes no sense to the grown-up me, but obviously I’ve never quite gotten over that one.

Thankfully, I now have something even bigger and better than a Chia pet. I have SPROUTS!

Why grow alfalfa sprouts? Well, they’re incredibly easy to grow. If you can water something twice a day, you’ll be successful. With a little counter space, you’re set. It doesn’t matter how cold or hot it is outside, you control the conditions and sprouts are like magic. In four days I had green shoots boinging up all over the place. Talk about instant gratification!

Also — I’m not pointing fingers here, but — have you seen the sprouts in the grocery store lately? You might get lucky and get a good bag here or there, but sprouts don’t keep well in plastic bags and they look a little bit like a murky swamp experiment most of the time. Appetizing. Why not just try it at home?

Just like Chia pets, you soak the seeds, spread them out and keep them watered, and in a few days you have green. There are a few methods of sprouting seeds — I’ve used the “jar method” before where you swish about a tablespoon of alfalfa seeds around in a mason jar with water, soak them overnight and then dump out the water. Then you rinse them every day and keep the jar covered.

To be honest, this method skeeves
me out a little bit — there’s not really a way to properly rinse all the sprouts and as they grow, they get a little clumped up, so it’s like you’re tumbling around the growing mass of sprouts. Also, the closed jar is a perfect place for bacteria to grow. That’s the issue with sprouts, they thrive under the same conditions as salmonella and other food-borne illness-causing bacteria.

So, yes, the jar method is reliable, but I decided to give a new contraption a try. Botanical Interests has a new seed sprouter, basically a plastic box with drain holes that lets you grow and rinse the sprouts more efficiently.

The box is divided so you can grow four different types of sprouts simultaneously, and it also works to store the sprouts in the fridge after they’re ready to eat (much better than a plastic bag).

Also, the roots hang down through the sieve-like box layers, so they don’t get mushed or tangled up.

I tried four varieties of sprouts: sandwich mix (alfalfa, red clover and Daikon radish), alfalfa, China rose radish, and broccoli. They’re tiny, crunchy and full of nutrition.

It’s incredibly fun to check on sprouts in the morning and night and realize how much they’ve sprung up in a matter of hours!

The only thing that concerned me was when I looked at the sprouts on day 4 and thought they were moldy. But upon closer investigation, what looked like mold was actually the development of fine root hairs (they are so fuzzy!). The sprouts smelled like fresh grass, they weren’t mildewed and they were ready to eat.

These sprouts should get me through my gardening itch for the rest of the month, thankfully. I’m so happy with them that I almost forgot that Chia teddy bear. Almost.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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I grow mung bean sprouts in a jar. (You can get the seeds at Carol’s Oriental Foods.) Instead of a lid, I cover the opening with cheesecloth to let air in and keep them from falling out when you pour out the rinse water.  Once or twice over the five-day growing period, a little peroxide in the rinse water discourages bacteria and mold.

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