All About Sprouts

Sprouts: buy these little green nutritional powerhouses at the store or make your own at home using seeds, a glass jar and some cheesecloth.


broccoli sprouts growing

Photo by: Marek Uliasz

Marek Uliasz

Sprinkled on a salad, tossed in a stir-fry or stuffed in a sandwich, sprouts are tasty seeds that pack a nutritional punch. There is a sprout for every taste preference, including bean, alfalfa, pea, clover and broccoli sprouts, to name a few, as well as a variety of sprouted grain products. Sprouts are simply germinated seeds. Some types are eaten raw, while others must be cooked before eating. However,, which is managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends cooking all sprouts before eating, especially for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, as sprouts have been linked to more than 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1996.

Proponents of sprouts claim they are higher in B and C vitamins, iron and calcium than the unsprouted versions of the same plant. While these claims have not been proven, sprouting may make certain nutrients more bioavailable and in the case of sprouted legumes, may be easier to digest for some people. Sprouted grains are most commonly available in the form of sandwich bread, rolls and other bread products. These are found in the freezer section of the grocery store because they contain no preservatives to make them shelf-stable. They are more expensive than shelf-stable whole-grain breads, but provide consumers with another option for a different texture and a smaller ingredient list.

It is easy to make sprouts at home. The materials needed are seeds, a wide-mouthed jar, cheesecloth and a rubber band. Seeds can be bought online or at health food stores and should be labeled for sprouting to ensure they have not been chemically treated. Two tablespoons of seeds should be rinsed in a sieve under running water, placed in the jar and covered with cool water. The cheesecloth should be secured with the rubber band over the mouth of the jar. The seeds should soak overnight. The seeds should be drained, rinsed, drained again, then placed upside-down at a 45 degree angle in a dark temperate place to continue draining. The rinsing and draining process should be repeated two to three times daily for three to twelve days (depending on the type of sprout) to guard against mold. If any mold appears, sprouts should be discarded. When seeds have sprouted to the desired length, they can be removed from the jar, rinsed a final time in a colander or insert of a salad spinner to remove the hulls. Sprouts can be patted or spun dry and enjoyed immediately or saved for several days in the refrigerator.

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