The Ultimate Urban Survival Food: Sprouts

Sprouts have a number of qualities that make them especially useful as a part of a survival plan. One of their values is derived from the fact that the sprout stage of any plant is the time when it has the greatest concentration of vitamins and minerals, so they come in very handy when healthy food is scarce.

Many sprout enthusiasts claim that sprouts can do everything from preventing heart attacks to curing cancer, and while these claims have not been proven, hardly anyone doubts that sprouts can contribute to your health.

Another advantage of sprouts is that they are inexpensive. Even if your plan to grow them includes organic seeds and equipment at a high charging health store, you won’t be spending much.

A word of caution: sprouts are not everyone’s dish and if members of your family are among those who need time to get used to them, it’s advisable to start now. The following are some commonly known and easy to grow variations of the sprouts:

  • Alfalfa: One of the best-known sprouts.
  • Beans: Bean sprouts are grown in a dark environment; mung beans are the bean that is most used to produce bean sprouts.
  • Broccoli: The healthiest of all commonly known sprouts.
  • Cabbage and Celery: Sprouts of these vegetables are commonly used in breads.
  • Mustard: This sprout calls for a warning:  use it sparingly, as it is hot.
  • Radishes: Radish sprouts are also hot.
  • Wheat: Wheat sprouts can be used in breads, cereals, and salads.

How to Sprout Seeds

A very simple way to grow sprouts is to lay them out between two layers of wet paper towels. While some people may use this method to grow sprouts to be fed to farmyard animals, you will not find it practical for growing sprouts for the family table. This is because the sprouts have to be tended carefully, as they have to be kept moist and protected from air, and even when done right, this method results in spoilage a good deal of the time. Here are some suggestions for a better method:

Sprouting Seeds in a Jar

Inexpensive wide-mouth jars for sprouting are available in health food stores in various sizes. Start with a quart jar, a good size for a beginner, and you will likely graduate to the larger sizes soon enough. Other simple supplies you will need are cheesecloth (used to cover the jar) and a good strong rubber band. Directions: Put the seeds into a quart jar using the following measurements:

  • Alfalfa seed:   2 Tablespoons
  • Wheat:   1/2 cup
  • Mung beans: 1/4 cup

Use a rubber band to secure a cheesecloth cover over the top of the jar. Fill the jar half full with water. Soak for 4-6 hours for the small size seeds; radishes or beans need to soak about 12 hours. After soaking, drain the water, and set the jar in a stable position tipped a bit so as to let any remaining water drain and allow air circulation. The sprouts must be rinsed 2 times a day. To do so, put the jar under a tap, fill it to the point it overflows and then drain it as before. When the sprouts have matured, they will be ready for harvesting, which will be described later on.

Plastic Sprouting Trays

Although these small trays are touted as being perfect for sprouting alfalfa, it is with the alfalfa that there is a problem. Alfalfa seeds are small which will constantly clog up the drain holes. The trays are better suited for other plants, such as wheat, beans, or radishes, in which case they are adequate. Directions: Soak the seeds in a jar as described before. With small seeds, such as alfalfa or broccoli, soak for 3 days before transferring to the trays. This will keep the drain holes unclogged and at the same time will allow the sprouts to get an adequate amount of chlorophyll. The seeds must be watered two times a day. Follow the instructions for watering supplied by the tray manufacturer. When the sprouts have grown to maturity (in the case of alfalfa, this would be 5 or 6 days), they are ready for harvesting; instructions for harvesting will be explained later on

Sprouting Bags

Sprouting is a field in which there is still a lot of trial-and-error, so you may wish to try them all. Some find this method, involving 8”x12” drawstring cloth bags, the easiest of all. Directions: Put the seeds in the bag and then immerse the whole bag in water, leaving it to soak. After the specified length of time has passed, remove the bag and hang it up to drain. This should take a few minutes. Next, take an ordinary plastic bag which you have prepared by punching 5 or 10 holes in it, and put the sprout bag inside the plastic bag. In order to give the sprouts the required rinsing two times a day, take the sprout bag out and immerse it in water, then drain the bag as before, and return it to the plastic bag. As in the other methods described above, when the sprouts are mature, they will need to be harvested according to the harvesting instructions given.

How to Harvest Sprouts

All sprouts must be washed. Some sprouts are tastier when their hulls are removed, but for grains, lentils and peas, de-hulling is not essential. Wash sprouts in a sink. Put the sprouts in, and then let water flow in until the sink is halfway full. Now, gently move the sprouts about in the water. This will cause some of the hulls to rise to the surface and others to sink to the bottom. With a smooth, careful motion, guide the hulls on the surface to a corner of the sink and remove them. They make good compost, so add the hulls to your compost pile. Prepare a colander or large strainer and then carefully remove the sprouts, making sure not to stir up the hulls at the bottom. Put the sprouts into the colander or strainer to drain, and then keep in the refrigerator, where they will last for approximately a week.