Growing your own sprouts

by April Fortner

Growing sprouts at home can be nutritious, fun and educational! They are easy to grow and can be used in a variety of recipes, from alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches or salads to mung bean sprouts for your own pad Thai or fried rice recipe.

Children love to watch seeds germinate, and the money spent on a supply of seeds is much less than if you bought the sprouts already grown.

Sprouts are said to be higher in protein and nutritional content than fully-grown vegetables.

Additionally, sprouts can be grown in any season in only a small amount of space, providing a yearlong harvest in your own home.

I love to make Southeast Asian cuisine at home, and I have fond memories of my dad making ham sandwiches filled with alfalfa sprouts as a kid, but I have noticed a decrease in the number of supermarkets that carry sprouts. When I do find them, they are often old and wilted, so I set out to find out why.

Part of the problem is with low turnover. Sprouts need refrigeration after growing, but people expect them to be in the produce aisle, so they go bad quickly if not sold. Of course, demand here is not high, either.

I can find fresh sprouts any day at Sam’s Oriental store in Little Rock, if I’m willing to make the drive, because their customers eat sprouts daily.

My solution? I learned how to grow them myself. I’ve discovered that there is a whole world of sprouts and microgreens out there, waiting to be sampled!

To grow sprouts, the first thing you will need is seeds intended for sprouting, easily found on Amazon or a variety of health food stores.

You will also need a perforated container, a colander, a tiered sprout growing tray or even a clean milk jug with small holes punched in the bottom and a plate to catch drips. Most sprouts don’t need sunlight, so it doesn’t have to be pretty.

First, soak two to three tablespoons of seed for 6-8 hours and then rinse and drain them twice a day for three to six days. The hulls will wash away.

For alfalfa, set it in the light the last day to green them up.

When they look big enough to eat, put them in the fridge and continue to rinse them twice a day until consumed. They last several days there.

Here is my recipe for fresh spring rolls, so you can see how good these are for yourself!

Fresh Spring Rolls

Spring roll wrappers
1/2 lb. Shrimp
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup lettuce
1 carrot
3/4 cup fresh mung bean sprouts    
1 avocado
1/4 lb. thin rice noodles

For sauce:
fish sauce
brown sugar
lime juice
First, cook shrimp until pink and noodles until firm but tender. Make a sauce with two tablespoons brown sugar, two tablespoons fish sauce and one tablespoon lime juice and sprinkle it over the noodles and shrimp, tossing to mix. Then slice the cilantro, basil, avocado and carrot into strips. Heat a pot of water until it is steaming hot and turn off the heat. Dip in the spring roll wrapper for two seconds on each side and lay it flat on a cutting board. Fill it with a small amount of each filling ingredient, wrapping like a burrito. Let it sit for five minutes and cut in half at an angle. Continue with other wrappers until you’ve used all of the ingredients and eat them with spring roll sauce or peanut sauce.