Grow Organic Sprouts Indoors

This fall grow your own living power foods... indoors! Sprout an indoor garden of inexpensive, tasty, nutrient-packed organic greens. Carolyn Herriot

Credit: Carolyn Herriot

Boost your winter diet with sprouted seeds

Winter often means we have to depend on more expensive, less nutritious (and less tasty) produce that has been transported from far away. But there is a solution – you can boost your diet simply and inexpensively by growing sprouted seeds.

I regard sprouts as a precious winter food. They strengthen the immune system by providing the greatest amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes of any food per unit of calorie, and it’s in a form that is easy to digest.
You can use them in salads and sandwiches – anywhere you would use lettuce. (Note: the exception to eating raw sprouts is soybeans: they contain a harmful enzyme and should be lightly steamed or sauteed before eating.) Bean sprouts are perfect in stir-fries and any sprout can be a great garnish in soups or casseroles. Sprinkle them on omelettes just before folding or use 125 mL (1⁄2 cup) of sprouts per loaf of homemade bread for extra nutrition. They make a great garnish for winter soups – add them just before serving.

Best of all, this wonder food is easy to make in your own kitchen – in fact, you could argue that once you get organized, making sprouts is easier than going out to the store to buy limp produce on a rainy winter day!  

Almost any whole natural seed, bean or grain, preferably certified organic, will sprout. Seeds for sprouting are inexpensive to buy in bulk from any health-food store. Packaged mixes are available for under $5. You can even save your own garden seeds, but make sure you store them in a clean rodent-free place.

Powerhouse nutrition

Spouts are powerhouses of nutrition. Alfalfa sprouts, soybeans, clover and oilseeds (such as flaxseed) are the most significant dietary sources of isoflavones, coumestans, and lignans. These dietary phytoestrogens play an important role in the prevention of menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Research has shown that eating 113 grams (4 oz.) of mixed broccoli, radish, alfalfa and clover sprouts every day for two weeks provides protection against DNA damage, associated with cancer risk, in human blood cells. Broccoli sprouts alone contain 30 to 50 times higher concentrations of a cancer-fighting compound called sulforphane.

Recommended reading about growing sprouts

The Sprout Garden, by Mark M. Braunstein, available from West Coast Seeds, 3925 – 64th Street RR#1, Delta, B.C. V4K 3N2. (Sprouting seeds are also available; look in the catalogue.)

The Wonders of Sprouting – Easy and practical steps to grow sprouts In your home, by Lucie Desjarlais, available from Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, Box 80, Parkside, SK S0J 2A0.

Sprouting seeds in soil

Use this method for buckwheat, peas, unhulled sunflower, wheat or barley seeds. Soak wheat, peas and barley for eight hours, buckwheat or sunflowers for 12 hours.

• Fill pots or trays (with drainage) two-thirds full with soil-less, lightweight, growing mix, containing no chemicals. Water well.

• Spread soaked seeds on the growing medium so the seeds are just touching.

• Put the tray in bright light for five to eight days – on a windowsill or on top of the fridge is perfect.

• Keep the growing medium moist. Check daily to see if it needs watering or misting.
TIP: Adding a few drops of liquid kelp to the water increases the nutritional clout of the sprouts.

• When the seedlings are 10 cm (4 in.) tall they are ready for harvest. Cut with scissors as needed.

Mild sprouts:

• Alfalfa
• Flax oil seed
• Red clover
• Black sunflower
• Broccoli
• Quinoa

Spicy sprouts:

• Fenugreek
• Black mustard
• Yellow radish
• Red radish
• Onion
• Cress

Crunchy and sweet sprouts:

• Green lentil
• Green pea
• Mung bean
• Adzuki bean
• Soybean
• Pea
• Garbanzo

Chewy sprouts:

• Hard red wheat
• Buckwheat

How to sprout seeds in 4-6 days >>>


How to sprout seeds in 4-6 days

• Fill a wide-mouth quart glass jar with seed. (Use the chart below as a guide to quantity.) For larger amounts use a gallon glass jar.
• Cover seeds with water and soak for eight hours or overnight.
• Place a fine-mesh screen (available from any hardware store) over the mouth of the jar, using an elastic band or metal ring.

TIP: Make sure the screen is firmly in place so you do not inadvertently wash your seeds down the drain when rinsing!

• Drain off the soaking water.

TIP: Use it to water your houseplants.

• Invert the jar in a bowl of the right size and weight to prop it up at a 30-degree angle (this allows any excess water to run off), and place it in bright light (not direct sunlight). Sprouts grow best in even temperature and light. The exception is mung beans, which are grown in complete darkness to prevent bitterness; they should be placed in a drainable tray or basket and will need extra rinsing.

• Rinse the sprouts twice a day.  Simply fill the jar with water, swish and drain.
• Continue until the sprouts are ready to eat (indicated by the length on the chart, or by your personal preference).

• To remove the hulls from sprouts of smaller seeds, such as alfalfa, place the finished sprouts in a large stainless-steel bowl and fill with water. The hulls will float to the surface and the sprouts will sink to the bottom. Pour or scoop off the floating hulls, (I use a tea strainer). Replace the cleaned sprouts in their jar (or two, if necessary) and invert once again to drain off excess water.

• To store, replace the mesh screen with a metal lid, and keep in the fridge. Sprouts will keep up to two weeks refrigerated in a sealed jar.

Seed Sprouting Chart

Alfalfa – Quantity: 30 mL, Time: 4-5 days, Length of Sprout: 4 cm

Red Clover – Quantity: 30 mL, Time: 4-5 days, Length of Sprout: 4 cm

Yellow Pea – Quantity: 125 mL, Time: 4-5 days, Length of Sprout: 1 cm

Green Lentil – Quantity: 125 mL, Time: 4 days, Length of Sprout: 1 cm

Garbanzo – Quantity: 250 mL, Time: 4 days, Length of Sprout: 1 cm

Soybean – Quantity: 250 mL, Time: 4 days, Length of Sprout: 1 cm

Wheat Kernels (grow in soil-less mix) – Quantity: 250 mL, Time: 5-8 days, Length of Sprout: 5 cm

Mung Bean (grow in tray in complete darkness) – Quantity: 125 mL, Time: 3-4 days, Length of Sprout: 7 cm

Carolyn Herriot owns The Garden Path Centre for Organic Gardening in Victoria ( and Seeds of Victoria. She is author of A Year On The Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide