Growing your own sprouts is fun, easy and quick. Many varieties of sprouts are ready to eat in just three or four days from seed or bean. Grow them in a glass jar kept in a dark cupboard. Rinse them once or twice daily and put them in the windowsill to green up when the leaves emerge. Soak the sprouts in water to remove the seed casings, drain and store in unsealed plastic bags in the produce drawer of your refrigerator. Most sprouts keep for about five days, although broccoli sprouts should be eaten within three days from the time the leaves unfurl.
Available in the produce section of most grocery stores, alfalfa sprouts are much smaller and thinner than the more well-known mung bean sprouts commonly associated with Asian cooking. Alfalfa sprouts have a slightly nutty taste that goes well with deli or vegetarian sandwiches. They can also be sprinkled on green salads for extra crunch. Alfalfa seeds sprout readily and grow quickly. Start a batch every three days for a continuous supply.
Watercress seeds for sprouting are sold by mail-order catalogs and websites. They sprout a little slower than alfalfa, but are considered worth the wait. Watercress sprouts have a tangy, peppery taste, similar to the mature watercress so often used to make "finger" sandwiches (small enough for an appetizer rather than an entire meal). Sprinkle watercress sprouts on any type of salad for an extra peppery tang.
Broccoli seeds are sold in larger packages of undetermined varieties specifically for sprouting and taste like mild broccoli. However, this type of sprout has a short shelf-life. Broccoli sprouts uneaten past their prime take on the all-too-familiar "old cabbage" smell so indicative of the cole plants. Use them in salads or sprinkle into a stir fry at the last second to just heat them through.