Alfalfa sprouts are a delicious and healthy addition to salads and sandwiches. Growing your own alfalfa sprouts is quite simple and results in more flavorful, healthy sprouts that have the added benefit that you know exactly what went into their production. Make sure to buy seeds that are specifically sold for sprouting, as seeds for planting may have fungicides or insecticides applied, making them unfit to sprout for immediate consumption. Alfalfa sprouts can be grown using readily available household items.
Seed storage and preparation
Alfalfa seeds are available in local health food stores or can be ordered online. Due to concerns of possible contamination with pathogens, organic seeds are the safest option because of the requirements imposed on organic farmers. Seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location. Refrigerating and freezing can greatly extend the shelf life of the seeds. Once you have the seeds, gather together the necessary items for growing alfalfa sprouts. These include a sieve or colander, wide mouth glass jar, cheese cloth or nylon stocking and a rubber band. There are more elaborate sprouting jars and kits with special lids available, and they may increase convenience, but they are not necessary.
The seeds first need to be rinsed thoroughly and culled before soaking. Culling is done to remove any broken or bad looking seeds or non-seed items such as pebbles or plant pieces. Rinsing will also help remove any possible pathogens and dust from processing. Next the alfalfa seeds need to be soaked for eight to 12 hours to prepare them for sprouting. Use one part seed to at least two to three parts water. After soaking the seeds, drain them thoroughly, rinse them well, and drain them again. They should be rinsed two to three times per day for the five to six days they take to fully sprout. When rinsing, it is best to turn your faucet to high and use cool water (60 to 70 degrees F). This helps keep them clean and oxygenated. Drain the rinse water from the sprouts as thoroughly as possible. Sprouts that sit in puddles are more likely to grow mold. They need air circulation for proper growth, so do not store them in an enclosed area such as a cupboard. Out of the way on a countertop is sufficient at a room temperature of about 65 to 70 degrees F.
Alfalfa seeds take about five to six days to sprout. The last rinse will probably take place at the end of the fifth day or the start of the sixth. Once you have rinsed and drained them for the last time they should be refrigerated within eight to 12 hours. You can remove the hulls before refrigerating the sprouts, but leave plenty of time for them to dry before bagging them for the refrigerator. A salad spinner is very useful for removing the hulls but not necessary. You can place a bowl in the sink and fill it with water. Add the sprouts and pull them gently apart. As you swish them around, you will find the hulls floating to the top. You can push the hulls over the edge of the bowl to remove most of them. Pull clumps of the sprouts out into a colander for a final rinse. Once they have been rinsed and drained, they need to dry before they are refrigerated as wet produce molds very quickly even in the refrigerator.