Sprouts, those tender young shoots found at salad bars and in the gourmet section of the grocer's aisle, are nutritious as well as flavorful. A substantial source of vitamin B-complex, vitamin A and vitamin C, soybean sprouts were among the first to find favor in the United States, but other seed varieties soon followed. Packed with fiber and a good source of vegetable protein, you can grow these nutritious delicacies at home, inexpensively, and without too much effort.
Choose seeds produced especially for sprouting. Health food stores carry a number of sprouting seed varieties, including alfalfa seeds, clover seeds, lentils, mung beans and garbanzo beans. You can also try sprouting almonds, filberts, rye seeds and wheat berries.
Measure and visually inspect approximately 3 tablespoons of small sprouting seeds or up to ½ cup of medium-size seeds. If you're sprouting large beans, then you can use up to 1 cup. Sift through the seeds with your fingers, looking for small bits of sand, pebbles or plant debris.
Rinse the sprouting seeds in a small strainer to remove any traces of dirt. You'll need a tiny sieve to rinse alfalfa seeds, but you can use a colander to rinse larger beans.
Spoon the damp seeds into the quart jar and add filtered water to a depth of 2 or 3 inches above the level of the seeds. Soak small seeds approximately 8 hours, and soak larger beans and seeds up to 24 hours.
Tie a double thickness of cheesecloth over the top of the jar, and secure it with a rubber band. Tip the jar slowly upside down over the sink to allow the water to drain out, while keeping the seeds in the jar.
Remove the cheesecloth and fill the jar with a little fresh water, swishing it around to rinse the seeds before replacing the cheesecloth and draining once again.
Position the jar at an angle with the top facing down on top of a draining board or inside a glass pan to allow any excess water to drain out. This is the position in which you will place the jar after every rinsing to allow the seeds to remain damp but not too wet.
Rinse the seeds twice a day with fresh water, replace the cheesecloth, and place the jar back in the draining position. As the seeds prepare to sprout, they may lose their husks, which can be rinsed away. Tiny sprouts may appear within a day or two for some seeds and up to a week for others.
Wait approximately 4 days, or until the sprouts develop a bit of green color on the tip. Now they are ready to harvest. After a quick rinse and drain, you can store your sprouts in the refrigerator for up to a week.