by Tom Billings
The material below consists of questions and answers on some
common situations that may arise in sprouting.
Q: I use a commercial, plastic, multiple tray (type)
sprouter, and I notice that sprouting rates are uneven. I find that pre-soaking the seeds,
overnight, helps promote even sprouting. Comments?
A: Due to their design, uneven soaking, hence uneven
sprouting, can occur with these sprouters and thus pre-soaking the seed is a good idea -
separate, even soaking promotes more even sprouting.
Q: I want to grow large amounts of sprouts, so as to increase
the % of sprouts in my diet. I typically grow sprouts for 3-5 days in the tray sprouter.
Any suggestions for increasing production? The tray type sprouters seem too small and
limited to produce large quantities.
A: First I would note that you are growing sprouts for 3-5
days, so they are relatively long. You can eat sprouts when they are short, and that is an
easier approach. Now, to your question: Ann Wigmore suggests using 7-10 half gallon jars
(~2 liters each - large jars) for a large scale sprouting setup. She discusses this in her
book, "The Sprouting Book". Certainly 7-10 large jars serviced 2-3 times per day
will require some time, as well as a substantial amount of counter or shelf space. Another
option to consider is an automatic sprouter; more expensive but possibly easier. One can
grow large quantities of (short) sprouts using the cloth method - simply use larger bowls
Q: The price of sprouting seeds at the health food store is
very high. How can I get seeds at lower cost?
A: Buy in bulk, in 5 pounds (2.5 kg) or larger containers.
Here in California, bulk seeds are readily available in health food stores, supermarkets,
and by mail. For example, bulk wheat ("berries") range in price locally from
$0.29 per pound (non-organic) to $0.65 per pound (organic); 1 pound = approx 0.45 kg. You
may have to search for bulk sources in your area.
Q: I remove the hulls from my alfalfa sprouts, by swishing
the sprouts in a large bowl of water. How do you get rid of hulls?
A: Hulling is generally not necessary if you eat your sprouts
when short; however removing the hulls is a good idea for alfalfa and clover greens (as
the hulls will spoil and decay in the sprouter). The method you describe - swishing in
water - is pretty much standard.
Q: I find grain sprouts to be tough, fibrous, and sometimes
bitter (except wheat which is usually sweet). Suggestions?
A: These problems are greatly reduced if you eat the sprout
when the root shoot is about the length of the soaked seed (1-2 days sprouting time for
most grains). Also you are not limited to grains and pulses: try sunflower seeds, sesame
seeds (eat when short - can be bitter when long), almonds, fenugreek, soaked nuts, and so
Q: What sprouts do you consider to be staples for the diet?
A: Depends on your tastes. My staples are wheat, mung,
sunflower, sesame, oats (for sprout milk), almonds. Also eat soaked walnuts, other soaked
nuts on occasion.
Q: What changes in nutritional content occur when seeds are
A: This is a rather complicated topic; Viktoras Kulvinskas
discusses this at length (with lots of data) in his book, "Sprout for the Love of
Q: I find that legume (pulse) sprouts give me flatulence. Is
this due to the legume skins? Comments?
A: The skins are not the major source of gas in pulses; in
India some pulses are skinned and then cooked (dahl) and they still produce gas. This
topic is addressed in some detail in the article "Enhancing the Digestion of
Sprouts". Basically, the easiest way to reduce flatulence is to add anti-gas spices
and digestive aids; see the mentioned article for more information.
Side discussion. In the veg-raw posts, I described lentils as
a 'coarse' food. This produced a discussion on the properties and nature of lentil
sprouts. Portions of that discussion are as follows.
Re: meaning of brown lentils being coarse food. I interpret
it as meaning that it is coarse in digestive effect: potentially unsettling, tending to
produce lots of gas, the opposite effect of a soothing food (like, for example celery
juice with lemon or lime added: that is a soothing food). After eating lentils, you might
"feel" them - not heavy, but rough or coarse. These post-digestive effects can
be subtle, and you might not notice it if you regularly consume lentils. By the way, I
find that if you eat lentils with turmeric and a bit of cumin seed, it seems to digest
much easier, with less gas - that was the point of my post.
Re: possibility of excluding legumes from the diet. If one
excludes all legumes from the diet, there are still a large number of grains and other
seeds one can sprout. However, most people thrive on variety; a diet that excludes legumes
might be too limiting for many people.
Re: which types of lentils are easiest to digest? The small
green lentils are lighter and easier on the system than the brown lentils. Also, small red
lentils are lighter than and easier to digest than the brown. (When sprouting red lentils,
be sure to get whole lentils, not split ones.) It appears that the smaller the lentil, the
easier it is to digest. Further confirmation of this comes from a batch of very large
green lentils I bought some time ago - they were larger than brown lentils, and also very
heavy, very hard to digest.
Q: How can I sprout sesame seeds?
A: They can be sprouted using the standard jar or cloth
methods. Soak seeds overnight, then allow to sprout in cloth or jar; I let sesame seeds
sprout for 1-2 days. For sprouting to occur, use only unhulled sesame seeds; hulled won't
sprout (although you can soak hulled seeds overnight then eat). Sesame seed sprouts get
bitter quickly, even in refrigerator. Recommend that sprouting + refrigeration time total
be 1.5 days or less (2.0 days maximum), to avoid bitterness. (There is a black sesame
seed, and if you can get it unhulled, it will usually sprout nicely. The problem with the
black sesame seeds is that it is often difficult to tell if it is hulled or unhulled.)
Another note on sesame seeds - I tried an "unusual"
combination of tastes and found it very nice: add 1 rounded teaspoon of whole coriander
seed (or fennel seed) to 1/3 or 1/4 cup of dry sesame seeds, then soak and sprout as usual
(coriander/fennel probably won't sprout). Then eat with a bit of raw honey - unusual, but
very nice (Ayurveda says coriander seeds are good for the eyes and a digestive aid; they
have a mild flavor. Fennel is tridoshic - said to be good for everyone, in moderation.)
Q: I live in a cold climate (Canada). How can I increase the
amount of sprouts in my diet, without becoming ravenously hungry?
A: I have never lived in a cold climate; San Francisco and
Dallas are the
coldest climates I have ever lived in (grew up in Florida). A few suggestions
come to mind, however. Try sesame sprouts, or sesame and almond sprouts, for breakfast.
You can add fennel seed in the soak period, and it tastes great! Another
breakfast idea is (short) buckwheat sprouts mixed with soaked raisins or dates. Make
sprout milk, including almond sprouts, daily. Add ginger to your lentil and mung
bean sprouts when you eat them - tasty and it is "hot" as well. Ginger also
helps you digest legume sprouts, and avoid/reduces flatulence.
I find short sprouts, which are effectively pre-digested
seeds, to be more
satisfying to the appetite than long, greened sprouts - which are a vegetable
and a lettuce substitute. So you might want to eat both long and short sprouts.
Additional suggestions to increase amount of sprouts in your
1) eat mixtures of grains if you get tired of eating individual grains,
2) add seeds to sprout mix for flavoring: mustard, radish, fenugreek, fennel,
cumin, coriander, dill, etc. 3) make different sauces or dressings for the
sprouts (for variety), 4) use seasonings: seaweed, ginger, hot pepper,
whatever you might want.
One simple sprout dish is: rye sprouted with a bit of fennel
seed added, eaten with honey. It's a very nice combination! Quinoa, sprouted for 1-2 days,
makes a nice salad base (eat with turmeric to help digest the protein -
quinoa is very high in protein). Sprouted buckwheat can be mixed with dried fruit,
fresh sweet fruit, honey, to create very tasty sweet dishes.
Q: What sprouts do you consider staples, and what is your
A: My staple sprouts are wheat, sunflower, mung, sesame. I
rotate among these for variety. I also daily grow oat and almond sprouts for sprout milk.
Sprouts are 30-50% of my diet. For variety, I also grow buckwheat, fenugreek sprouts.
Q: Any suggestions re: sprouting in the Summer? What about
A: If you have mold/bacterial spoilage, be sure to sterilize
all utensils (using
hot water, sunlight, or your choice of disinfectant). Experiment with more/less rinsing -
see if that helps. Keep the sprouts out of direct sunlight unless you are growing greens,
and then only when they are big enough. Direct sunlight on jars/bags/trays can overheat
the seeds, reducing germination, and promoting mold and decay.
Q: Any comments on sprouting success, batch selection?
A: It can be useful to buy small amounts from a bulk bin,
test for viability
and suitability, then buy a large amount if they are good. Recently I have had
real difficulty finding decent mung beans - 3 batches from local, organic
suppliers were simply awful - hard seeds were 20-50% of total! (The worst seeds I have
ever tried.) Anyway, I then obtained some non-organic mung beans, from a local Indian
store, that sprout vigorously and have almost no hard seeds. They're not organic, but I
don't have to spend an hour picking out hard seeds! So it is a good idea to test first.
Regarding methods, I would suggest jars (or trays) for
greens; jars for rice,
corn, popcorn sprouts; cloth for almonds, buckwheat, mung; for the rest jars or cloth give
equally good results.
Q: Any suggestions on hull removal for buckwheat or
A: You can buy buckwheat that is already hulled. If you
want buckwheat sprouts, you should use hulled buckwheat. If you want buckwheat lettuce,
i.e., indoor gardening, then you should use unhulled (black) buckwheat. Hulls should not
be a major problem with greens.
A recent article discussed sunflower sprouts and greens. If
you are growing
sunflower sprouts, removing the (inner, clear) hulls is very important - your
batches of sprouts will quickly spoil if you don't. To remove inner hulls, add
more water at end of soak period and stir - hulls will float to top. Then pour
them off. You may have to repeat this process 3-4 times to minimize loose hulls. If
growing sunflower greens, you will be using unhulled seeds (black or striped outer hulls).
You might have better germination/fewer hulls clinging there if you blanch the seeds
for a few seconds in hot tap water (not boiling water, just hot tap water), before
Q: Any suggestions on how to handle mucilaginous seeds?
A: Add in small amount to your alfalfa (say 15-20%),
unsoaked, when alfalfa is a few days old. To sprout them by themselves requires
special procedure - the clay saucer method. As the sprouts are not so great, you might
find that it is not worth the trouble (also, flax, psyllium sprouts can be highly
Q: What about fenugreek sprouts?
A: Fenugreek grows very quickly and is an easy sprout to
grow. If you let it
turn green it can be rather bitter, so you might prefer it ungreened. Fenugreek is good
for your liver, according to "The Yoga of Herbs", by Dr. Vasant Lad and David
Q: My batch of sprouts spoiled? What went wrong?
A: Most spoilage comes from: over-watering, under-watering,
bad seed (too low germination rate), exposing the seeds to light before they are big
to stand it (direct sunlight on jar can overheat the seeds in the early
stages of sprouting), lack of cleanliness, failing to sterilize media when a
previous batch spoiled, and so on. Some seeds are simply prone to
spoilage: garbanzos tend to spoil quickly.