Sprouts! A Winter Garden in Your Kitchen

Many activities we perform in this life (and which others might never consider) are undertaken simply because we saw them modeled for us as children or young adults.

Exposure to these skills helped us understand that they were far from magical, and that we were most likely capable of doing them ourselves at some point.

Thus, I grow my own broccoli and can re-wire a light fixture, where you might be able to clean a carburetor or cable-knit a sweater (says she, deftly mixing her gender-based activities).

One of these ‘magical’ activities which I never thought magical until I met others who did, is to sprout seeds on my countertop for sandwiches, salads, and just about anything else I make around here.

Sprouts are an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals and allow you to have a fresh source of greens growing in your kitchen 365 days a year.  It simply doesn’t get more local than that.

I can thank my seventies-era mom for the know-how.  She always had a Mason jar of sprouts growing on the windowsill, and to this day one of my favorite lunches is her freshly made tuna sandwich with carrots, celery, onions and a huge heap of sprouts adding tang and crunch to mayonnaise-y whole wheat.

If you’ve never sprouted (or even thought of sprouting) seeds, but buy them at the store or enjoy a sprout-filled sandwich at a local hipster café, you are my target audience.  Believe me when I say:

1)   It is not magic.

2)   It is not dangerous.

3)   You can do it.

The sprouting process at its most simplistic –

♦ Soak two tablespoons of organic seeds in a bowl for eight hours.


♦ Dump them into a container that drains efficiently.


♦ Set them in a sunny windowsill or on the countertop (put mung beans in a dark space to avoid bitterness).


♦ Rinse them twice a day with fresh water and let them drain.


♦ When they are big enough after 4-5 days, rinse them of their hulls in a large bowl and store them in the fridge in a lidded mason jar with a paper towel inside.


♦ Enjoy them for the next week or until they run out.


Sprouts are an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals and allow you to have a fresh source of greens growing in your kitchen 365 days a year.  It simply doesn’t get more local than that.


Recommended sprouting equipment

Sandwich and Salad Mix seeds from Botanical Interests soak in bowls on the counter.

Up until recently, I always used a quart jar topped with plastic lids (Sprout-Ease Econo-Sprouter Toppers Set/Amazon).  It is an inexpensive and easy way to get started and, judging from my track record, to keep sprouting for a couple decades.

I have also been pretty basic in my choice of seeds. Alfalfa and mung bean seeds provided for all of our needs (be they sandwich, salad or stir fry), and whilst the hipper world around me dabbled with spicy daikon or the purple legs of amaranth, I was content to remain retro in this respect.

Then recently, my head was turned by the sprouting section in the Botanical Interests seed catalog and the

[practically frame-able] botanical prints that illustrate their seed packets. I began to think outside the jar.

Salad and sandwich mixes…those purple legs of amaranth…protein-packed lentils and nutty sunflower seed crunch.  Why not branch out? After a trade show, I was fortunate enough to be sent one of their clever two-level sprouters and suddenly, things got even easier.

A tray sprouter, like this one from Botanical Interests, allows you to grow succession crops in the same space.

Now I find myself in a tough position.  Yes, a Mason jar is cheaper, but the convenience of this sprouter is exceptional.  The two trays sit above a draining tray, so you don’t have to remember to remove the sprouter from the sink after draining.  The trays are covered with a diffuser, which not only lets the rinsing water evenly percolate through the two trays, but also retains humidity which the seeds require.

Each tray comes with a divider which means that you can technically grow four types of sprouts at one time, or like me, stagger my seed sprouting by a couple days and have two crops growing in the same space.

In short, I am in love.

For those that have never tried sprouting, it’s a great way to start, and the choice of seed and seed mixes is wonderful.  Sadly, at this point you can’t buy seeds in bulk from Botanical Interests, but it’s a great way to try a lot of wonderful organic varieties while you buy your garden seeds and hone in on what makes your menus come alive.

Once you see how easy it is to grow and store them, and how useful they are in helping you keep fresh greens in your kitchen, I’d also recommend sproutpeople.org for bulk seeds and seed mixes, sprouting information and particularly, for their well-written treatise on “the politics of sprouts.”

But aren’t sprouts dangerous?

Which brings me to my last point – foodborne illness and sprouts. Sadly, people remember headlines, no matter how dimly, and the general public rarely goes any deeper into the issue.

When it comes to sprouts, they should.

I have been sprouting organic seeds for over twenty years now and have never had a problem with unhealthy bacteria.  I start with high quality organic seeds (which have never been linked to food-borne illness and which are stringently tested for pathogenic bacteria), use common sense hygienic practices when rinsing, and obviously would never store or eat sprouts that have gone bad or moldy.


A fresh alfalfa mix adds crunch and nutrition to a classic burger.


Of course, there are methods for further disinfecting your seeds if you must, but they take the joy and ease right out of the whole process. Personally I’d be running for the nearest grocery store by the end of that ordeal. (If I for one minute thought that doing so would ensure a foodborne illness-free existence…spinach or Caesar salad anyone?)

Cue the crunch

While growing your own food is not magic, the ability to transform a few grams of seeds into fresh nutritious greens in less than five days in your kitchen is the closest you’ll probably ever come to it.

I urge you to try this delicious, painless way to inject a bit of health into your diet, and start modeling a new skill for other people – young and old – in your life. – MW

2018-02-20T20:40:43+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.


  1. tonytomeo January 13, 2018 at 2:17 am - Reply

    This is something I have put off doing because it is not done out in the garden. I only get sprouts when I eat at someone else’s house!

  2. Jiyaraobreeze ? January 14, 2018 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Very inspiring and very true! I’ve been putting off doing this too.
    Thank you for this wonderful post. Love natural foods <3

    • Marianne Willburn January 14, 2018 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      Yay! Enjoy! It really is easy.

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