July 2, 2011

DIY Sprouting: How

I consider myself to be a resourceful person. One time at a street fair I bought a mini sweet potato pie and forgot to ask for a fork so I took a plastic straw, bent it in half, and used it as chopsticks. To me, that was instant MacGyver status.

But when I first read about sprouting it seemed intimidating. Any food preparation involving more than one day is very scary to me (I'm recalling numerous failed, very stinky attempts at Ethiopian teff injera). Another thing that halted me was that I would need to buy sprouting containers, these glass jars with special mesh lids.

I was determined to get the sprouting done without the expensive hardware. Call me stubborn persistent, but I figure that one (or 3) failed attempts at anything is better than not trying at all. And it worked!


  • large glass jar (I used a 32-oz pickle jar)
  • piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the top of the jar, with an extra inch for good measure. Cheesecloth costs a couple of dollars and is washable and reusable.
  • rubber band
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils

1. At night, put lentils in the jar and cover with clean water up to an inch or two above the lentils, to give room for when they swell. Let soak overnight.
2. The next morning (day 1), rinse and drain the lentils. Cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth and secure with rubber band. Reminds me of a keffiyeh.

(These are already sprouted.)

4. Shake the jar gently, to distribute the lentils evenly along the length of the jar. Rest the jar on a tilt so leftover water can drain throughout the day. You can rest it on a dish rack, or as I did, on a rolled-up towel (this is after they had already sprouted):

5. That night, rinse and drain the lentils, and tilt the jar again.
6. The next morning (day 2), rinse and drain the lentils, and tilt the jar again. You might begin to notice some tails. You can eat them as is, or you can keep rinsing and draining them twice a day for up to a few more days until the tails grow to desired length. Taste them at various points and see what tail length you prefer. After a few days when the tails are about an inch long, they will sprout cute little green leaves. The sprouts keep well in the refrigerator for up to several days.
7. Along the process, many lentils will shed their skins. When it comes time for you to eat the sprouts, it's up to you whether you want to eat the skins. If you don't want them, drop the sprouts into a large bowl of water and stir with your hand. The skins will float to the surface of the water and you can remove them.

I also tried to sprout chickpeas (in a clear plastic container) and raw pumpkin seeds (in a glass jar) but they did not sprout and just ended up smelly and slimy. Do you have any ideas what went wrong there?

Sprouts go for about $3 for a little package that only weighs a few ounces. I only used about a half cup of lentils ($.50 worth, maybe?), and the sprouts filled up the quart-size jar. You would make out like a bandit by doing it yourself.

So remember to save your glass jars, because they might come in handy one day.

Have you ever experimented with sprouting? How did it go?

Vegan on a Shoestring

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