Food Foodscaping

Growing Sprouts in a Mason Jar

By Julie Boudreau

As early as October, when my farmers’ market closes its doors for the winter, I fall in depression for good, fresh green vegetables. For several years now, sprouts have become one of the ways I have put in place to consume local freshness, during the harsh snowy months.

Sprouts are simply seeds that germinate… without soil! Photo: Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Sprouting is so simple, and it’s ridiculous. Although I also have a small production of microgreens during the winter, I much prefer sprouts. They require less material, less preparation, less monitoring and it’s faster!

What are Sprouts?

By definition, a sprout is a seed that is consumed at the germination stage! It’s simply a seed that begins to emit a small root and sometimes, its cotyledons. Instead of letting this little plant continue to grow and produce leaves and stems, we eat it!

Sprouts are produced without soil, directly in a jar. They are said to have great nutritional qualities, because they are full of vitamins, proteins and minerals. They are even said to be 10 to 50 times more nutritious than certain fruits and vegetables. For me, growing sprouts is more about producing my food locally and consuming a fresh product.

A Three-Ingredient Material List

There are several models of trays and containers on the market specially designed for germination. These work very well. For me, of course, seeking to reduce my overconsumption of goods as much as possible, I use a container that everyone has in their cupboards: the Mason jar! The 2 cups (500 ml) size works best for my personal production, but it is very possible to work with a smaller or larger size, depending on your habits.

This glass jar will become the container in which I produce my sprouts. It will also be my storage container that I will place in the fridge.

For successful germination, you will also need a small strainer or a piece of cheesecloth for the rinsing part.

And finally, you need seeds. Alive! Every health food store carries packets of sprouting seeds. This is where you will find very nice blends and varieties that allow you to diversify the menu. But there are some tips for making the most of what you have at hand and even what you can find at a low price. For example, our radish, broccoli or cabbage seeds, waiting in the seed box, can be dropped in the Mason jar instead of slowly aging in the package. I have also found more than once, in the bulk section, mung beans and lentil seeds at very good prices and with an excellent germination rate! Also, regarding clover, wheat or oats, these are the same seeds as those used in agriculture. If you have access to a source of certified organic seeds, it’s also possible to be supplied in this way.

To extend the life of seeds, it will be essential to store them in a cool, dark and dry place. Most seeds used for germination can live for more than two years, quite easily.

How to Make Sprouts?

As I mentioned before, extreme simplicity is the key! In a nutshell, there is a soaking phase, a rinsing phase and a conservation (and consumption!) phase.

The purpose of soaking is to wake up the seeds. The idea here is to flood the seeds in water to speed up the germination process. At the bottom of my Mason jar, I place about one tablespoon of seeds. No more! These seeds will expand as they germinate and they will eventually fill the jar. Then I pour the water. As you will see in the chart below, each seed has its minimum soaking time. In my case, I have a well-established routine that doesn’t necessarily take into account the data I share with you. But it works just as well. I always start my sprouts in the evening, before bed time. I place the seeds in the jar, fill it with water and good night! This means that the soaking period lasts between 5 and 7 hours, in my case, whatever the seed variety.

The soaking phase: a tablespoon of mung bean seeds covered with water. Photo: Julie Boudreau

The next morning, I start the rinsing phase. That is, I add water, stir the seeds a little and then drain all the water through my little strainer. Then I go to work! Ideally, I do two rinses per day, one in the morning and one in the evening. I continue rinsing until the sprouts have reached the desired level of development. Some sprouting jars are sold with a base that allows the jar to be placed tilted, and upside down. This is to ensure good water drainage. From experience, everything goes very well, even if there is a little water left at the bottom of the jar. Again, you will find information in the spreadsheet indicating the number of days the rinsing phase lasts for each seed. That said, you can clearly see when the seeds have reached the right stage.

The same Mason jar, after a few days of rinsing. These sprouts are ready to eat! Notice the little strainer that I use to drain the water after each rinse. Photo: Julie Boudreau

What we are looking for is a root of good length and, in the case of smaller seeds, the development of the cotyledons. As soon as the germination stage is satisfactory, stop everything by placing the jar in the fridge (with its lid). Sprouts do not have a very long shelf life. They should ideally be consumed within four days. This is why I prefer to produce smaller quantities, more often, to prevent waste.

What Seeds Can You Use for Sprouting?

There is a very nice selection of seeds that are suitable for sprouting. Of course, you have to stick to these! It’s not recommended to germinate other seeds which could prove toxic.

Among my favorites, I only have good things to say about mung beans ! These are my favorites! They are easy to produce and I like their slightly sweet flavor. I also like radishes and their spicy taste, but they don’t always fit well with my meals. I also produce, on a less regular basis, clover, watercress and broccoli.

The chart below will show you some other great options, but be aware that this is not a complete list.

NameSoaking time (hours)Rinsing time (days)Notes For a jar of 1 cup (250 ml)
Amaranth35Amaranth is considered one of the most nutritious sprouts.
Wheat6 to 123Rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Broccoli and cabbage26Red cabbage is considered one of the most nutritious sprouts.
Chives and onions812 
Cress15 min4On paper towel.
Mung bean6420% protein; rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron.
Lentils5-101025% protein; good source of iron and calcium.
Mustard2680% vitamin C
Yellow or green peas64 
Chickpeas6620% protein; rich in carbohydrates, proteins, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, lithium and iron.
Radish46Daikon radish is considered one of the most nutritious sprouts
My favorite varieties: mung beans, lentils, radishes and watercress. Photo: Julie Boudreau

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

3 comments on “Growing Sprouts in a Mason Jar

  1. Isabel Belanger

    Thanks for posting these clear instructions. I plan to start tonight.

  2. Lentils sprout very easily in a few days too

  3. Christine Lemieux

    A good reminder to get sprouting! Mung bean are my favourite too. So delicious!

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