Grow sprouts yourself: This is how it works

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:16 pm

Sprouts are a popular source of vitamins in winter, when there is not so much going on outside in the garden. If you follow a few things, the cultivation is very simple and after a short time you can enjoy the delicious sprouts.

Germination: from grain to shoot

The seed contains everything the plant needs for its later growth, its entire blueprint, so to speak. At the very beginning, there is germination, which can only start under a suitable interaction of moisture, temperature, oxygen and light. Some seeds need sufficient warmth to germinate, for example bell pepper seeds. Others are so-called cold germinators and like it rather cool, for example sage or chives. There are also different requirements when it comes to light. Seeds of chamomile, mint or basil, for example, need light to germinate and must not be covered with soil. Coriander, parsley or lamb’s lettuce, however, need darkness.

Grow sprouts yourself: This is how it works

During germination, small roots develop as well as the seedling itself, which first develops cotyledons and later grows into the above-ground part of the plant. And it is this small seedling that we are targeting when we grow sprouts. Depending on how long you let the seeds germinate, you eat only the seedling or the entire sprouts including the seed.

Sprouts are grown warm and bright on a windowsill, so mostly seeds of warm and light sprouts are used for this.

Grow sprouts yourself: This is how it works
The cress seeds are still dormant, but are quickly stimulated to germinate by light, heat and water

That’s why sprouts are so healthy

A seed is a real little powerhouse. This is exactly what makes whole grain products so healthy: they contain the valuable ingredients of the whole grain.

During germination, a lot is going on in the seed: a multitude of metabolic activities cause the content of valuable ingredients for us humans to skyrocket. Whether vitamins, fiber, healthy fat and amino acids, protein and minerals such as iron, calcium or magnesium – there is little that is not present in a sprout! What’s more, they are low in calories and taste super delicious.

Grow sprouts yourself: This is how it works
Mung beans are a real sprout classic and taste slightly nutty

The great variety of sprouts

Every seed germinates, but not all plants develop edible sprouts. Fortunately, the selection of sprout seeds is nevertheless huge! Many different seeds can be found for every taste: some sprouts taste sweet, others nutty or even really spicy. The best known are probably cress, alfalfa and soybean sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts, by the way, are the seedlings of alfalfa, a type of clover that belongs to the legume family.

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Here is a selection of seeds that are suitable for use as sprouts:

Soybeans, peas, mung beans, alfalfa.
cress, arugula, mustard, radishes, broccoli
beet, carrots, linseed, sunflower seeds
Cereals: wheat, spelt, rye, oats

Depending on the germination method and duration as well as the seed, the seeds are eaten later or the green seedlings are cut off.

Know the dangers & enjoy safely

Seeds naturally contain microorganisms that can become a problem when improperly stored, as well as when sprouts are grown, as they feel super comfortable in the warm, moist environment. If the sprouts are then packaged in plastic bags or trays, the bacteria can spread further within the packaging. Unfortunately, with sprouts in the supermarket, you never really know how long they have been there and whether they may be contaminated. Home-grown sprouts offer more safety if a few points are followed.

Always buy high-quality seeds, as these are purified in any case, preferably in organic quality. Generally, the human immune system copes well with even minimal contamination or contamination without causing any health consequences. However, many people have a weakened immune system, for example due to an illness. But also children, elderly people or pregnant women are affected. Therefore, there are official recommendations for these groups of people to refrain from eating sprouts, for example from the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

Find out if there are any special instructions for the type of sprouts you would like to grow yourself. For example, arugula sprouts contain a lot of iodine, which could have a negative effect on thyroid disorders. Fortunately, there are many alternatives, so you’re sure to find suitable sprout seeds for you.

Very important: The sprouts of some legumes like (chick) peas and soybeans must not be eaten raw! They must be blanched for a few minutes to render toxic substances harmless. Mung beans are an exception to this rule. Lentil sprouts can also be eaten raw, but only in small amounts. Another exception: pea greens, which are already more developed sprouts without the seed, can be cut off and eaten raw. Alfalfa sprouts can also be eaten raw.

To make sure everything goes well and you don’t have to worry, we have described in detail in the next chapter how you should proceed when growing your own sprouts. Then nothing stands in the way of a safe sprout enjoyment!

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Get to the rungs: Material and correct procedure

Depending on the seed, germination time and ingredients may vary, as well as the most appropriate germination methods. You can usually find all the specific instructions you need on the packages.

The biggest difference: do you want to grow classic sprouts and eat the seeds as well? Or do you prefer to wait a little longer for real small “mini-plants”, so-called microgreens, and harvest them without seeds? In the first case, it is advisable to grow them in germination jars or on kitchen paper. Otherwise, you can also sow the seeds in soil.

Suitable accessories

There are a number of special accessories for sprout cultivation, which are practical and can simplify the whole thing. However, it is also possible to forgo buying them and take a look in your kitchen cupboard first. Maybe you already have a few things that are just as suitable.

Often sprouts are grown in jars, as they function like a small greenhouse. Sprouting jars that you can buy are sometimes also made of plastic and have lots of little holes in the lid on one side. You need them because you have to rinse the seeds and later the seedlings with water every day. This can then drain through the holes. In principle, any larger canning jar will work just as well if you seal the opening at the top with a holey material. This must be quite smooth and in no case susceptible to mold. For example, mosquito veil/fly screen material or tulle made of plastic fibers is well suited. The material is simply fixed to the top of the glass with rubber bands.

Alternatively, you can pour the sprouts completely out of the jar into a strainer, rinse, and put them back into the jar, which has also been rinsed.

There are also sprout boxes that work similarly to a sprouting jar, but can be stacked.

Sprouts can also be grown on paper towels. Place a few layers on a plate or in a shallow container and moisten them well. The seeds are simply sprinkled on and must be kept moist at all times.If the sprouts dry out, they sometimes stick to the paper towel, which can be annoying. On the other hand, this method is less likely to spread bacteria.

If you want to sow in soil, be sure to use low-nutrient growing soil. The planting container does not necessarily have to have a drain, as you only need to keep the soil slightly moist. The easiest way to do this is with a spray bottle. If you like, you can create a greenhouse atmosphere around the container with plastic wrap or a freezer bag. Air the seedlings at least once a day.

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This is how it is done

In any case, the seeds must first soak in water for a few hours. Depending on the variety, the seeds must be soaked for different lengths of time, the information about this can be found on the packaging. After the soaking time, the water is poured off.

Sprouting jars and sprout boxes:

From now on, you need to rinse the jars well twice a day. The excess water runs through the boxes from top to bottom. The jars must be placed at an angle so that it can drain off.

How much seed you put in depends on the size of the jar and the seed itself. Don’t be fooled – the tiny seeds will soak up water and get bigger over time. Eventually, the jar or box may be too full and the seedlings may not flush as well. If you realize you’ve used too much seed, simply transfer some to another container.

On plates, in shallow trays or in growing soil:

Make sure that the seeds and later the seedlings are always moist, but not too wet. Spray bottles that distribute the water without much pressure are very suitable. If you cover the containers with a plastic film, regular ventilation is necessary to prevent the growth of mold.

All vessels require a bright location without direct sun. Temperatures around 18-20 degrees are ideal for the sprouts to develop well.

Sometimes the very fine roots form a kind of fluff and look confusingly similar to mold. Check if you find the hairs only on the roots, then everything is ok. If they have spread over the entire seedling, this speaks more for mold and you must unfortunately dispose of the sprouts.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.