Thomas J. Koske | 12/2/2005 2:51:37 AM
Fresh bean sprouts and other seed sprouts found in salads and sandwiches are easy to grow at home, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske. Unfortunately, they also are very perishable.
Not all sprouts are good. Some seed sprouts are poisonous or may have a protective pesticide coating that makes them inedible. You may check out health food stores for sprout ideas. Organic seeds of suitable sprout crops should be of no concern, but be cautious of other sources of seed.
Garden seeds sold for soil planting must be free of treatment with pesticides or dyes, but some seeds of foreign origin may not be required to have a government-required label giving notice they were stained dyes. If it says "not for human food," Koske urges consumers to believe the warning and not eat the sprouts.
"Seed dealers may not be as good a source of suitable sprouting seed as would grain dealers selling feed for livestock," Koske notes. "Merchants who are most likely to have seed that is good for sprouting are health food stores or grocery stores."
Koske notes that seed found in grocery stores, although safe, may have been processed to where it will not germinate. Some, however, will be as viable for sprouting as any source.
Common seeds for sprouts are bean, pumpkin, sunflower, barley, rye, peanut, pea, mustard, wheat, rice, sesame, lentil and celery, Koske says. Other good seeds to sprout will be packaged for sprouting use.
"Seeds are not real fussy about sprouting conditions," the horticulturist says, adding, "but they do best in a clean environment at temperatures of 60 F - 80 F. If in direct sunlight, they may cook and fail to develop."
To start the sprouting, place a tablespoon or two of seeds in a clean, wide-mouth quart jar. Fill the jar one-half to three-fourths full of lukewarm water. Let this stand overnight or for at least several hours before draining. That will prime the seeds.
After priming, cover the jar opening with clean cheesecloth, nylon netting or stocking. Stretch the fabric and secure in place with the screw-top ring or an elastic band. Pour off all of the priming water. Rinse twice, and drain.
Shake the jar slightly to spread the seeds. Place the jar on its side in a dark cupboard. There should be little or no standing water and no seeds on the fabric cover.
Rinse the seed two or three times a day without removing the fabric cover. After several days, the sprouts should be ready. You may place the jar in a lighted area or near a window for a day if greening is desired.
Soon the seed coats will be quite loose. Remove the netting, and fill the jar to overflowing with water. Shaking or stirring will cause most of the seed coats to release and float away. Let those that sink to the bottom stay there. They are generally all right to eat, but are less desirable. If some greening is desired, place the jar in bright but indirect light for a day or two.
Drain well, then bag the sprouts or cover your jar with a lid. Freshness requires that the sprouts be refrigerated.
"You’ll need to work out the best growing time and conditions for your seeds," Koske says. "Sprouts grown too long may become bitter. An occasional rinse can maintain their turgidity, but plan to use them within a week once they’re ready."
More gardening information is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn and gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.