Sprouts are small germinated seeds that are full of healthy nutrients. As a fresh food that is often eaten raw, care must be taken when growing sprouts to avoid contamination, especially because they are often grown in warm, damp conditions. If you have a compromised immune system, we encourage you to talk to your doctor before introducing raw sprouts into your diet.
Here are a few tips to help you grow sprouts safely at home:
- Use reputable seeds and sanitize them
Make sure you know that your seeds are Australian-grown and have been handled with care. No matter the source of your seeds, you may wish to clean them before sprouting. To do this, soak seeds for 15 minutes in 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon bleach, in 1 cup hot water. Rinse the seeds thoroughly with cool water until you can no longer smell the bleach/vinegar. Please note that this treatment is optional and may reduce seed germination rate.
- Use clean water
Other than the seed the only key thing that the sprouts need is water. In Australia, most tap water is suitable for sprouting. If you live somewhere where tap water is not safe to drink, it is imperative to use filtered water or bottled water for soaking and rinsing the sprouts.
- Sanitize your sprouting equipment
The equipment that you use for sprouting seeds might harbor bacterial contamination. It is important to clean or sanitize the containers before use. Soak the containers in hot water or treat with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) for a few minutes to remove the contaminants from the surface of containers.
- Avoid standing water
Sprouting equipment is designed in such a way to let the air circulate through it freely. It is essential to keep the sprouts moist but don’t let water stand in the containers. Bacteria thrive well in moist and humid conditions. Therefore, standing water can become the reason for increased bacterial growth.
- Rinse the sprouts frequently
It is recommended to rinse sprouts completely at least every 12 hours (twice a day). This will help to prevent bacterial growth and reproduction. You should also rinse the sprouts thoroughly before eating them.
- Grow in a dry and dark place
The storage of sprouts in the right conditions is essential to increase their shelf life. Bacteria preferably grow and reproduce at a rapid rate in a temperature range of 21 to 52°C. Keep your sprouts in a cool and dark area of your house where the direct sunlight can’t reach. If it is a hot day and there is nowhere cool in your house, put the growing sprouts into the fridge until the weather cools down.
- Use your senses
Before tasting, use your eyes to check for any signs of contamination like mould, discolouration or sliminess. Use your nose to sniff! Sprouts sometimes have a strong smell, but should not smell bad. They usually smell fresh, green and often a bit like the large plant they could one day turn into.
- Dry your sprouts before storage
Finished sprouts will ideally be eaten straight away. If you want to store them, do so in the fridge. Ensure they are dry by waiting 8-12 hours after the last rinse, before moving them to the fridge. The sprouts should be stored so that air can pass freely to avoid the moisture build-up.
- Consume the sprouts within a few days
Plan to sprout only a small amount of seeds that can be consumed fresh. Do not consume sprouts that have been stored for more than a week.
With care, sprouts can be grown safely and easily at home. Happy sprouting!