Let's soak seeds in water and see what happens...
December 3, 2008 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Is growing sprouts in my bedroom a good idea or will it result in hellacious odors and weeping and gnashing of teeth?

OK, my health counselor recommended that I try growing my own sprouts as a good supplement to my diet. I agree; I like sprouts.

But I'm rather skeptical of this grow-your-own business. How do wet beans and seeds not get moldy? I'd rather not disturb my host family with pernicious smells.

I've read some stuff on www.sproutpeople.com and it seems fairly straightforward, but I wanted to see if anyone had personal anecdotes or suggestions to get started. To make things more complicated, I'm in France and therefore not sure how readily available sprouting apparati will be. I can get dried beans/grains very easily, but I'm not so sure about the container.

Any tips or advice would be most appreciated. Thanks!
posted by fantine to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Wet, growing seeds don't get moldy because they're alive and have biological defenses against mold. If you don't eat them, and they die and begin to decompose, then they might start to mold, but you're not supposed to let that happen. Even if you did, 'pernicious smells' wouldn't be an issue. Spoiled milk, meat, and large quantities of anaerobically rotting vegetable matter do stink, but that's just not what you'd be dealing with even in a worst-case sprout scenario.

I don't know much about industrial grain and bean processing, but it occurs to me that dried beans/grains intended for consumption might not be viable as seeds if they've been irradiated, exposed to heat or otherwise killed. You may have to buy seeds intended for sprouting.

I haven't grown sprouts for eating, but I do garden and grow seedlings in my basement. It's not scary. It's not high-risk. Just try it.
posted by jon1270 at 4:32 AM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: Oh, for gawds sake when did humans begin acting so alien about natural things?

OK. Sorry. Not your fault. You've probably never grown a thing in your life. Dead seeds that sit in muggy water and don't sprout go mouldy and may smell after a fairly long while. Non-dead seeds (and I don't mean zombie seeds) will grow and produce all sorts of non-smelly good-vibe growing auras and edible goodies in your space if you do it right (soaking, rinsing, draining angles etc). You didn't ask for it but here's some government instructions for growing them anyway (well, they are from the government paid-for ABC).
The general rule is the smaller the seed, the greater the increase in volume as it germinates. For example one tablespoon of mung bean seeds can sprout to produce one or more cupfuls of sprouts. To initiate germination, add warm water and let them soak for six to eight hours.

Leave seeds to germinate overnight, and any discolouration is caused by seed germination inhibitors that have leached out. Rinse thoroughly before sprouting. Put seed into a jar, and place a piece of fly screen go over the top, just hold it in place with a rubber band. It’s useful because it allows the air and water to move. You might want to use a drainer by the window - there needs to be just enough indirect light to get them going – and put them at a 45 degree angle, upside down so the water drains - that's really important because if the water sits, then bacteria can breed.

Sprouts need little maintenance but it's important to rinse them three times each day. Fill the jar up with water and then flush and let them drain.
You could have a worm farm in your bedroom too that didn't smell. Ask me how!
Healthy nature smells OK, ya know.
posted by Kerasia at 4:36 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've only grown alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts- they didn't stink at all. The instructions on that site didn't seem real detailed, but it's pretty easy. Put some seeds in a glass jar and cover it with cheesecloth. You don't need too many seeds, just experiment and you'll find the right amount for the jar you're using. Soak the seeds overnight, in the morning pour out the water and rinse them (this is why you need the top covered by cheesecloth). I usually shake the jar up a bit to distribute the seeds evenly up the sides (alfalfa seeds will stick to the sides of the jar). Put the jar in a sunny window. Rinse them well every morning and evening, and after a few days you'll have ready-to-eat sprouts.

You can buy alfalfa seeds and mung beans at just about any bio shop.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 4:38 AM on December 3, 2008

I've got a jar sprouting alfalfa seeds in my kitchen right now. I follow exactly what s_v_o said (above) - my cheesecloth is held on to the jar with a rubberband. There is no smell.

When the sprouts are "done" (have grown enough for me to throw them on a sandwich, which is probably about four or five days), I dump them into a plastic bag and into the fridge, where they last (for me) about a week. Very simple, very tasty.
posted by bibbit at 5:28 AM on December 3, 2008

Cheesecloth? I'd have thought alfasprouts would get caught in the cloth too much. I use a nylon stocking.
posted by Goofyy at 6:55 AM on December 3, 2008

I've sprouted many a sprout, from broccoli to chickpea to lentil to wheat, and never experienced any form of odor. I currently sprout using a hemp bag (hemp is naturally resistant to mildew). I put the soaked seeds into the bag and just keep it warm and damp (the seeds only need warmth, not sun). Similar to the jar method, I open the bag and rinse the seeds twice/three times a day. Then I hang it back up. Once they are the size I want I just put the hemp bag in the fridge. The jar method and I just didn't get along very well, mainly because I have limited counter space and unless I had the jar in front of me on the counter I would forget to give it a rinse.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:08 AM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: Just make sure that you follow the appropriate directions to the t. As a clueless fourth grader I grew some sprouts as part of a Girl Scout project and wasn't totally clear on the idea that we were supposed to actually eat them. I ended up leaving the sprouts in the jar for something like two weeks, and almost certainly wasn't rinsing/draining them appropriately.

The resulting stench was so impressive that almost twenty-five years later, my parents are still referring to the project as "those goddamned sprouts."

You're probably a much better horticulturalist than the average nine-year-old. You'll be fine.
posted by corey flood at 7:13 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just don't grow brussels sprouts in your bedroom and you'll be fine. And yes, as everyone else says, no smell whatsoever.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:16 AM on December 3, 2008

I've sprouted and it has worked out fine. Nice, crunchy sporouts, yum. But then I have also had some mold in my sprouts. I always notice the mold before the science experement stage and just thrown thw whole batch away. I used a sprout grower with three layers of trays that my girlfriend picked up at a yardsale. After trying it it seems like just about anything would work.

I recall that the winter was a better sprouting time and we were more likely to get mold in the summer.
posted by bdc34 at 7:32 AM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: OK, thanks for all the feedback y'all!

Kerasia, I'm really not actually afraid of growing things -- hey, once I cultivated an entire lamb's ear plant that grew like crazy (which that plant is wont to do...but anyway). I am just concerned about generating a moldy smelly mess. From your comments and everyone else's, I've gathered that I won't need to worry about that unless I epically fail at tending to the sprouts.

Sounds like I need to find a mason jar and a stocking!
posted by fantine at 1:47 PM on December 3, 2008

where do you get seeds that are good for sprouting? especially like broccoli sprouts?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 12:13 PM on December 4, 2008

hey, once I cultivated an entire lamb's ear plant that grew like crazy

If you can manage a houseplant, you can grow your own sprouts.

where do you get seeds that are good for sprouting? especially like broccoli sprouts?

I've ordered from and been happy with Sproutman, Sproutpeople, and The Sprout House. I don't know if any deliver to France for fantine. Google can help you find many others. Your local health food store or co-op is another place to ask. Like everyone has said, it's plenty good enough to stick with a mason jar and a stocking, you don't need any of the fancy plastic sprout growing devices these places like to push.
posted by peeedro at 7:52 PM on December 4, 2008

Response by poster: OK, so I've been sprouting happily for a while now -- thanks for all the suggestions and help!
posted by fantine at 12:20 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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