May 21, 2020 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Talk to me about sprouts, anything you know, anything at all. Recipes, uses, growing, best sprouts, worst sprouts, growing microgreens, anything at all you want to share about growing, using, cooking and eating sprouts.

With all of this indoor time, I've taken to trying to sprout basically anything I can get my hands on and going through my stock of dry goods because it's a way to get cheap fresh greens as well as pass the time and have some structure in my life in these times of pandemic.

So far my biggest success is way too many lentil sprouts. Right now I just put on chickpea, sunflower, more lentils and some mustard seeds in three different growing/sprouting styles.

My biggest fails so far have been navy bean (Bad smell, too long to sprout, needs cooking!), non-sprouting bagged split peas (turned to mush!), and hulled millet. (Not enough hull or germ!)

I'm very interested in microgreens and nice, big, long sprouts and learning how to do standing vertical sprouting like wheatgrass and adzuki as well as microgreens like brocolli and radish, but I'm also interested in easy tangled jars of non-vertical sprouts and any kind or style of growing sprouts.

I have access to lots of clean water and dishes, and I am even interested in taking this to small commercial production scales and talking about hygiene and safety.

I seem to have a knack for this and at worst it's something healthy to do.

In the last 3-4 weeks I've generated pages of notes and have grown something like 15-20 quarts of sprouts, about half of which have ended up as chicken feed and writeoffs as practice because I couldn't eat them fast enough.

Tell me anything you know about sprouts!
posted by loquacious to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
We got a surprise tray of sunflower sprouts a few days ago. I did not know they were a thing. The tray is about the size of a large shoebox and the sprouts are in soil. I cut them down a bit above the soil line and gave them a good rinse. We've been having them in salads and they're delicious.

We've bought pea shoots before, which my boyfriend cooked. They were just OK.
posted by shoesietart at 1:35 AM on May 22, 2020

Soybean sprouts stay crispy in soups. They are common in Korean cooking. Here is a video about sprouting soybeans. This is a good recipe for eating soybean sprouts.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 3:21 AM on May 22, 2020

One of the library books in my "potentially useful" category is Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening. As I remember it is pretty comprehensive and gives instructions for continuous production with minimal investment. Care is required with sprouts, especially in avoiding seeds, like sunflower, that may be intended for animal and not human consumption and also seeds intended for planting that may be treated.
posted by Botanizer at 4:14 AM on May 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

It not the same kind of ‘sprouts’ but you may enjoy resprouting green veggies for another round of greens from what you already ate. Spinach, leaf lettuces, celery, carrot, bok choy, etc: cut a generous stump at the bottom and place in a jar or bowl with water, watch it grow in your window sill. If they start well you can transplant into soil outside for even more growth.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:53 AM on May 22, 2020

FYI sprouting seeds at home is a major cause of food-borne illness. Please be careful, here is an authoritative guide.

I am on record here as being very cavalier with food safety and I eat tons of stuff that MeFites throw out as unsafe, but I am very cautious with sprouts.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:58 AM on May 22, 2020 [13 favorites]

I'm immunocompromised, so I was worried about sprouts and food safety. I decided to try microgreens instead. I'm clearly not as advanced as OP, but I ordered a kit from Hamama after someone on a podcast I listen to raved about them. The kit is supposed to make them very easy to grow. They aren't sponsoring the podcast, so I think it was a genuine recommendation, but I haven't received my kit yet, so I can't personally vouch for them.
posted by FencingGal at 6:23 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I used to do sprouts years ago, but I don't recommend them any more. The conditions to grow sprouts are the exact same temperature, moisture and sun (or lack) that you need to perfectly grow pathogens. I get all the same thrill and better nutrition now from microgreens, which are safer, partly because they grow in soil. Sorry to be a bummer. If you insist on trying, pinto beans, a mason jar and a piece of cheesecloth are a super cheap way to experiment with sprouts. A video on youtube can show you how. Pintos always sprouted well for me, and that wasn't true of other things I tried. There have been several long discussions here on metafilter over the years about how sprouts are dangerous, and they finally convinced me it is true.
posted by seasparrow at 7:21 AM on May 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Did you know you can sprout watermelon seeds? I only just discovered this.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:08 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I made the first comment in this thread but now I realize that my sunflower sprouts are actually sunflower microgreens. For anyone else needing clarification - Microgreens and Sprouts Are Not the Same Thing
posted by shoesietart at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fenugreek makes a delicious sprout (or microgreen) but if you eat too much of it, your sweat will start to smell like caramelizing sugar! Our CSA box had a ton of a mystery microgreen in it for like 3 months last year and every day I was like "WHAT AM I SMELLING EVERYWHERE?" turns out it was me, eating fenugreek sprouts!

Radish is my favourite microgreen - so spicy!

broccoli is apparently the most healthy.

I have sprouted microgreens (and wheatgrass) in coconut coir mats before which worked well. I have also seen people use a clay medium! The cool thing about microgreens is that they don't require any additional nutrients so that's nice.

reddit has a microgreens board that is actually pretty active and has some great info from tiny setups to pretty large home set ups!
posted by euphoria066 at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also recommend Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening by Peter Burke. He grows "soil sprouts" which are basically microgreens but using his techinique.
posted by aniola at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Arugula seeds are VERY inexpensive (like $2 for 1500) so I've been doing microgreens in 2 of those standard aluminum chafing trays - one with holes poked in the bottom over some gravel in the other one without holes. I spread seeds pretty densely. I already own growing lights so they just hang out under the light and get some light watering until they look very crowded and it's time to harvest. I use potting soil and it looks like I can get through at least 2 rounds of greens before exhausting the soil. "Harvesting" can be a little labor intensive, using little snippers to cut close to the soil. Now that they can go outside, I'm thinking of scaling up to about three of them in rotation so there is less down time & using clear lids so critters can't get into them.
posted by Dmenet at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2020

Response by poster: Yeah, the food safety aspect has definitely been a concern going in to this. I'm doing this in a permitted commercial kitchen with all stainless steel or glass tools and quat sanitizing solution and access to plenty of hot water and a triple sink, as well as washing beans/seeds.

I have major reservations about scaling this up to a commercial production. I have a goal in mind for a regular menu item that can be added to the new menu for when this place eventually opens up, but this may end up meaning I talk to a local producer who specializes in sprouts or microgreens instead of growing them in house, because it would be really difficult to do cleanly while the kitchen was in full operation, not to mention temperature and humidity variables being all over the place while running.

Right now I can sanitize the heck out of work surfaces and leave the sprouts alone and I wouldn't be able to do that while it was in operation.

I'm also mainly cooking any sprouts I eat in a variety of ways, either blanched or sauteed, as well as pickling them.

Yes, pickled sprouts! They're amazing and I may have invented something awesome, which is the main focus right now. I made a small test batch a few days ago and it may be one of the best things I've ever made or eaten. A friend said "This is so good it's actually making me kind of mad!" which is a high compliment from a vegan or plant-based commercial cook with experience.
posted by loquacious at 10:10 AM on May 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, I'm curious about any testing methods for salmonella or other pathogens and I'm not sure how they do this in, say, a large hydroponic growing facility.

I'm assuming there's not an easy test and that this would involve culture plates and some kind of regular testing procedure program and ostensibly an on-site lab.
posted by loquacious at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2020

Microgreens really are micro farming. I wouldn't waste precious commercial kitchen space on farming. It definitely raises the humidity levels. And when we tried growing them, any time we left them too long, the ants kept being like, "woooohoooo let's move in!"
posted by aniola at 10:25 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

When we got home fecal coliform tests for our compost toilet (because we wanted to test more often than the more expensive and precise lab test), it was like $35 or $50 (I forget which) for a 10-pack of culture plates.
posted by aniola at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2020

Coliform testing relies on that coliform bacteria express beta-galactosidase which turns an additive in diagnostic media blue (to distinguish between coliform and other bacteria - the incubation temperature is higher than normal to discourage the growth of other non-coliform bacteria.

Salmonella testing kits are available, and rely on growing up the sample a little, then antibodies specific to Salmonella that then stick to the growing salmonella and another detection (usually tagged with a dye) antibody that sticks to the anti-Slmonella-specific antibody, in order to test specifically for Salmonella. Limitations to these assays is that they aren't very sensitive, but they can be done quickly (a day or two).

Oldschool methods is to grind up a representative sample and plate onto XLD media, which is semi-selective for Salmonella - so, useful but far from perfect. Current "old school" relies on multiple semi-selective medias to get a more accurate picture, followed by labourious confirmatory microbiology.

There are molecular (DNA-based) assays that will give you results in a couple of hours but it doesn't distinguish between viable and dead microbes - and you need some fancy equipment.
posted by porpoise at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Random update: I've just finished some larger batches of lentil and chickpea sprouts in about the three to five gallon harvest yield size, and have a couple of experiments of mustard sprouts/greens going onward and making the cutest little fuzzy roots through some mesh trays and other experiments, and, well this keeps coming up in my thoughts:

Microgreens really are micro farming.

Because, yeah, I'm basically farming right now in a kitchen and it's a whole lot of work. There isn't really any way to do this safely in-house at scales that make sense. I need like a whole clean room lab and sprouting room and maybe some irrigation automation and humidity control systems and I know what this looks like from some basic farming and (legal) cannabis growing.

I'm seeing I would need what is effectively an ultra-clean propagation and seeding room or lab with lots of shelving, trays and water infrastructure at a scale that could supply a medium sized working farm with seedlings and sprouts day after day instead of, say, just at the beginning of every planting and growing cycle.

However, I have certainly accomplished my goals of learning some new things, adding some time-based structure and work to my pandemic life as well as producing some fresh, healthy and tasty micro-produce to eat at incredibly low costs and I'll probably keep doing it for personal use, but if I want to add my recipe idea to the menu I should find a local commercial supplier of sprouts and micros.
posted by loquacious at 12:24 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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