Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sprouting 101 for Survival (and Poultry Feed!)

Boy, am I glad to be back and posting after that really annoying pneumonia thing. I'm finally at about 99% of my normal chipper self. I have to use an inhaler some evenings because I start wheezing right before bedtime, but other than that, I'm good. :)

Back to your regularly scheduled blog.

"Wanted! A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation and can be cooked with little fuel and as quickly as a ... chop."

Dr.  Clive M. McCay
Professor of Nutrition, Cornell University

Dr. Mccay wrote these words during World War II, a time when our nation was desperate to find ways to provide sustenance for both our boys overseas and the home front. His experiments found that if you take soybeans and sprout them, their vitamin content increases dramatically. Vitamin A increased 300% compared to the unsprouted seeds, Vitamin C a whopping 500-600%. Best of all, sprouting was quick and easy to do, requiring far fewer inputs than traditional farming.

Sprouts are an extremely valuable addition to your food storage. Sprouting seeds take up very little space and yet can yield a large volume of fresh food. According to this article, one pound of alfalfa seeds can yield between 10-14 pounds of sprouts. In addition to their large amounts of vitamins, Alfalfa sprouts are about 4% protein. Many of us store large amounts of powdered milk to help meet our protein needs and yet milk is only 3.3% protein. And can you imagine how wonderful those fresh greens would taste to a palate that was subsisting on canned and stored  foods?

Types of sprouts

I keep mentioning alfalfa sprouts, simply because that is the sprout that many of us are familiar with. There is a whole world of sprouts out there beyond alfalfa, however, and a variety of textures and tastes. There are literally one hundred different types of seeds that people sprout and all have their fans and detractors. Some sprouts are bold and spicy, others are mild. Before you buy mass quantities of sprouting seeds, you might consider purchasing a variety pack of seeds and seeing what type you and your family enjoy. This is a pretty good sampler that will give you an idea as to what your taste in sprouts is.

Storage of sprouting seeds

According to the website, if you store your sprouting seeds at 55-70 degrees and at 70% or less humidity, they will have anywhere from a 1-5 year shelf life, depending on the type of seed. Alfalfa lasts 4 years,  most beans will last 5 years, and grains last between 2-3 years. Check out this helpful page for a complete listing of sprouting seed shelf lives.

That's not very long in the grand scheme of food storage, is it? The good news is that if you freeze your seeds, shelf life will be increased around four to five times. My plan is to stock up on sprouting seeds and store them in hard plastic containers in the freezer. As their date of expiration approaches, I will sprout them and either eat them myself or feed them to my poultry. Sprouts make Grade A poultry food, which is a big bonus to me since our poultry operation continues to expand! (I'm now up to 29 hungry chickens, turkeys, and ducks, though that number will change soon when we butcher our first turkey. Stay tuned for that blog post, unless you are squeamish or an animal rights activist.)

How to sprout seeds for eating

If you have a brown thumb when it comes to gardening, have no worries. Sprouting is incredibly easy! Add a little water and the seeds do most of the work. You will need a container that will hold the seeds and allow you to rinse the seeds and let the water drain out. For just a few dollars, you can purchase a sprouting strainer lid that will fit on the top of a canning jar you probably already have. You can also buy a bit more elaborate setup that will make your job even easier.

I bought the Victorio VKP1014 4-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter.

The Victorio VKP1014 4-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter

It consists of four growing trays that nest on top of each other. It is really compact and doesn't take up a whole lot of counter space.

Each tray has little grooves in it that help channel the water

The kit came with a small packet of alfalfa seeds. It only takes 1/2 tablespoon of seeds per tray. You can stagger your harvest of sprouts by planting the trays on consecutive days.

The water drains through each tray and collects in the bottom reservoir 

All you have to do is pour 2 cups of water into the top tray 2-3 times per day. The water drains through the trays and keeps the seeds optimally moist for germination. It didn't take long before my seeds started sprouting.

Day One

Day Two. They look a little alarming at this stage! 

Day Three

Day Four

I only allowed my sprouts to grow for four days before I harvested them. They were delicious, far more crunchy and delicate in flavor than store-bought sprouts. I cannot emphasize enough how EASY this is. If you are a gardening drop-out, or if you live in a place where you can't have an outdoor garden, you should definitely try sprouting.

My next experiment in sprouting is growing wheat grass for my poultry. My birds enjoyed massive amounts of greens and produce from my garden this summer, but now that the first frost has occurred my garden is pretty much dead. Enter sprouts! My goal is to sprout enough greens so that my chickens and ducks can have fresh greenery every day.  

Soaking the wheat

I took 1/2 cup of wheat from the supply that I grind for our bread. If you are sprouting grains only for livestock, it would certainly be cheaper to buy feed-quality whole grains from a feed store or co-op, but this is what I had on hand. Large seeds like wheat must be soaked for 8-12 hours before you start sprouting them.

After eight hours had elapsed, I drained the wheat, divided it among the four trays of my sprouter, and watered it as described above.

Wheat Day 1: Can you see it beginning to germinate?

It wasn't long before tiny little wheat roots began to be visible. The usual method is to start wheat off in a sprouter and then to plant the sprouted seeds in some sort of planting medium. I like the convenience of my sprouter so much that I am going to see what kind of results I get from keeping them there. I'll keep you posted.  :)


Any other sprouters out there? What kind of sprouting seeds do you keep as part of your food storage? 


  1. Welcome Back!! I was excited to see this post about sprouting. My hubby and I have been talking about trying this is on our 'To Learn' list for this winter. I look forward to hearing how it works out for you!

  2. I have ducks and geese that would love to have fresh greens in the winter! Thanks so much for posting on this. I am excited to see what you come up with.

  3. I think I had sprouts once in a pho soup at a restaurant. I've always been interesting in eating them, but I wouldn't have any idea where to start. I'll check out that sprout link you mentioned in the post. Very interesting blog, thanks for sharing!

  4. Here are the sprouters I made (the small one cost less than a dollar):