Gardening: Warm up for the planting season by growing sprouts

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

This cold weather is giving me the itch to do some seed starting. Especially since I’ve chosen to pretty much shelter in place until the recent COVID-19 outbreak dies down. But it’s way too early to start seeds for the garden, so seed sprouting is a great way to fill the void.

Fresh sprouts can be used in a variety of ways, including salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, soups and omelets, and it’s a great way to grow fresh and nutritious vegetable crops indoors with no fuss and no mess. Yet it doesn’t take up a lot of space or time and you can grow an edible crop in a short period, usually about five days.

Although alfalfa and mung beans are the most common seeds used for sprouting, there’s a huge  array of vegetables to choose from, including radish, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, mustards  and a variety of mixes.  Seeds are available at independent garden centers such as English Gardens and Bordines or you can buy them online.  Botanical Interests  seeds (, available in stores and online, has some interesting mixes.

The best part of sprouting is all you need to get started is a 1-quart wide-mouth glass jar, some cheesecloth, a large rubber band and some seeds.

For a pictorial on how to grow sprouts, go to  Pass the Plants online at ( They also show you how to de-hull the sprouts. I don’t bother with this process as they are tasteless, and I think they add roughage. If you like to watch videos, go to how to grow sprouts on YouTube. 

While some folks like to buy the best of tools, all you need to begin sprouting is a wide-mouth mason jar, some cheese cloth or tulle, a rubber band, water and seeds.

Begin by soaking the seeds in water for eight hours or overnight.  Then drain off the water and inspect the seeds, picking out any that are broken or have failed to swell. Next, put the seeds back in the jar and fill it with fresh water. Swish the seeds around in the water. Cover the jar opening with the cheesecloth or tulle and secure it with a rubber band. Then  turn the jar upside-down and drain off the water. Put the jar in a bowl, upside-down at a 45-degree angle, and place it in a cupboard or under a cabinet so it’s out of direct light.

Daily rinsing is the key to success, and most books recommend twice a day when growing. When storing sprouted seeds in the refrigerator, rinsing once a day keeps them fresh for a few days.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at