Sprouting Safely: Your Complete Safety Guide To Sprouting Seeds

Sprouting Seeds Video

Eating healthy is easier said than done. From seeking nutritious, all-natural options at the grocery store to finding restaurants that honor your dietary needs, it’s normal to feel frustrated.

So, it’s wise to consider growing your own food at home. Fresh sprouts are a great place to start—they’re both easy to grow and extremely nutritious.

But before you reap a bountiful harvest, it’s crucial you follow a few safety precautions.

To help ensure you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, we put together this complete guide with FAQs on how to grow sprouting seeds safely. Keep reading for safety tips and step-by-step instructions to ensure every batch you grow is safe to eat.

Why Do Sprouts Have a Warning?

Sprouts have a warning because some instances of foodborne illnesses have been traced back to consuming improperly prepared sprouts.

This doesn’t mean eating sprouts is dangerous or unsafe. Many foods we consume daily—including meat, fruits and vegetables—can cause these same issues if handled or prepared incorrectly. In fact, about 1 in 6 Americans becomes sick from a foodborne illness each year. Knowing how to grow seed sprouts safely helps reduce any risk and brings peace of mind.

Basically, sprouts have a warning for the exact reason other food packaging has warnings.  It’s to make sure you’re informed of potential risks that come with improper prep or storage. But just because a food label has a warning doesn’t make it automatically risky to eat.

Now that we’ve separated fact from fiction, let’s cover the FAQs we hear most when it comes to sprouting seeds safely.

In What Ways Can Sprouting Become Harmful?

Sprouting can become harmful because sprouts need a warm, damp climate for ideal growth. These conditions happen to also be ideal for the growth of dangerous bacteria.

But don’t fret—there are several easy ways to minimize risks associated with eating sprouts, whether you grow them yourself or buy them at your local grocery store.

  • Don’t eat smelly or slimy sprouts
  • Keep harvested sprouts in the fridge to minimize bacterial growth
  • Wash your hands before handling sprouts to prevent cross-contamination
  • Thoroughly sanitize your seeds if doing home sprouting

Do You Need To Sanitize Sprouting Seeds?

Yes, the U.S. FDA (and other health-related organizations) says you should soak and sanitize sprouting seeds just before you plant them. Doing so is an important part of the sprouting process and helps reduce possible contamination or health risks.

The easiest way is to mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar with one heaping tablespoon of your sprout seeds in a jar or bowl. Stir together and let them soak for 15 minutes.

Finally, rinse the seeds with cool water until the vinegar smell is gone and you’re ready to plant.

So, How Do You Make Sprouts Safely?

Whether you're focused on growing alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, mung bean sprouts or any other kind of sprout safely—your precautions will look the same. Here are Nature Jim's best tips for staying safe before you start sprouting, while cultivating sprout seeds, and when enjoying your homegrown sprouts.

  • Thoroughly clean sprouting container(s). Before planting, soak your glass container in hot water and a splash of bleach for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly to remove lingering bacteria.
  • Use filtered, bottled or distilled water. Whether you’re soaking or rinsing your sprouting seeds, tap water can introduce contaminants and bacteria. Filtered, bottled or distilled water are much safer options.
  • Watch for standing water. Standing water in your sprouting container offers the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to thrive. Always empty any standing water.
  • Store harvested sprouts in a cool, dry location. Bacteria grows best in warm, damp environments. Keeping harvested sprouts in your fridge will help them stay fresh longer.
  • Dry sprouts after washing. Putting damp, freshly-washed sprouts straight into your fridge means they’ll grow bacteria and spoil faster. Air drying or drying sprouts yourself safely extends their shelf life.
  • Cook sprouts before eating—when it works with your recipe. The CDC recommends cooking sprouts first. Doing so kills any lingering germs or bacteria, which sharply reduces your risk of food poisoning.
  • Eat sprouts soon after harvesting. As with any perishables, even when you follow the above tips, bacteria will eventually grow. Eating your sprouts within a few days of harvesting helps prevent bacteria from growing.

How To Safely Grow Sprouts

When it comes to sprouting how-tos, the most crucial part is ensuring you’re growing sprouts safely. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do just that. All you need is your seeds, a wide-mouth mason jar, sprouting lid, tablespoon and your preferred type of water.

  1. Pick a location. Sprouts do best in a light, airy spot—but not in direct sunlight. Try a window that faces north or a surface out of direct sunlight. Don’t grow your sprouts in a cabinet, as they won’t get enough airflow.
  2. Prep equipment. Before starting, your jar and all other equipment must be thoroughly cleaned. Wash your hands before handling sprouts or sprout seeds, too.
  3. Soak seeds. Follow the sanitization tips above, then soak seeds in water for six to eight hours. Combine three parts water with one part sprouting seeds in your jar. When the time’s up, use your sprouting lid to drain the water, add a little more water and swirl it around, then drain again.
  4. Rinse and repeat. Using your sprout lid and mason jar, rinse and drain your sprouts three to four times per day. You don’t want the sprout seeds to clump up in one place. The more they distribute across the sides of the jar, the better airflow they’ll get. Try placing the jar upside-down on paper towels or at an angle in a bowl.
  5. De-hull and store. Check your package of sprout seeds to find the average time until harvest. Once you’re there, submerge all your sprouts in a bowl of water. Gently push them down and the leftover hulls will float right up. Pour off the water and hulls, drain and dry your sprouts. Now you’re ready to refrigerate them or enjoy immediately!

We hope you’ve found this information helpful and encourage you to try all of the many varieties of delicious and healthy sprouting seeds available.