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Sprouting Seeds Using Unglazed Clay – It’s Better

Do you remember chia pets?

When I was a kid, chia pets were popular — they were fun to grow. Many decades later, I look at chia pets differently — they are still fun to grow, but now I use the chia sprouts as a nutritious food.

Why sprout

The process of germination not only produces vitamin C but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically–sometimes eightfold. Even more important, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains [and in legumes and seeds] that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. These inhibitors can neutralize our own precious enzymes in the digestive tract… Finally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process…..

According to enzyme specialist Dr. Edward Howell, in the past we ate most of our grains in partially germinated form. Grain standing in sheaves and stacks in open fields often began to sprout before it was brought into storage. Modern farming technique prevent grains from germinating before they reach our tables.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell

There are also benefits we can’t measure yet such as life force (prana, chi, etc.).

Sprouts have more life force energy than mature plants.

For thousands of years, cultures from East to West have included sprouts in their diet — and medicine.

Purchasing spouted grains, lentils, seeds, etc.

Sprouted grains, lentils, seeds, etc. are becoming more common place at the grocery store. Sometimes the convenience of already sprouted is nice. To be honest, sometimes I purchase pre-sprouted, and sometimes I spout myself.

My favorite source for sprouted grains, lentils & seeds is To Your Health Sprouted Flour. Their quality and selection is top-notch. They usually have great sales around the holidays such as Memorial Day and Labor Day. Prices may be less than your local grocer, especially during the sales.

Sprouters

Sprouters I’ve used

Why clay?

  • Sprouts thrive and sprout more fully in clay than most other vessels.
  • Clay is the most similar vessel to sprouting in soil.
  • Sprouts stay hydrated. Excess water can be absorbed by the clay, and when sprouts are in need of water, it can be released from the clay.
  • Sprouts stay well ventilated. Clay is porous and breaths on all sides.
  • Sprouts stay cool. Damp clay is cooling.
  • Misting once a day with water is easier than the typical draining and rinsing of other sprouters.
  • Sprouting tends to be a little faster in clay.
  • Non-toxic.
  • Looks nice.

My favorite sprouting seed sources

Not all seeds are created equal. The quality of the seeds you use to sprout matters as much as the method you use to sprout them.

True Leaf Market

Frontier Co-op or Frontier Wholesale Co-op

Personally some friends and I belong to Frontier Wholesale Co-op. There are significant savings, and it’s not hard to meet the required minimums.

General seed sprouting instructions

How to Sprout Non-Gelatinous Seeds
How to sprout salad seeds (alfalfa, broccoli, mustard, etc.), buckwheat, sesame, sunflower, beans, legumes, grains, & nuts.
To sprout arugula, cress, chia, flax, psyllium, & water cress, see How to Sprout Gelatinous Seeds.
Prep Time10 mins
Soak and sprout time5 d
Total Time5 d 10 mins
Equipment
  • Clay pot, pan or bowl
  • Breathable cover for clay pot, pan or bowl
  • Optional glass bowl – if you are using a cracked clay pot, pan or bowl, you will need a glass bowl for the soaking step
  • Misting bottle
Ingredients
  • 1/4 – 1 cup seeds
  • 6 cups water filtered is best
Instructions
  • If not soaking seeds in a clay pot.
    Soak clay pot in fresh, cold, potable water for 15-30 minutes so it can absorb water. Pour out water.
    Or simply rinse the pot with water – just spray more water in step #8.
  • Rinse seeds to remove any possible bacteria on the hulls/shells.
  • Soak seeds in fresh, cold, potable water.
    Use about a 1:4 ratio of seeds to water. I usually just cover my seeds with several inches of water. The seeds (as well as the clay pot) will uptake water.
    Soaking time varies according to seed type.
    Soak in a clay pot or a glass container.
    Cover with clay lid, cheese cloth, or towel.
    If soaking in a clay pot, you can reduce the soak time by a little.
  • Drain the soaking water from the pot or container.
    This water can be used on your plants, it's very beneficial for them.
  • Give seeds an additional rinse and drain water.
  • Spread soaked seeds on clay.
  • Cover with clay lid, cheese cloth, or towel.
  • Spray seeds with water 1-2 times a day.
    Observe how moist the seeds look, you want them not too wet, and not too dry.
    Continue spraying seeds until desired sprout length is reached.
  • Harvest sprouts.
    The best time to harvest sprouts is when they are at their peak (see charts below).
    To harvest, remove sprouts from the clay vessel.
  • Hull sprouts if necessary.
    Most salad type sprouts need to be hulled. Lentils, hulled sunflowers, peas, and most grains do not need to be hulled.

How to hull sprouts

  • Allow indirect light to reach the sprouts during the last two days of growth.
  • As the leaves open up, most of the hulls will automatically be separated from the sprouts.
  • Wash hulls off before use.
    Fill sink or salad spinner with water.
    Place sprouts in water. The hulls will rise to the surface and the sprouts will sink to the bottom.
    Scoop the hulls from the surface and discard.
    Stain off the water from the hulled sprouts.

How to sprout gelatinous seeds

Arugula, cress, chia, flax, hemp, psyllium, water cress

Gelatinous seeds form a gel-like sac around the seed in the presence of water. They get gooey, hard to manage and will not sprout using conventional methods. No soaking, just keep them humid.

Materials

  • Seeds
  • Clay pot, pan or bowl
  • Breathable cover for clay pot, pan or bowl
  • Misting bottle
  • Water – filtered is best

Directions

  1. Soak clay in fresh, cold, potable water for 15-30 minutes so it can absorb water.
  2. Sprinkle the dry seeds on the tray. There should be space between seeds to allow them to spread while growing.
  3. Spray water on the tray to moisten the seeds.
  4. Cover with clay lid, cheese cloth, or towel.
  5. Spray seeds with water 1-2 times a day.
    • Observe how moist the seeds look, you want them not too wet, and not too dry.
    • Continue spraying seeds until desired sprout length is reached.
  6. Once seeds have the first two little leaves, they are ready to eat. If the leaves are yellow, uncover and put clay in indirect sunlight so the sprouts can produce chlorophyll and turn green.

Sprouting tips

Seeds

  • Use untreated, fresh, whole seeds.
  • Keep seeds in cool dry place. Refrigerate or freeze nuts and sunflower seeds.
  • Broken or chipped seeds will not sprout.
  • If you are using a mix that contains a small percentage of gelatinous seeds, you can sprout the mix using the non-gelatinous method.

Soaking

  • Soaking is critical. Undersoak and a seed won’t grow. Oversoak and the seed will ferment – and smell.
  • For a cleaner seed mass, once you drain the soaking water, refill with water and drain again.

Sprouting vessel

  • All MEC pots, pans and bowls work nice for sprouting. For a small amount of sprouts, use a bowl. The lid for the small pot will work on the bowl, although not perfectly. For gelatinous sprouts, the large surface area of the pan is nice.
  • If your pot doesn’t have a lid, just cover it with slightly damp cheesecloth or a towel.
  • Be sure to clean (and thoroughly dry) the clay pot/pan/bowl after each use. When possible, I like to put my clay pot in the sun for a few hours.
  • If you want, raise the pot so that air can come in from all sides. You can use a trivet, three stones, etc.

Wintertime tips to speed sprouting process

  • Soak seeds in warm water.
  • Sprout with the clay in the oven with the light on.

Common sprouting problems

  • The seeds weren’t rinsed well enough before soaking. Rinsing removes bacteria present on the hulls/shells.
  • The seeds lacked oxygen and developed mold. This shouldn’t be an issue with clay.
  • The temperature in the room where you are sprouting is either too high or too low.
  • The container you used was not clean and had bacteria of some kind.
  • The seeds weren’t truly raw.
  • The seeds were too old.

Avoid eating sprouts that that have visible mold growing.

Sprouting details for specific seeds

Salad type leafy sprouts

Tips

  • You can get many sprouting seeds for free in your garden. Just let some plants go to seed and harvest the seeds.
  • Salad sprouts can contain a good source of chlorophyll. If sprouts are the desired length, and yellow, then removed the cover and place near indirect window light and they will green up in a few hours.
  • Eat as they grow.
  • Once salad spouts reach their true leaf stage, they shed their hulls.
  • A salad spinner is helpful to separate the seeds from hulls.

Uses

  • Add to salads, sandwiches & omelets.
  • Top on soups and stews.
ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (days)Notes
alfalfa6-81/436-96Some would say these must be steamed.
broccoli1/4
cabbage1/4
clover, red4-61/4½”-1 ½”4-5
fenugreek81/2½”-1″3-5Pungent flavor
kale1/4
mustard4-61/41″4-5
perilla (shiso)1/4Annual which self seeds and it’s easy to harvest it’s seeds.
Usually friends are happy to give you a plant.
radish1/4
turnip1/4

Pictures of mustard sprouting

Day 1

Day 2

Pictures of fenugreek sprouting

Mics. seeds

Tips

Uses

  • Use to make salad dressing, sprout loaves, yogurts, cheeses, desserts, snacks, and beverages.
  • Grind and add to shakes & energy bars.
  • Sunflower sprouts with avocado and salsa.
  • Sprouted buckwheat on waffles.
ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (days)Notes
buckwheat (hulled)½-1½”-1″1-2Look for a raw buckwheat groats – this is another name for hulled, buckwheat.
Unhulled buckwheat is too chewy for most people’s tastes. It can be grown into microgreens.
Avoid roasted or toasted buckwheat.
After soak, rinse thoroughly to get all of the starchy residue (thick, syrupy type liquid). Needs more rinsing than other seeds.
Use before they go green.
Can dehydrate sprouted buckwheat.
Can grind dehydrated sprouted buckwheat into flour.
corn1211/2″2-3Use sweet corn.
pumpkin (hulled)Best eaten within 24 hours of sprouting.
sesame (unhulled)1-210″1-2Acquires a bitter taste if overgrown.
Tastes best with no root or root just budding out.
Use within 48 hours or freeze.
squash
sunflower (hulled)1-221-2For best flavor use short sprout cycle & refrigerate.
Use within 48 hours or freeze.
rice, black93-5
rice, wild93-5

Beans and legumes

Tips
With beans and lentils, sometimes you will want to simple soak them, other times you will want to sprout them. If you sprout them with a tail longer than 1/4″, you will notice a change of flavor between sprouted and unsprouted.

Large beans sprout better in cooler temperatures. Keep sprouting beans around 68-70°F, if possible.

Large beans may not get enough air during draining.

  • A thin layer of beans gets more air than a thick pile of beans.
  • If beans are overly wet, their air (oxygen) is reduced.

It is normal for the skins to loosen and come off the beans. Either pick the skins out or leave them in – they will not affect the flavor.

Seeds are sometimes dusty and might contain pebbles which need discarding.

Uses

Beans & peas, unlike lentils, required cooking before eating. See See How to Cook with Sprouted Beans.

  • Puree with tahini, lemon juice, etc, to make a raw hummus.
  • Stir-fry with diced vegetables, garlic and cumin to eat with rice.
  • Sprouted lentils on potato salad.
  • Use in baked goods recipes as you would nuts and seeds.
  • As a salad topping, or as a salad itself.
  • Add to your favorite soup.
  • Add mung beans to yogurt with pinch of salt, squeeze of lemon, paprika & cilantro; finely chopped onions (optional)
ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (days)Notes
adzuki beans8-1214
black beans8-121/4″3One of the more difficult beans to sprout.
Sprouts can be considered done if only 50% of them have sprouted.
black eye beans (cow peas)
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)8-1211/2″-3/4″3-4
lentils (brown, green, red, black, french green)½3/4″-1″2-3Good for beginners.
mung beans12-24½½”-1 ½”2-5Grow in dark.
Baby mung bean length: ½” – 1″.
Baby mung has more nutrients & longer storage life than longer sprouts.
For longer, fatter sprouts (preferred by some), continue to grow under pressure (e.g. invert lid). Longer gets a little bit more bitter and soggy
navy beans9-122-3
green peas (dried)9-122-4Green peas sprout better in cooler temperatures. Keep sprouting beans around 68-70°F, if possible.
It is normal for the skins to loosen and come off the peas during sprouting. Either pick the skins out or leave them in, as they do not affect the flavor.
Sprouted green peas require cooking before consuming.
Dried green peas sprout into amazing fresh-tasting sprouts and can be added to any recipe calling for green peas.
pinto beans
red kidney beans8-125-7It’s not recommended to sprout red kidney beans as they contain a very toxic lectin called phytohaemagglutinin.
soy beans½
white beans82-3
ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (days)Notes

Pictures of mung beans sprouting

Pictures of dried green peas sprouting

Tips

Uses

We must warn against overconsumption of raw sprouted grains as raw sprouts contain irritating substances that keep animals from eating the tender shoots. These substances are neutralized in cooking. Sprouted grains should usually be eaten lightly steamed or added to soups and casseroles.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell
  • Cooking
    • Use them as would un-sprouted grains in any of your favorite recipes or as a bed for vegetable dishes.
    • Most sprouted grains only need a 1:1 water/broth ratio to be cooked through because they are already plumped with water.
    • Sprouted grains cook a bit faster than unsprouted grains.
  • Baking
    • Sprouted grains can be used in baking. However, it’s not a simple substitution. You need a recipe specific to sprouted grains.
  • Dehydrating
    • Use a food dehydrator at no higher than 115º F for 12 to 24 hours, and store in sealed glass containers in the fridge.
    • If grains are not completely dry, they will develop mold.

Grains

ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (hours)Notes
amaranth81-3 (days)
barley2-44-18
kamut
millet (unhulled)2-411/4″4-18
oat (hulled)2-411/4″-1/2″4-18 hours/2-3 days
quinoa
rye11/4″-1/2″2-3
spelt
triticale11/4″-1/2″2-3A grain hybrid like wheat.
wheat711/4″-1/2″3-4 (days)Try short and long.

Nuts

ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (hours)Notes
almond8-12100-18No sprouting (if pasteurized) 3 days (if truly raw)
For easiest digestion, the skins of the almonds can be easily removed after sprouting – just squeeze the almond between two finger and the skin will pop off.
brazil8-120-18No sprouting
cashewNo sprouting
filbert (hazelnuts)8-120-18No sprouting
peanut8-120-24
pecan2-40-8No sprouting
pineNormally don’t need to be sprouted unless the recipe tells you to do so
pistachios8No sprouting
macadamia2No sprouting. Normally don’t need to be sprouted unless the recipe tells you to do so
walnut2-40-8No sprouting

Gelatinous seeds

Tips

  • Sprouts will be about 1/2″-3/4″ high when they’re ready.

Uses

ExamplesSoak (hours)Dry Measure (cups)Length at HarvestSprout Time (days)Notes
arugulaN/A
cressN/A
chiaN/A5-71 Tablespoon of seeds = 2 cups of sprouts
Spread thin layer in the clay vessel.
Sprouting starts in ~24 hours.
Can be grown as a microgreen and eaten.
flaxN/A1/2″?3-4 (roots)
5-14 (green leaves)
No sprouting
Spread thin layer in the clay vessel.
hempN/A
psylliumN/A
water cressN/A1/41/2″4-5

Pictures of chia sprouting

Sprout storage

  • Sprouts are best eaten ASAP.
  • Sprouts which are not hulled before storage, tend to go bad.
  • Sprouts can be stored in the refrigerator.
    • Sprouts should be dry – do not spray water on them in the previous 4-8 hours to storing them.
    • Sprouts can be stored in a clay pot, or in a loosely covered glass jar.
    • Sprouts store about 7-10 days in the refrigerator.
    • Sprouts will continue to grow in the refrigerator – at a very slow rate.
  • Most sprouts can be frozen. Sprouts which can not be frozen
    • Lentils
    • Mung beans
    • All salad type leafy sprouts
  • All sprouts, except salad sprouts, can be dehydrated.

References & resources

The Sprouting Book by Ann Wigmore – available free on-line

Cultures for Health

Sprout People

I would love to hear from you.
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Cynthia Bliss
Cynthia Bliss
3 months ago

So where can I get a reasonably price clay pot to use for sprouts?

Cynthia Bliss
Cynthia Bliss
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally

I’ve been sprouting for many years. I wanted to try mustard seeds but the have a gelatinous coating and do not sprout in the regular way.. I usually use a general sprout mix. And I just got a 1lb bag of radish seeds and I’m sprouting some of them on my kitchen table in an old mayonnaise jar. I tried broccoli seeds ,but didn’t have much luck. Any idea on the mustard seeds? Where do you get your seeds from? Where do you keep your seeds? And how long do you keep them? I guess from ALL THE QUESTIONS that… Read more »