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Sprouts and Sprouting FAQS

By Tina Rappaport - 02/08/07


Although wheatgrass is normally grown in open fields and during the 1960s was grown indoors using 1-2 inches of soil, grass can grow without soil. During the 1980's, one of the largest wheatgrass clinics in the world, grew their wheatgrass exclusively without soil. The Freshlife Automatic Sprouter allows the addition of additives to the water such as liquid seaweed fertilizer.


Wheatgrass is a green vegetable. Wheat is a grain. The grain has gluten, the grass does not. Green vegetables do not contain gluten. Although grass was germinated from grain, it undergoes a complete transformation into a vegetable.


The sprout bag and the Freshlife Sprouters can both grow any seed. But some seeds prefer light. These are the ones to grow in the Automatic Sprouter. They include buckwheat, radish, cabbage, broccoli, chives, alfalfa, clover, pea shoots, sunflower. These sprouts all develop green leaves. The sprout bag is ideal for growing bean sprouts which do not develop greens, such as garbanzo, lentils, all grain sprouts, pea sprouts.


Being organically grown does not make seeds automatically good for sprouting. While we spend quite a bit of time sourcing organic seeds, we still test every batch to find the varieties that are the best sprouters. Organic certification only indicates the growing methods used by the farmer. It does not indicate a seed's germination, rate of growth, size, taste, color, or sproutability. We test for these attributes which are important to the sprout consumer.


I first invented the basket sprouter in 1977, but over these 20+ years, the weaving of the bamboo baskets in China has had many problems. Since they are made by hand, there were numerous "quality control" issues that forced us to discard 3-4 out of every 10 baskets. This was mostly because the spaces between the weaves were too open and the seeds would run right through them, losing thousands of good sprouting seeds. Many baskets would also unravel after a few uses and the use of fumigants such as ethylene gas became too difficult for us to circumvent. After many years of frustration, it became economically unfeasible for us to continue providing these baskets.


All our seeds have been diligently spot tested for Salmonella and E-coli with special equipment Every sack of seed has a 25 gram sample drawn and tested. While this is not a fool-proof guarantee, it has a 99% potential to catch contaminated seed. Since the salmonella scares of the late 1990's, all the different players in the seed industry have set in place safeguards and sprouts today are arguably the safest fresh food in the marketplace. Keep in mind, there are 8 million cases of food borne poisoning in the USA each year. In the sprout industry, there have been 1639 cases----not in one year, but over the entire 40 year history of the commercial sprout industry. In addition, it may be of some comfort to know that there has never been a case of salmonella from home-grown sprouts.


Decontamination of seed is an optional procedure, but in the Automatic Sprouter, it is too easy to pass up. Just add a few drops of grapefruit seed extract to the reservoir.


Does your Automatic Sprouter use dirty, recycled water?

No, but it is true that this was also my first concern. In theory, it would seem to be true, but in practice, it is a non-issue. Here's why. We change the water once per day in this machine which keeps it plenty clean, plus the machine is constantly aerating the water which how reservoirs and ozonators naturally clean water. In the Freshlife, dirty water is very visible, so it is an instant reminder signalling you to change it. If this were the case, Freshlife users would see mold, mildew and we'd get lots of returns. But this is definitely not the case. In fact, the Freshlife has become the #1 selling sprouter in the world (now in 16 countries). That success could not be accomplished with a machine producing dirty, moldy water.


I like Quinoa as a grain. It is a great nutritional seed. But I do not promote it as a sprout for three reasons: 1) It is hard to acquire the right form of the unhulled seed. Health food stores don't sell it. 2) If you are willing to invest the time to track down the right seed, often the germination is too low for successful sprouts. That leads to potential mold and rot problems, which I consider unsafe in the raw state. 3) Lastly, the sprout from 3 day old Qunioa is a relatively insignificant shoot. Not a lot of food or flavor. If you do grow it for 7 days it turns into a red grass which too chewy to eat. This grain is ready to eat with only very light cooking. I feel that this is the most practical way to include the benefits of quinoa in your diet.


Flaxseed sprouts are very high in oxalic acid (which binds calcium) and because of that, they have an extremely bitter taste. If that wasn't discouragement enough, they are also gelatinous, which makes them hard to manage for most home sprouters. Also, one of the main benefits of flax, its soft fiber, which is great for soothing and cleansing the intestinal wall, disappears during germination.


Unfortunately, "organically grown" only defines a method of agriculture. It does not guarantee good sprouts. For that, you need to test your seed. There is no shortcut around this. The best sprouting seeds out there can be bought by companies who are in the sprouting business. They (hopefully) are using the seed they sell. That is usually insurance that you are buying good seed. To test seed yourself.....

1) Sprout the seed in a sprout bag for 3 days.

2) After 3 days, spread the seeds out on a towel and look at how many have sprouted.

3) If virtually all seeds have visible shoots and roots, then the seed is good. If many seeds do not, then this is a bad crop of seed that will generate mold upon sprouting.

It is also possible that this was once a good crop of seeds that was improperly stored or is just too old.


Seeds need to be kept cool and dry. Steady temperature control is better than large swings of seasonal high and low temps. But some seeds lose germination more than others even under the best of conditions. So unless you are preparing for an around the world boat trip, I recommend you only buy enough seeds to last you a few months at a time. Most seeds that you have purchased within the past year are likely to be good. Although you may have heard that some seeds such as alfalfa can last for many years, that is only true under the best of storage conditions. Moisture, air (oxidation), heat, and light are the enemies of seed.

When you receive your seeds, remove them from their package and store them in a sealed jar. Make sure there is a rubber gasket to create a perfect seal inside the lid. Keep moisture out at all costs. Store that jar in a dark, cool place. Refrigerator? Yes, if you have space, but beware of moisture in the refrigerator. Only some seeds benefit from refrigeration and only in the hottest and most humid climates. So refrigeration is not required. Freezing seeds is okay for some seeds but not for all.