Wake Your Seeds Up!
Dry seeds are dormant.
Soaking a seed ends it's dormancy and begins a new life.
In nature this seed will make a plant which can, in turn make seeds, which can in turn make more plants, which can make More Seeds which make More plants and more and More and MORE!
We eat all this potential. Its no wonder sprouts are SO nutritious!
Different seeds soak up different amounts of water.
Mix 2-3 parts water to 1 part seed.
The seeds are going to absorb a lot of water while soaking. All that matters is that we provide enough of it. As a rule 2-3 TIMES AS MUCH water (as seeds) is enough, but you can not use too much - the seeds will only absorb what they can regardless of what they have access too. But don't short them or they won't sprout well.
You can not use too much water, but you can soak for too long.
Read the seed information pages for the seeds you are sprouting.
Mix your Seeds up
With small seeds in particular, it is important to mix up your seeds to assure even water contact. We use our hands or a nice wooden spoon or something - to stir the seeds around, or, if we're using an Easy Sprout we will repeatedly twirl and plunge the Growing Vessel into the partially full of water Solid Base.
Seeds like Alfalfa, Clover and Broccoli can be covered with water but still fail to soak any up - in the same way that a spoon full of Nestle's Quick plunged into a glass of milk will remain dry. If you Prep your Seeds before Soaking you will likely not suffer the "Nestle's Quick syndrome" since your seeds will already be thoroughly wet.
How Long is Long Enough?
A few seeds do not Soak at all and though most do, they Soak for varying duration's. The norm is 8-12 hours, but some soak for only 20 minutes, some occasionally soak in warm or hot water and for more or less time - Check the seed information pages for the seeds you are sprouting.
After your Soak is over
Skim off any non-seeds that are floating on the water*.
Run your finger tips over any floating seeds to see if they will sink.
Skim or pour off any seeds or non-seeds remaining afloat.
Proceed to the next step: Rinsing
Tricks & Trouble
Don't even read this until you have a sense of how sprouts work, and a tolerance for my rambling! This section may be edited in some distant future =:-}
There are some tricks you can use - like soaking in hot water, to shorten the time of the soak or to make seeds - which aren't soaking up water well - soak it up. Warm water can shorten the time it takes for a seed to finish Soaking. A warm spot in the house can speed up your crop while a cold spot can slow it down. You can Green sprouts outside in freezing weather if you make a tiny portable greenhouse.......... There are a whole lot of ways to make trouble for you and your crop. We will discuss a couple now and will improve this area as time permits. Really - you should just stop reading this page NOW.
Hot water can cook seeds if used incorrectly or it can make a "hard seed" sprout by convincing it to soak up water. If you are curious about these tricks read on.
We stock about 100 varieties of sprouting seed all the time. Every year we test crops from multiple farmers and seed dealers to find the seeds that sprout best, taste best and store best. But there are some crop years when it is impossible to find the quality we are looking for in a given seed. Fortunately since our seeds come from all over the planet it is usually just a problem with a few seeds a year. Certain seeds are more prone to difficulties than others but even the most easily grown crops can suffer. It really boils down to weather and farm location and as we all know, every year is different everywhere. We have found, over the years, that the crops that tend to have idiosyncrasies most often are: Adzuki Beans, Mung Beans, and Broccoli. So we'll use them as examples of how to use Soaking to make them better than they may want to be.
In the case of Adzukis, Mungs and sometimes, though less frequently Broccoli; there is many a lot that has hard seed. We deal with that by using warmer water. The worst case we ever had was Adzukis back in 1995. Those seeds were so difficult that we would soak them with an initial water temperature of 120° (the water cools as time passes) in an effort to convince the beans to take up water. It worked. That same year we had Mungs that we had to start at 100°! Maybe the year we had to soak our Adzukis for 36 hours (changing the water every 12 hours of course) was the worst...... Luckily we haven't had any seed so demanding in several years. Our last hard seed problem was with our 1998 Broccoli crop which required an initial temperature of 100° but which couldn't soak for more than 1 1/2 hours. If we soaked longer the seed would fail to produce edible sprouts. Hard seed is really only serious in the case of Beans. A hard Bean is as hard as a rock and can break a tooth if you're unlucky. When the hard seed is a small seed like Broccoli the problem is simpler - you aren't likely to break a tooth - the crop is just low yielding. Still even that is unacceptable. Though all of our seeds are currently (September, 2001) without any problems, we are always careful - especially with Mungs and Adzukis.
Time passes, yet text remains unchanged.....
WOW - 2001! As I write today it is August 6, 2010. We haven't had a hard seed problem with Broccoli since those in 1998, Mung Beans have been similarly hard seed free for the past many years, but that's because we test and test until we find crops which are so. Same with Adzuki Beans - it takes time and testing to find a lot without hard seed, but it has been our good fortune to do so consistently. The one that causes us extra work of late is Black Lentils. They'll probably be ancient history the next time I edit this page =;-)
Adzuki Beans will pale somewhat as they swell with water. Before you end your soak, check them: If you see that on some of your beans, part of the bean (one end usually) is still as dark as it was before soaking, they need a little more time to soak - to make sure they have taken up all the water they need.
For that reason we generally soak Adzukis for 12 hours.
Adzukis also tend to have more hard seed than other seed types. If you buy your seed from us this is not a concern, but if you buy Adzuki or other seeds elsewhere be sure to examine them after soaking to make sure there are no hard seeds (seeds that are as hard after soaking as before) lurking at the bottom. If there are - throw those (the hard ones) out! They are easy to spot as they are smaller and darker red than those that are swollen with water.
There are some times when we just need to rush things a bit. We will use warmer water and decrease the Soak's duration. As previously mentioned this is risky. As an example, if you soak Lentils in 100° water (initial temperature) they will be done soaking in just a couple hours. The rule of thumb is that if you use warm water - and even more so when you use hot water - you need to physically touch your seeds to see when they have softened. It would be wise to try warm/hot soaks only after you have enough experience to know what a correctly soaked seed feels like.
* As a rule, real sprouting seeds (those grown by farmers for, or supplied by dealers to the sprout industry) have gone through an amazingly complete cleaning process and rarely will you find anything other than high germinating seeds, but despite the best efforts of cleaning screens, gravity tables and the rest; non-seeds and similarly sized weed seeds, small rocks or bits of soil can get through (This is farming after all - we have to accept certain realities.) - they just feel and weigh too much the same as the seed being cleaned to be recognized by the equipment. So you really should inspect your seeds a bit - whether you do so before you begin or after you harvest your crop.
Sprouting seeds should vary from other seeds in several ways. They should have a high germination rate. They should have been cleaned beyond the level of seeds not sold to the sprout industry. They should have been tested for pathogens. These are all true in the case of the seed we sell. It is not likely so with seeds and beans you buy off the shelf at a store. Those seeds are often intended for cooking and need not be subjected to the additional processes and expense! That is why we tell people to buy seed from a source they trust. Do not be stopped from sprouting if your store bought seeds don't sprout! Lentils sold for soup may have been stored poorly for a long time - if you are cooking them it hardly matters. They may sprout just fine, but if they don't, then buy some that you know are fresh and clean and intended for sprouting! Buy from someone who is selling SPROUTING SEED! Someone you Trust!
All of the seed we sell has been tested by our suppliers and is certified free of pathogens.
Nowadays the conventional (non-organic) sprout industry demands that all seeds not only be washed but also soaked in a toxic bleach solution (equivalent to 1 part household bleach to 1 part water) to make the seeds "safe". As you probably know, if you're this far into our site, we have quite a different opinion. It is - in our opinion - hardly worth eating sprouts if you feel the need to bleach them. Bleach kills the good bacteria which we are, as mammals, dependent upon, bleach is a dioxin which does not break down in nature and so pollutes the planet and if that isn't enough - it is a known carcinogen.
Go look at our information on sprout safety if you have any questions.
We will always tell you if the seed we sell requires any unusual treatment - like a warm or hot Soak. You should always follow the instructions of the people who you get your seed from - they should know if anything special is necessary to get the seeds to sprout well. Despite the best of intentions, many Sprouting Device manufacturers offer instructions which can spoil your crop. They may know their Sprouters but they don't know the seed you get from us! So - ALWAYS FOLLOW OUR DIRECTIONS unless you know better!
The Basics of Sprouting:
- Seed Storage: Keeping your dormant seeds happy.
- Soaking: Turning a dormant seed into a nutritional powerhouse.
- Rinsing: Water is the key ingredient in sprouts. Use it liberally.
- Draining: It is essential that sprouts be drained thoroughly after rinsing. Sitting in a puddle is the most common cause of crop failure.
- Air Circulation: If your sprouts can’t breathe while growing - they can die. Don’t put them in a closed cabinet.
- Greening: Photosynthesis is cool, and so is Chlorophyll, but not all sprouts are into it, nor is it necessary. Sprouts of all colors are packed with flavor and nutrition!
- Cleanliness: Your seed should be clean and your sprouting device should be sterile. Wash your sprouter well between crops. Sterilize when necessary.
- Storage: Properly stored, fresh sprouts will keep for up to 6 weeks in your refrigerator but fresher is better. Never refrigerate wet sprouts.
- Eat More Sprouts! Grow More Often!