In her dayjob, Anniken is a researched and advisor for Organic Farming at NORSØK (The Norwegian Center for Organic Farming). This article is directly translated and cited from agropub.no.
Sprouts are very nutritious. They are packed with important vitamins and minerals and are good for digestion. Growing sprouts is easy and takes up little space and requires little equipment.
Choice of equipment
Germination requires little equipment - only one germination unit, seeds and water. You can use small or large sprout boxes, sprout glasses, sprout bags or sprout bowls. If you want to germinate several seed layers at the same time and want to have them separated, a germination box may be a good idea. Then different seeds can be grown on different shelves. Germination bags can be used for large seeds such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Gelling seeds should be grown in a germination bowl or germination box. These are seeds that form a gel layer on the outside of the shell when they are soaked. They they can withstand very little water, which makes it extra important with good drainage. Examples of gelling seeds are chia, flaxseed, arugula, mustard seeds and cress.
Selection of seeds
It is recommended to choose seeds that are intended for germination. In order to be able to sell such seeds, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority requires several certificates for bacteria checks, purity checks etc. When using organic seeds, it is ensured that the seeds have not been treated with chemical pesticides and that they come from an organically grown mother plant.
Some seeds are easier to germinate than others. Feel free to start with the simple seed types:
- Mung beans
- Finished germ mixes
The seeds should be stored cold, dry and airtight to maintain the best possible germination.
All seeds that are to germinate must be soaked first. Put the dry seeds in a bowl or similar, and add plenty of water. The seeds expand a lot during soaking, so make sure you have enough water and space. The amount of seeds varies between germination unit and seed type. Try with a few fewer seeds in the beginning to ensure a good result.
For the vast majority of seeds, the soaking takes around 8 hours, but they can usually last a few hours longer, e.g. a whole day or a night. The gelling seeds should only be soaked for 10 minutes. As mentioned, they can withstand very little water and can drown if they are soaked for too long.
It is important to water the sprouts twice a day, preferably morning and evening. Use plenty of fresh and cold water so that the sprouts are properly cleaned. Then both the sprouts grow and taste best. If it is very hot, it may be advisable to water three times a day.
Be careful to drain away the water after each watering. If the sprouts are in water, they mold easily. In the germination box, it is important to make sure that the seeds are evenly spread out, as little as possible on top of each other. Before the seeds have taken root, it happens that the seeds clump a little during watering. Turn the box slightly after watering to ensure that the water is drained away. Then spread the seeds evenly out again with a light finger. In sprouting glass, it does not matter that the seeds remain on top of each other. Place the glass at an angle with the top down after each watering so that the water drains out through the mesh lid.
Lighting conditions during germination
Stretch growth is stimulated when the seeds are allowed to germinate in the dark for the first few days. Put a cloth over or put them in a closet. On the last day before harvest, the seeds are set brightly so that the leaves develop chlorophyll and turn green. Avoid direct sunlight.
Harvesting and storage
When the seed leaves have grown out and the sprouts have been in the light one day, the sprouts are ready to be harvested. The growth time of the sprouts varies between species, but most sprouts are ready for harvest after 4-6 days. Read the instructions on the seed packet.
Store the sprouts in a tight container in the refrigerator. Avoid leaving the sprouts in water. Water the sprouts for a while before they are harvested so that all the water is drained away when they are added to storage. If the sprouts are harvested wet, you can put some paper or a towel under the sprouts.
The durability of the sprouts varies. With proper storage, they can last for 1-2 weeks.
The sprouts should be rinsed before use. Feel free to use a salad sling. Sensitive stomachs may react to too much seed coat. Then the sprouts should be cleaned extra carefully. Seeds of e.g. the cabbage genus has a relatively large seed coat in relation to the size of the seed. The shell holds a lot of water, which means that the durability of the sprouts is reduced if it is not removed. An effective way to remove seed pods is to put the sprouts in a bowl of water and stir around. Then a lot of the shell floats up, and they can easily be poured out.
Micro-green is what is often called sprouts that are grown on a medium. Unlike growing sprouts only with water, microgreens can be grown longer since they get extra nutrition. Species that are well suited to grow as micro greens are wheat (wheatgrass), barley (barley grass), broccoli sprouts, cabbage sprouts, sunflower, radish, beetroot, ruccula, cress, basil, parsley and green peas. As a culture medium, you can use soil, coconut fiber or various types of bio-based cultivation mats.
The seeds are soaked as usual and laid evenly over a box of growing medium. with soil or a moistened germination mat. The distance between each seed should correspond to the seed size. There should be holes in the bottom of the box to ensure good drainage. Water 1-2 times daily with a spray bottle. Make sure the soil or carpet is moist at all times, but not very wet. The seeds are covered for the first 3-5 days so that they germinate in the dark. After a few days, the cover is removed, and the sprouts continue to grow in the light and form chlorophyll. Growing micro-porridge takes 1-3 weeks, depending on the type of seed and how big you want them.
When harvesting micro greens, they are cut directly over the soil or mat while the roots remain. If it has been grown in soil, the soil can be turned around once and grown on the back before the soil is composted. An easy way to compost the soil is to dig it into a pit in the garden. The cultivation mats can only be used once before they are composted.
Avoid mold on the sprouts
It is important that no mold grows on the sprouts. Mold formation can be prevented by ensuring good cleaning, drainage and aeration, having lower seed density, avoiding too wet soil and by washing the equipment well and composting the soil between each time.
Mold can be confused with root hair. Species such as broccoli, radish, wheat, rye and oats develop visible root hairs early in the germination process. Mold looks like cobwebs, while root hairs have a more spiky structure. Mold is mucous and smells bad. Root hairs do not appear after watering and are only on the roots, while mold appears after watering and is everywhere.
Sale of organic sprouts and micro greens
If you want to sell organic sprouts, the cultivation must be approved by Debio. As a general rule, all organic cultivation must take place in soil. Cultivation of sprouts is exempt from this requirement. Organic seeds must be used.
Soil and fertilizer for micro-green with developed foliage must only consist of growth media allowed for organic production.
These rules will be continued and specified in the new EU regulation which enters into force from 1.1.2022 in the EU. Implementation of new rules in Norwegian regulations will be carried out afterwards, a date for this has not yet been set.
The germination process - from seed to seedling.
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