How to grow easy countertop sprouts

Countertop hydroponics are easier than you think

Tabletop hydroponics

Photograph by Martha Williams

No sun? No rain? No dirt? No problem. Sprouts can do without.

All it takes is a jar and a week to get baby radishes, broccoli, and other sprouts to pile on a salad, stuff a sandwich, and garnish some noodles.

When I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Clarkston, I didn’t have much of a garden. But I did have a kitchen with a counter and a window. That’s enough for sprouts year-round, whether days are long or short, cloudy or sunny.

First, take a jar and put in two tablespoons of whichever kind of sprouting seeds you prefer. A whole packet of seeds from the hardware store is fine, too. Besides broccoli and radishes, try kale, alfalfa, mung beans, or onions.

Soak the seeds in the jar overnight. The next day, pour off the excess water. Cover the jar with something breathable so that the seeds stay damp but also get air. A coffee filter over the jar secured with a rubber band works, as does a lid with a few holes punched in it. Google turns up gardeners who use cheesecloth, but for me, that seems to let the seeds dry out too quickly.

Leave the covered, seeded jar in a room that has a window. Don’t put it right next to the window, though: Direct sunlight is too much for seeds that normally sprout amid a little covering dirt.

Twice a day, “water” the sprouts: Open the jar, spritz in some water, and shake the whole thing around some so that all the seeds get dampened. They only want to be damp, though, not sitting in water. Then, just close the jar back up and leave it on the kitchen counter.

It’s not much work—sprouts are fast. And they don’t keep well, so don’t let them go any further than what they look like in the store, say, maybe two inches long or a week or so old. At that age, they begin breaking down without soil and sunlight. “Plant” them (in the jar) just days before you want to eat them.

A little packet of seeds will sprout more of an appetizer than a meal, though you can buy several types and make a flight of sprouts. If you like the way they taste, graduate to the catalogs and vendors that sell sprouting seeds by the pound. Expect to pay at least $10 per pound for seeds, depending on your taste.

This article appears in our June 2022 issue.