Alfalfa sprouts are easy to grow and develop quickly, in no more than five or six days from beginning to end. When assembling the necessary materials, everything must be clean, and the water must be fresh and pure. While the sprouts are growing, keeping a proper temperature is important. To remove the seed coats from harvested alfalfa sprouts, they are swirled in a pot of water and removed from their coats when they float to the surface.
The necessary materials for growing alfalfa sprouts includes a thoroughly clean quart (0.95 liter) size glass jar. A screening material, such as cheesecloth, will be needed as will a rubber band to firmly secure the cloth over the top of the jar. The alfalfa seeds should be purchased from a professional source to avoid working with a contaminated product. Fresh water is recommended, without the taste of minerals or chemicals that might be transferred to the sprouts by tap water.
Growers recommend beginning with the examination of a handful of seeds on a flat, well-lit surface. Foreign material and any seeds that seem damaged or discolored should be discarded. Remaining seeds should be placed in the jar, the mouth covered with cheesecloth and secured tightly with the rubber band. Fresh, cool water at about 60-70 F (15.6-21.1 C) should be added to a level at least the width of two fingers above the seeds. The seeds should be allowed to soak 8-12 hours, out of direct sunlight, at room temperature.
After soaking, it's important to thoroughly drain the seeds, as excess water can cause them to rot. To allow the seeds to adhere to the sides, the jar should be gently rolled. The jar should be left on its side, out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours before once again being rinsed, drained, and rolled. This process is repeated daily for 4-5 days until the alfalfa sprouts are ready to harvest.
The ideal temperature for growing alfalfa sprouts is between 70 and 80 F (about 21 to 26 C). The sprouts will grow too slowly when the temperature drops below this range. Temperatures higher than this range encourage the growth of unwanted organisms. If the ambient temperature is consistently at or above 80 F (26.7 C), the growing alfalfa sprouts should be rinsed at least twice daily. There will be a moldy odor evident if the temperature is high and the seeds are not being rinsed often enough.
After five or six days the alfalfa sprouts are typically ready to harvest. Sprouts are removed from the jar and spread out in sunlight for 15-20 minutes. The exposure activates enzymes in the sprouts and gives the leaves an attractive shade of green. Any seed coats still adhering to the sprouts can be removed by swirling them gently in water, which loosens the coats and allows them to float to the top. They can then be easily removed by skimming the surface.