Trail Sprouting – How to Grow Sprouts While Backpacking
Most foods made for backpacking are lightweight, dehydrated, and calorie dense. This is because you will be burning through massive amounts of calories while carrying everything you need to survive on your back. Typical backpacker’s diets usually consist of protein bars, candy, beef jerky, and lots of refined carbs. Many backpackers will even tell you it is foolish to worry about consuming greens while on the trail because they offer very few calories and can be heavy. While I do agree fresh veggies can be heavy, I like to get some daily greens on the trail because I find my body just feels and performs better. I want to ensure that while I am pushing my body I am also giving it the proper vitamins and minerals it needs to stay strong. One of the ways you can do this is by trail sprouting, or growing your own sprouts while backpacking. Sprouts are full of living enzymes and contain vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. They are also rich in protein and minerals such as phosphorous, iron, calcium, magnesium, silicone, sulfur, sodium, and potassium. So, how do you go about growing your own fresh sprouts on trail?
Step 1: Choose a Sprouting Container
There are lots of options here including hemp sacks, cheesecloth sacks, muslin sacks, glass jars, plastic jars, and Nalgene bottles. I prefer to use a hemp sack because the fabric is tightly woven enough so the seeds will not slip through and hemp fabric is naturally mold resistant. The hemp sprouting bags also get great ventilation and air flow so you might have to rinse your seeds more often but you probably won’t have to drain them at all. Just use a carabiner and clip the bag to your pack. I’ve seen backpackers use Nalgene bottles with a homemade mesh lid for ventilation. You can fashion your own mesh lid with cheesecloth or pantyhose secured with a rubber band.
Step 2: Purchase Seeds
You want to be sure that you buy sprouting seeds and not seeds for the garden. Usually you can find organic sprouting seeds at your local health food store or online. The most common seeds for sprouting are mung bean, soy bean, and alfalfa.
Step 3: Measure Out and Soak Your Seed
2-4 Tablespoons of seed will make a full batch and fill up a quart sized container. Greens increase in volume by 6-8 times and beans increase in volume by 2-3 times. After measuring out your seed, you need to soak them overnight or 8-10 hours. If you are using a bag, you can simply immerse the entire bag in a bowl of water. Once you’ve soaked your seeds, they are no longer dormant but alive and full of enzymes.
Step 4: Drain and Rinse Seeds
The next day you will need to shake out your sprouting bag or drain your container and then rinse the seeds with fresh water. You will typically need to rinse and drain your seeds 2-3 times per day. Your seeds will grow in that time between rinsing and draining and during that time they will need to breathe and have some air flow. If you are using a jar, you might need to turn the jar on its side to allow for airflow over the seeds. You want your seeds moist, not wet. If they are too wet between rinses, they will rot. If you are using a bag, you will probably need to rinse more often because you don’t want the seeds to dry out between rinses. It will usually take 2-4 days for your seeds to sprout and you can eat the sprout as soon as the first shoot emerges.
Step 5: Place Near Sunlight
Your seeds do not need sunlight to sprout, but once germinated they should have some light. You can simply place your sprouting container on the outside of your backpack if you haven’t already.
Enjoy Your Sprouts
There are lots of ways you can get creative with your sprouts on the trail. Add them raw to wraps, burritos, soups, sandwiches or rice dishes. They’re also good as a salad with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for a dressing. Bean sprouts can be lightly cooked but it can cause them to lose some nutritional value.
Do you ever sprout seeds on the trail? If so, please share any tips you have for successful trail sprouting!