Bulk Bin Microgreens

Sunflower seed germination test
An admission: both Mrs. Homegrown and I are sprout haters. We love the people who sprout, but not the sprouts. Perhaps it’s just the association with 1970s era health food restaurants or macramé. Sprout lovers out there are welcome to try to convince us otherwise, but I’ll warn you that numerous good-hearted attempts have already failed. But we’re both open to the microgreen idea. Microgreens are allowed to grow longer than sprouts and require either soil or some kind of fertilized growing medium. Usually you harvest when the first true set of leaves appear.
While we’ve never intentionally grown microgreens we’ve always thinned seedlings by eating them. And trays of microgreens are a great way for folks in apartments with sunny balconies or south facing windows to grow a little of their own food. You could also easily grow them under fluorescent lights.
Many seed companies offer microgreen mixes and seeds in bulk. Prices are reasonable considering that you need a lot of seed. But, being cheap, I was curious to see if I could germinate seeds from a health food store bulk bin. I chose my least favorite health food store, a depressing space tucked into a mini-mall where the isles are redolent with that unmistakable and unidentifiable 1970s health food store scent. Is it some chemical reaction between soy, wheat grass and carob fumes? But I digress.

For the sake of science I chose this forlorn store, which will remain nameless, since I assumed the stuff in their bulk bins has been sitting around a long time and I wanted to test seed of questionable viability. This store sells seeds for sprouting and microgreens, such as radish at around $9 a pound. The much cheaper bulk bin items, however, are all around $1 to $2 a pound. Of course, most don’t have microgreen potential, but I found a few that do and set about to perform a germination test to see how well they would work. The test consisted of putting the seeds in a folded and moistened paper towel and placing the towel and seeds into a sealed plastic sandwich bag. Here are the results:

Amaranth
I’d say above 90% of the seeds germinated. Amaranth seeds are so small that it was impossible for me to count out a precise number, but it looks like virtually all sprouted.
Popcorn
10 our of 10
Sunflower
7 out 10
Fava
A complete bust, but I will try again in soil rather than in a towel.

Good results considering the circumstances. I’m interested in hearing if anyone else has tried bulk bin microgreens, and if so what other seeds you have grown as microgreens not sprouts. If that’s you give us a shout in the comments.

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19 Comments

  1. It’s not exactly from the bulk bins, but I’d been given random old seed packets from various sources. I thought I’d try and see if any of the pea seeds would sprout. (I’d tried pea microgreens and liked them) Most of the seeds did sprout, though the seeds were several years old, so I’ve planted them in a small flowerpot, and hopefully will harvest some fresh greenery soon. I now want to try sunflower seeds (my other favorite) and maybe start growing microsalad in the kitchen! You folks are the greatest

  2. Do you hate on bean spouts too? I’m not a big spout eater, but I do love starting mung beans, letting them fill up the jar, and then making egg foo yung– a meal our family loves sans the gravy that sometimes accompanies restaurant egg foo yung. It’s also a nifty way to use up little bits of vegetables and/or meat.

  3. 20MinuteJan,

    Too bad you can’t email over that egg dish. Gotta admit I hate on bean sprouts. But I’m willing to try anything again. Perhaps my hangup is related to the time I ate a plate of bean sprouts in a student co-op only to discover that the bean sprout peanut butter slop had been dished out on top of a half finished portion belonging to a previous customer. Time for bean sprout therapy?

  4. I almost bought a seed sprouting kit at the nursery last week, but when I realized that the cost of the seeds would exceed the cost of buying the sprouts from the store, and the fact that I never eat them anyway, I blew it off. I like the people who grow their own sprouts too and I thought I might try and be one of them, but alas, I’m not.

  5. I grow sprouts for my hens. You can sprout any grains from the baking or bulk sections. I buy 25 pound bags of wheat from Bob’s Red Mill and get near 100% sprout rate. The girls adore the fresh greens and I’m sure they benefit from them.

  6. I’ve planted bulk-bin favas, and they’re still growing well. They seem to have had a reasonably good germination rate, but this was a cover crop sown in no particular pattern, so I can’t say precisely.

    I’m currently trying fenugreek and green chickpeas from a mid-east food store, and I plan to try safflower, cilantro, and maybe sesame from the Mexican spice section when the weather warms up a bit. I also have amaranth, popcorn, and maybe cowpeas for the summer, and quinoa and maybe the phool (the smaller fava) for the autumn.

  7. I’m also seriously considering black mustard. I also might eventually experiment with dandelion microgreens, snipping the ends of the pods off so that there’s no fluff when they open and then waiting a few days until they ripen before picking them.

    by the way, by “the phool” in the previous comment, I meant “the phool they sell at the place I bought fenugreek seeds from.”

  8. Okay, I’ve sprouted a number of different items: lentil, clover, alfalfa, mung, soybeans, mustard, broccoli etc..I like them, …but I have to speak out for the 1970′s era health food stores. I was a teenager during that time, and if it weren’t for those stores, I might not have realized that any food existed beyond Swanson tv dinners, Velveeta cheese, pork chops cooked to a dry fare-thee-well, jello molds, casseroles cooked with cream of mushroom soup, canned fruit in syrup and pathetic salads with iceberg lettuce, hot house tomatoes and bottled ranch dressing. If not for those stores, we might all be eating this way still. A store like this recently closed here in Baton Rouge, LA, and many of us grieved..To me, there is an integrity to stores like that that doesn’t exist in Whole Foods, etc. (And I do shop Whole pay check). For example, never did I go to the health food store to discover caramel apples, ridiculously over decorated, selling for $5.00 a pop, with a large chocolate fountain bubbling next to it. Sort of like Fantasy Island and the mall rolled into one. A bit much, since the CEO is always talking the high ground about health, and people’s poor choices. OK, I’ve got that off my chest, and I’m off to subscribe to you in my Reader. Thanks.

  9. @Joel: Excellent ideas! I’m totally with you on the idea of collecting seeds from weeds–I’ve actually just started some plantain seeds to see how they do as micros. Your dandelion technique is very intriguing.

    @Melinda: True, independent health food stores can be treasures. Unfortunately the one in our neighborhood is decididely not a treasure. There’s a serious shortage of independent health food stores in LA–which is strange, considering the vehemence of our raw food and yoga set. I guess they’re happy with Whole Paycheck. Meanwhile, I sigh for Rainbow in San Francisco.

  10. @Anonymous

    I’m not sure the plantain sprouts are going to be a roaring success. As one could guess from the size of the seed, the spouts are just teeny tiny. Eating them at two weeks of age as you would normal microgreen sprouts is out of the question. I’m letting them grow on, though, to see how long it takes them to grow into something of edible size. They’re taking their sweet time. Being weeds, I suspect they’re stubborn about growing on command and resentful of the deli box that holds them.

  11. Hi,
    I love growing microgreens, it, to date, has become my most successful type of gardening.

    I order my seeds online, as its cheaper, but I have sprouted lentils and chickpeas that were bought from who-knows-where and had sat in the cupboard for ???? Fresher does seem to work better though.
    I grow field peas (and snow peas, but they take a bit longer), broccoli, cress, and buckwheat (the buckwheat is great)
    I sometimes do sunflower micros, but apparently you shouldnt try to do these in cool seasons, not sure why.
    I also do mustard, as microgreen and I do as normal sprouts, fenugreek, alfalfa, lentils (I love them), chickpeas, mung beans.

    I also will do wheatgrass if Im feeling low physically.
    I make lots of salads, but also, I chuck them into smoothies.

  12. I’ve sprouted mung beans and kidney beans from the bulk barn and they both worked just fine, it is a great and easy idea.

  13. We sprouted and grew mung beans,sunflowers,amaranth,and a pile of other stuff from the bulk food section of a local store….all of em worked well, and were tasty as microgreens

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  15. I bought raw, sunflower seed kernels from HEB, and had great success growing those as microgreens. Then, I bought a 10 lb bag of black oil sunflower seeds, with the husks still on, from Lowes hardware. They were sold as birdseed. I had great success growing these, also.

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