How To Grow Shoots
Why grow shoots?
Growing shoots is a fun, easy way to produce homegrown fresh greens any time of year. Growing your own shoots is more affordable than buying them from the grocery store, and because they can be cut moments before adding to a dish, they are still fully alive when you eat them - literally the freshest greens available! They are a great project for kids, too – the shoots grow quickly enough that kids stay interested in the process, and it’s a great tool for teaching them how a dry seed turns into a leafy green plant. Kids are also more likely to eat food they’ve grown themselves. Plus, there’s nothing more beautiful or miraculous than the sight of a tray of lush greens growing on your windowsill when there’s still snow on the ground outside.
What do I need to grow shoots?
All you need to grow your own shoots are a few affordable, reusable tools that can be purchased from a garden center or hardware store. You’ll need:
- A clean plastic flat with drainage holes (5x5”, 10x10”, or 10x20” size, depending on how much you want to grow)
- A clean drip tray with no drainage holes (the same size or large enough to fit your growing tray inside it)
- A clear germination dome to cover your trays and keep moisture in and/or
- A spray bottle for misting your seeds
- Seeds for growing shoots!
Basic instructions for how to grow organic shoots:
- Pre-soak seeds in fresh, cool water for 8–12 hours before planting. As a rule of thumb, use ¼ cup of seed for a 5” square tray, 1 cup for a 10” square tray, and 1 ½ - 2 cups for a 10” x 20” tray.
- Fill your clean plastic flat with about one inch of moist potting soil or soilless medium. Place a clean drip tray under your flat if growing indoors.
Scatter soaked seeds thickly over the soil in the tray, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds so they are just barely covered, or cover with an inverted tray to keep light out and moisture in. Keep seeds and medium moist by misting with fresh water or covering the tray with a clear germination dome until the seedlings emerge. Once shoots appear, remove the dome (if using). Place flats in a bright sunny window, under grow lights, or in a greenhouse that stays above 60°F.
- To harvest, clip stems just above the soil line with clean scissors. Wash shoots and dry on clean towels or in a salad spinner, then store in the refrigerator in clean plastic bags for up to one week.
- Harvest pea shoots when they are 2-4” tall, after the second set of leaves appear, about 10–14 days after planting.
- Harvest sunflower shoots when they are 2-4” tall with only their first two leaves, before “true” leaves appear, about 8–12 days after planting.
- Harvest wheatgrass when 4-6” tall, about 10-14 days after planting.
About Our Varieties
Sunflower Shoots are extremely tender and delicious fresh greens with juicy texture and nutty, buttery flavor. They are wonderful in salads and on sandwiches.
- Pea Shoots have great crunchy texture and the same yummy taste as fresh peas. Perfect for sandwiches and on pasta, rice, and vegetable dishes! Try your pea shoots at different times while they’re growing – their flavor and texture is best when they’re about 3” tall.
- Wheatgrass is grown from hard red spring wheat berries and can be used for a variety of purposes. It is commonly juiced in a wheatgrass grinder for a nutritious beverage, but can also be sprouted in water and milled to make sprouted wheat bread.
The most common problem people have when growing shoots is with moisture. Too much moisture (caused by a heavy initial watering) can occasionally result in mold forming in your tray. Try thoroughly misting with a spray bottle rather than watering in after you sow your seeds, then cover with a germination dome to keep moisture in.
Keep an eye on your shoots – if you see mold growing, the stems rotting, or the soil looks very wet, check and make sure the drip tray isn’t filled with standing water, and remove the dome until the tray dries out slightly. Slightly is the key word here – your soil and shoots should never be allowed to dry out completely. If you see their white roots turning brownish on the end, it is because they are too dry. Mist them thoroughly with water and/or cover with a germination dome.
If your seeds don’t germinate, it is probably because they were not soaked for long enough (8-12 hours is ideal) or because the soil in your tray is too dry. Make sure your shoots stay consistently moist until they are ready to harvest. Other possible reasons for poor germination include using old (non-viable) seed or seed that has not been stored properly (seed should be kept cool and dry in storage).
Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: I see little white hairs on my shoots – are they moldy?
A: Chances are your shoots are not actually moldy. What you are seeing are the tiny root hairs coming off the main sprout. Many varieties produce these root hairs when conditions are a little too dry. You will notice that they seem to disappear after rinsing; the water makes them stick to the main sprout. Try misting more often if you see them. It is possible for mold to appear on shoots that are old, too wet, or not receiving enough air-circulation. Mold appears as green or black fuzz, as opposed to white. If you do see green or black mold, compost your sprouts and soil, wash and sterilize your tray, and start over.
Q: My shoots have germinated but now their roots are turning brown!
A: This is most likely because your shoots are too dry. When the new young roots are exposed to dry air they tend to shrink and turn brownish. Try misting them thoroughly with water and covering with a germination dome.
Q: A lot of my seed never sprouted – what is the problem?
A: There are several possible reasons for this. The most common reasons are that your seeds were not soaked long enough (8-12 hours is ideal) or because the soil in your tray is too dry. Make sure your shoots stay consistently moist until they are ready to harvest. Other possible reasons for poor germination include using old (non-viable) seed or seed that has not been stored properly (seed should be kept cool and dry in storage). If your seeds still have not germinated after a week in the tray, try starting over with new seed and soil.
Q: What is the best way to store my seeds so that they still have good germination?
A: Seeds will stay viable for a long time, usually up to two years, if they are stored in a cool, dry place. A cupboard or drawer is fine if you’ll be using the seed within a few months; otherwise storage in an airtight container in the refrigerator is ideal.
Q: What is the best way to store my finished shoots?
A: The best way to keep your shoots fresh is to harvest them as needed from your tray – that way they are still fully alive and have the best flavor and nutrition when you eat them. However, this method is not always practical if you are succession planting one tray after another, and your shoots will continue to grow – if you wait too long, they may become overgrown and tough. For many people harvesting the whole tray at once works best. Once you have harvested your shoots with a clean pair of scissors, wash them gently in a bowl of water, then dry with a salad spinner or on a clean towel. Place the washed shoots in a clean airtight plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
RecipesNew England Winter Slaw by Megen Hall
A Winter Salad Recipe to Make Your Mouth Sing!
• 5-6 stems Kale, spine removed and chopped
• 1 cup finely chopped green cabbage (or 1/2 cup green plus 1/2 cup red)
• 1 cup spinach, chopped
• 1 cup shoots (your choice)
• 1 cup sprouts (your choice)
• 1 apple, cored and chopped
• 1 small red onion, minced
• 2 carrots, grated
• ½ cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts (or pumpkin seeds are equally delicious)
• ½ tsp salt
• (optional: dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins)
• ½ cup mayonnaise
• 1 T maple syrup
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• 2-3 T olive oil
Begin by chopping the walnuts to your liking and either gently toast them in a toaster oven or in a skillet over light heat, stirring frequently until they are lightly toasted. Remove from heat and let them cool. Next, prepare the kale by removing the spine and chop into bite sized pieces. Place chopped kale into a large salad bowl and sprinkle evenly with salt (this will help to release the juices when massaging). After it has sat a few minutes, vigorously massage the kale for about 2-3 minutes, or until it looks as if it has been cooked and moisture can be squeezed out of it. Then add all of the chopped greens, apples, red onion, and carrot and toss. Top with toasted nuts or seeds.
I use a small mason jar to make the dressing so that I can cap and refrigerate if I do not use it all. Combine mayonnaise and maple syrup and stir until it is evenly mixed. Add balsamic vinegar and whisk with a fork or tiny wire whisk. When it is thoroughly blended, with no mayo clumps, slowly add in the olive oil as you continue to whisk, until you have reached your desired dressing consistency. Sometimes I mix the dressing and the salad together and serve this way, but only if I know we will eat the whole thing that night. If I expect to have leftovers, I will serve it to add per serving. Store any uneaten salad in an air tight container. It will keep well for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.
Easy Peasy Pasta by Sophia Bielenberg
• 1 lb penne pasta
• 2 cups pea shoots, chopped
• ½ cup onions or scallions, diced
• 2 ounces parmesan, grated or shredded
• 1 T fresh parsley
• 1 T fresh tarragon
• 1 T olive oil
• Salt and fresh ground pepper
• 1 lb sausage or veggie sausage (optional)
Boil water for pasta. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add scallions/onions and sausage/veggie sausage, if using, and season with salt and pepper. When scallions are soft and sausage is cooked through, add tarragon, parsley, and pea shoots and remove from heat.
Add pasta when water is boiling and cook until al dente, then drain and return to pot. Toss pasta with vegetable/sausage mixture and parmesan cheese, then serve hot topped with fresh ground pepper.