How To Grow Alfalfa Sprouts For Food At Home

Alfalfa sprouts in a cup
Alfalfa sprouts in a cup

Alfalfa is a perennial plant known botanically as Medicago sativa or commonly referred to as lucern. It has been used as forage for years. However, there is more to alfalfa greens than just making hay. The high-protein alfalfa sprouts are good for humans to eat and contain a myriad of nutritional value.

Alfalfa green sprouts are low in calories, contain vitamins B and K, plant proteins and dietary fiber making them suitable for people with digestion problems. Studies have shown that alfalfa greens reduce bad cholesterol and may help manage blood sugar in people with diabetes.

Begin your journey to an alfalfa sprouts nutrition by growing your sprouts at home. Growing alfalfa sprouts is simple and gives you guaranteed supply of fresh, organic, healthy alfalfa greens. You can obtain the seeds from a seed store near you and grow them in a jar. Let’s have a look at how you can grow them indoors.

Fresh green alfalfa sprouts.
Fresh green alfalfa sprouts.

Growing Alfalfa Sprouts Using a Jar

  • Wash and rinse two tablespoons of alfalfa seeds.
  • Place seeds inside a jar, add water up to 2 inches above the seeds then cover the container and Leave it to soak overnight or for at least 12 hours.
  • Drain the water in the morning using gauze or cheesecloth, rinse the seeds with room temperature water and drain away the rinsing water. Place the jar away from direct sunlight.
  • Continue rinsing and draining the seeds twice a day every day until sprouts begin to form. This should happen after 3 to 4 days.
  • When clumping begins to form in the jar, stir the sprouts and remove the hulls that appear at the top of the container.
  • After one week, the sprouts are ready for harvesting, and you can place them in the sun for 20 minutes to activate their enzymes for better nutritional value.
  • You can store your alfalfa sprouts in the fridge in a plastic container for up to five days. Make sure to remove any yellow shoots to avoid it spreading.

It is important to sterilize the containers used in the sprouting process and maintain high levels of hygiene when handling the sprouts to avoid transfer of bacteria.

Bread roll with alfalfa and radish sprouts
Bread roll with alfalfa and radish sprouts

How to Use Alfalfa Sprouts at Home.

You can reap the benefits of alfalfa sprouts nutrition by incorporating the sprouts into your diet – whether cooked, steamed or raw. Below are different ways of how you can use the sprouts to boost your nutrient intake.

Juice and smoothies.

  • Mature alfalfa sprouts with two leaves are appropriate for juicing. You should wash and rinse the sprouts, wrap them in a vegetable leaf like lettuce and put them in a juicer to extract the juice. You can also add the sprouts to your smoothies.

Sandwiches

  • Toast the green alfalfa sprouts in the oven to get rid of bacteria and to make them crunchy. Add them to your salad and sandwiches for a healthy boost.

In soups and stews and stir-fries.

  • You can prepare your soup or stew until it is cooked then add alfalfa green sprouts towards the end. This will avoid overcooking and ensure that they maintain their crunchiness. Stir-fry your vegetables then add alfalfa sprouts towards the end of your cooking to prevent the alfalfa greens from wilting.

Grow Your Own Alfalfa Sprouts

You can grow your alfalfa sprouts and enjoy all the health benefits this “queen of forage” has to offer. Speak to your doctor before consuming alfalfa greens if you are on blood thinning medication, pregnant or have a compromised immune system.

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How to Grow Alfalfa Microgreens Indoors

growing microgreens
growing microgreens

Alfalfa greens are rich in a wide variety of nutrients including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Folate, Magnesium, Copper, Phosphorous, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Carotene, and Potassium among others.

Alfalfa has been used for decades across different cultures in the world to support good health and for medicinal purposes. For instance, it was used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve appetite and to alleviate digestive system disorders.

How to Grow Alfalfa Microgreens Indoors

Alfalfa microgreens are easy to grow. They can be grown all year round with peak seasons being during fall and spring. They tolerate a wide range of climates. Since alfalfa roots develop quickly and do not grow deep, you can grow them at home in pots, containers or trays.

The microgreens are propagated from seeds. Within 3-5 days of planting, the microgreens will have sprouted. Water them and ensure they have adequate light and they will be ready for harvesting within 10-14 days. After planting, maintenance includes weeding and pest control which can be achieved organically or using pesticides or herbicides.

Growing Alfalfa Indoors

Alfalfa microgreens are some of the easiest plants that you can grow indoors. Since they grow fast, you can repeatedly plant them for a continuous supply throughout the year. All you need is a surface for planting such as a tray or a pot, and adequate light – you can place the tray/pot near a window or use a gardening bulb during the winter season.


GROWING ALFALFA IN TRAYS

Step-by-step Guide to Growing alfalfa in trays

  • Find a shallow tray (1.5 – 2.5 inches deep).
  • Fill the tray with potting mix or soil up to a level of one-half inches.
  • Spread the soil/potting mix evenly to form a flat surface.
  • Scatter the alfalfa seeds evenly over the soil surface.
  • Sprinkle a thin layer or the soil/potting mix over the seeds.
  • Using a spray bottle, sprinkle water over the sowed seeds.
  • Place the tray near a window or near a source of light.
  • You may cover the tray with a piece of cloth or a perforated plastic bag to create a humid and warm environment that promotes germination while allowing adequate flow of air into the soil and the seeds.
  • Daily mist or sprinkle water on the germinating seeds.
  • Once the seeds begin to germinate, remove the cloth or paper bag that was covering the tray as the shoots grow up to 4 inches high.
  • Within 10-14 days the microgreens will be ready for harvesting. If you allow them to continue to grow, they will develop into seedlings and later into alfalfa plants.
  • To harvest the alfalfa microgreens, hold a section on the one hand and snip the stems just above the soil with scissors.
  • You may store the fresh microgreens in a jar in the refrigerator for about a week. Otherwise, you may dry them and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Growing microgreens in a pot
Growing microgreens in a pot

Growing alfalfa pots

The procedure for growing alfalfa in pots is similar to growing alfalfa in trays; only instead of using a shallow tray, you’ll use a shallow pot or small containers. This has the advantages of allowing you to grow in small batches and to put the pots in smaller sunny spots around the house.

How to Use Alfalfa at Home

Alfalfa microgreens are a great option for adding green vegetables to your diet. You can use them in:

Sandwich with ricotta and alfalfa microgreens
Sandwich with ricotta and alfalfa microgreens
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Vegetable stocks
  • Casseroles
  • Sandwiches • and salads.

They can also be juiced or blended with fruits. Growing alfalfa indoors ensures that you have a constant supply of the microgreens throughout the year.

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How to grow and use alfalfa in your garden

Flowering alfalfa
Flowering alfalfa

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) or Lucerne is a favorite both in the garden and kitchen. It’s faster and easy to grow outdoors as well as indoors to add a nutty taste to sandwiches or salads. Alfalfa is perfect to grow as you can easily sprout in containers and eat it within just a few days, or grow it as green manure in your home garden to help promote a good healthy soil.

The plant offers many essential nutrients for humans –it helps with the purification of the liver and blood, detoxification of urinary tract, and maintaining body alkalinity. But perhaps most people will remember alfalfa for its extensive commercial use as fodder for livestock. It acts as a rich source of calcium, protein, boron and many other essential elements.

Other than human and livestock use, planting alfalfa in your garden helps restore your soil’s fertility and enhance the growth potential of your garden. Below is a quick overview of how to grow alfalfa in your garden.

How to grow alfalfa

It’s important to note that alfalfa is a perennial crop that grows up to 3 feet tall and spreads 2-3 feet. The plant flowers in May-July and the flowers look like clovers, which can be blue, yellow or purple. The leaves are tri-foliate, narrow and oblong or oval in shape.

Planting and Growing Details

Sunlight:

  • requires shade/sun with up to 3-4 hours of sunlight. You can quickly grow alfalfa sprouts in just 3-5 days indoors in a small tray or a glass jar. When sprouts get to about 2-5 inches, you can transplant them to your garden beds.

Water:

  • it requires regular watering, where you water the topsoil whenever it turns dry. You generally need to keep the soil aerated and moist, but not saturated. Too much watering can result in the development of fungal diseases and rots.

Sowing method:

  •  the best sowing season is spring to summer. You need to prepare a weed-free garden with firm soil so that there is increased contact between the seeds and the soil. Plant your seeds at the recommended rate and keep the soil moist to prevent the developing roots from drying. As earlier mentioned, you can also start by sprout the alfalfa seeds indoors before transplanting the sprouts into your garden.

Care:

  • always keep your alfalfa garden free of weeds. If you have a relatively small garden, you can opt for manual weeding. Otherwise, pre-plant herbicides are recommended for larger plantations. Apply fertilizer as per your soil test results. But the most common fertilizer used at planting is N.P.K fertilizer (a combination of Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium)

Pests:

  • Some of the most common diseases include bacterial wilt, common leaf spot, Downey mildew, and leaf rust. Use appropriate pesticides depending on the disease incidence. Commons pest such as whiteflies, alfalfa caterpillars and aphids tend to promote the growth of sooty mold.

Harvesting and use

If you’re growing alfalfa for your consumption, the best time to harvest your produce is at sprouting stage – about 7-10 days after planting the seeds or at least in the early stages of growth. the larger the alfalfa becomes the woodier the stocks are and the stronger the flavor becomes.

When growing for alfalfa green manure, you will need to allow the plants to grow until the purple blooms develop, at which point you can either just mow it back in the garden or leave it in a fallow bed until you are ready to cultivate the bed and put it back into use. Alfalfa will break down in the soil, releasing nutrients as well as stimulating microbial activity. Additionally, alfalfa adds nitrogen to the soil while it grows and provides erosion protection. If you live in a rural location, alfalfa can be used as fodder for livestock such as chickens, rabbits, and other animals, if your fallow garden location is fenced.

If you’re harvesting alfalfa herb for livestock fodder, you will need to harvest and cure it before flowing sets in or at early bloom. When flowering sets in, it gets difficult for livestock to digest the fodder. Harvesting at early bloom also ensures that you take advantage of the most nutrient content. Also, you will want to want to gather your livestock manure and cultivate it into your garden or add it to your compost pile.

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