Healthy food need not be expensive; it need not be limited to people in first-world countries; it need not require fancy equipment. Everyone, regardless of income or privilege, can regularly consume nutrient-dense, disease-preventing, anti-aging food for less than $0.10 per meal – if they are willing to learn simple skills and create do-it-yourself (DIY) systems for sprouting. Sprouts are the epitome of affordable, health food able to prevent disease, recover health, increase energy, and turn back the clock on aging.
Although some sprouting equipment makes sprouting quicker and more convenient, the basics remain foundational: a jar, seeds, a screen, a rubber band or jar ring; water, air, and warmth. Compared to spouting in plastic containers, glass jars consistently yield healthy sprouts when starting with quality organic seeds and regular rinsing – and you don’t have to worry about any toxic residues leaching into your sprouts. Almost everyone has a rubber band, nylon mesh (an old pair of women’s nylons will do, if absolutely necessary!), and a glass jar to spare. A wide-mouth canning jar or a recycled food jar formerly filled with olives, peanut butter, or Bick’s Pickles will do. If you don’t have one, just ask your neighbour or go to your local thrift store.
Other methods for sprouting include the tray, saucer, and bag method. Out of these four sprouting methods, the jar method is the most versatile, allowing you to sprout every sprouting seed, legume, and grain except mucilaginous chia, flax, cress, arugula, and psyllium seeds. These produce a gel-like substance (mucilage) as seeds germinate and require an unglazed clay saucer to sprout, successfully. This article will provide a breakdown of lid options for sprouting seeds using the jar method. If you need step-by-step instruction on how-to sprout, please reference “Sprout when in doubt,” a previous article posted on this blog.
The jar method requires a wide-mouth jar and screen or mesh covering on top, secured with a canning jar rim or a rubber band. Functionally, the screen allows for water drainage and air circulation, and must be small enough to retain small seeds (alfalfa seeds are comparable to the tip of a pen) and strong enough to retain large beans. It should also be made from non-toxic materials. Materials that fit this description include food-grade woven stainless steel mesh and some woven mesh fabric. For now, let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of four DIY sprouting lids to get you sprouting A.S.A.P.
#1 Mesh fabric and a rubber band
Though not a natural fibre, nylon-based mesh is a staple for the jar method. People have used tulle, window sheers, nylon pantyhose, or produce bags cut in 5-inch X 5-inch squares or large enough to cover a wide-mouth jar with a rubber band. Alternatively, sprouters use cheesecloth in place of nylon mesh fabric.
Pro: Easy to find in grocery, department, or thrift stores. Repurposing common household items makes sprouting affordable and convenient to start. Cheesecloth is made from cotton, a natural fibre.
Con: Nylon is synthetic so it could, potentially, introduce toxic chemicals into your sprouts. Cheesecloth holds more moisture than nylon, so it remains like a damp cloth for the duration of sprouting. Taut fabrics create a water lock, preventing water from easily draining from the jar when inverted. To break this lock, just lift the fabric slightly, then water will drain freely. This requires a few more seconds at every rinsing. The fabric needs thorough washing after every sprout batch to reduce bacterial contamination.
#2 Plastic needling canvas screen and regular jar rim (aluminum)
Most internet blogs on DIY sprouting lids recommend plastic needling canvas as the screen. It can be made by tracing the inner lid of your canning jar with a non-toxic felt marker on a plastic needling canvas. Then, with regular household scissors, cut out the circle, place it inside your jar ring, and screw it onto your sprouting jar. These cost about $0.10 per sprouting lid.
Pro: Inexpensive. Materials are easy to source (Walmart or other craft store carry plastic needling canvas). No rust, at least initially.
Con: Plastic is plastic is plastic regardless of whether it is hard or soft, flexible or rigid. Plastics are made of synthetic polymers that can disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function regardless of how minimal its contact with food. Disruption to endocrine function doesn’t require high doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Meniscal changes in hormonal concentrations that occur naturally in the body are sufficient to initiate puberty, sustain pregnancy, and trigger menopause, and determine fertility. When non-plastic options are available, it is much safer to choose these instead of risking the exposure to plastics.
#3 Stainless steel jar rims and woven food-grade stainless steel screen
Many sprouting lid packages sold in health food stores contain stainless steel jar rings and a circular woven stainless steel screen insert. Regular canning rings are aluminum-based, which rust in the presence of water. Avid sprouters have encountered this, giving rise to stainless steel sprouting rims and screen. These sell for $6.50 – $18.00 per jar lid.
Pros: Durable, rust-free, promotes easy rinsing and drainage, easy to clean, and sanitary.
Cons: Sourcing stainless steel jar rings, even on the internet is not easy (I found it impossible without buying a wholesale amount); thus, this may not be a realistic DIY project. Buying these in sprouting lid packages is the most expensive lid option, but it may be worth the expense if you plan on sprouting, regularly.
#4 Plastic rim with a woven food-grade stainless steel srceen
This is the best of the stainless steel lid option (#3) and the plastic canvas lid option (#2). Lids with a plastic ring and stainless steel screen can be purchased, pre-made, in bundles of five at a health food stores or Amazon.ca for $25-$30. For the DIY-type of person, below are instructions to make this lid option at home:
Purchase plastic wide-mouth plastic storage lids meant for canning jars. Next, cut out the inside of the rim with a utility knife, preferably one with a hook blade used to cut shingles.
For the inner screen, source food grade stainless steel mesh, which is classified as Type 304. Look for mesh with a 0.6mm aperture or 30 square mesh count per inch. This gauge is fine enough to retain alfalfa seeds, the smallest sprouting seed.
If you are afraid that the metal mesh contains impurities even though it is food grade or if you simply can’t source it, repurpose an old fry pan splash guard into sprouting lid screens. Thrift stores may have old splash guards that have past their prime as splash guards but serve as perfect sprouting screens. With a non-toxic marker, simply trace the inner jar lid from a canning jar onto the stainless steel mesh. Using sheet metal cutting scissors, cut the outside of the traced line to ensure the woven metal fits snuggly rather than loosely into the plastic rim. Lastly, insert the mesh screen into the plastic rim. Viola! You have a functional and safe sprouting lid for around $1.50 or less.
Pro: Inexpensive, durable, rust-free, easy rinsing and drainage, easy to clean, sanitary, minimal contact between plastic and sprouts than plastic canvas screen.
Con: Some plastic remains in contact with the sprouts. Requires sheet metal cutting scissors and a utility knife in addition to the basic lid items. Food-grade woven metal mesh may be difficult to source, locally, though it is available on Amazon.ca.
There you have it – the pros and cons of four DIY jar sprouting lids. No system is perfect. Decide what features are important to you – expense, durability, ease of rinsing, free of plastics – and how many jar lids you need to supply you and your family with sprouts daily (aim for 1 cup per person, daily). Then, choose your lid option. As always, DIY lids are least expensive, but for some people, buying pre-made lids, regardless of price, is worth the investment for health and time. Now get sprouting!