Flax seeds are one of the most popular health food choices because of their subtle nutty flavor combined with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and can help combat arthritis and heart disease. While eating the seeds can provide you with these benefits, some choose to sprout the seeds for additional greens to add to salads and sandwiches.
The best way to sprout flax seeds is by using a cloth base, which will maintain moisture while not drowning the small seeds in water. For this cloth base, use two to three paper towels stacked on top of each other or a cheesecloth with tiny holes. If you use multiple layers of paper towels, make sure they are stable so that they won't slip apart when you pick them up. Many garden centers, nurseries and Internet retailers offer growing kits for sprouting seeds such as flax and wheatgrass. If you use these professional products, follow product instructions.
Starting the Seeds
Soak the cloth in water and then squeeze it out so that it is moist but not soaked. Spread the seeds out on the surface so that there is at least 1/8 inch of space between the sides; try to make sure that they are not touching. Place the cloth in a dimly lit room or cover them with a towel to protect them from direct light. High heat and light can cook the seeds instead of sprout them.
Caring for Seeds
Lightly mist the seeds with clean, room-temperature water any time the cloth feels a little dry; the seeds must be kept moist to sprout. Make sure you mist them lightly, as the seeds are light and will easily roll away under too much pressure. You must also be careful not to drown the seeds or wash them away with the water. Check the seeds at least once per day. Once you see the sprouts break the seed hulls, uncover them and place them in a well-lit area. You can expose them to some sunlight, but keep a sharp eye on the moisture level, as the sunlight will dry them out faster.
Depending on the seeds and your care, some flax seeds can be ready for harvest within a week. You will know they are ready when you see the sprouts produce richly green leaves, at least three of them. Harvesting simply involves trimming off the sprouts at the base, just above the cloth. You can use these sprouts right away; if you decide to hang onto them, seal them in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. They will only be good for a few days.
Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.