Jordan Freytag + photo

Jordan Freytag

Oct 27
3 min read
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Sprouting and Microgreening with Mucilaginous Seeds

Some of you may have been sprouting and/or microgreening for some time and come across seeds that react different to water than other seeds. They get sticky and take longer to germ, making it disheartening if you haven’t dealt with these kinds of seeds before. They are called mucilaginous seeds and there are methods to dealing with their sometimes-obscure germination method.

Here are a list of mucilaginous seeds:

  • Brown Mustard
  • Arugula
  • Chia
  • Basil
  • Curled Cress

Mucilaginous seeds are simply seeds whose hull forms a gel sack around itself when exposed to water. This is most likely a result of their native climate. For example, Chia is native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, places where drought is a common occurrence. The gel sack that forms around chia, and other mucilaginous seeds, is a survival mechanism to keep the seed hydrated in times when water is scarce, giving each seed the chance to grow and thrive.

example of chia seeds reacting to water(Figure 1) Chia seeds, shown here dry and wet

Mucilaginous seeds are some of the most difficult seeds to sprout. Traditional wet-based methods of sprouting tend to lead to over-saturation which can lead to mold and rot. Sprouting these seeds may require you to use the dry sprouting method and/or mix seeds with another non-mucilaginous seed if using a traditional wet method of sprouting, such as the jar or tray method.

example of mucilaginous seeds in a dry sprouter(Figure 2) Dry Sprouting Brown Mustard

Mucilaginous seeds fall somewhere between sprouting and microgreening because, although they are grown primarily using a water-based method, they are required to grow for a longer period of time, therefore, making them eatable by the stage one would normally label a microgreen. Dry sprouting is the most common and efficient way to sprout mucilaginous seeds.

example of mucilaginous seeds in a dry sprouter(Figure 3) Grown Chia

Dry sprouting uses terra cotta to transfer moisture to the mucilaginous seeds in small increments. What happens when using a terra cotta sprouter or saucer, it soaks up the water through the tiny holes in its surface, and when the mucilaginous seeds rest on the terra cotta, they draw water without becoming over-saturated and forming the gel sack. Basically, the terra cotta simulates the dry conditions that mucilaginous seeds are thought to have originated from, providing just enough water to trigger germination.

Placing the terra cotta sprouter in a small amount of water in a casserole dish for a period of days should yield thin plants that resemble both sprouts and microgreens, whose roots intertwine, creating their own sort-of growth medium.

grown brown mustard sprouts(Figure 4) Grown Brown Mustard




Hello. I keep seeing terracotta sprouting trays on you website. Do you sell these?

Trina Nelson

Thanks for sharing the article. When you harvest these, do you eat the ‘root’ or have to cut them like microgreens? Thanks.

Sayoko Kuwahara

VERY useful information!! Thank you. When I started arugula in the same mason jar method, I was startled by slimy seeds next day.

Joey Marquez

Over the last couple months, I have been interested in Micro-Greens and have started my own research to why micro greens are beneficial. Now I see how beneficial they can be with the amount of nutrients they contain, as well as the small amount of space they occupy while harvesting. I am a senior taking a sustainable ag class looking to learn more about cultivation and being sustainable. I am working to find out how micro greens are most beneficial and sustainable for our communities. Im very interested in knowing what are more ways that microgreens can be sustainable and beneficial for communities?