Bummer, and again.


A couple months ago, I decided to start sprouting some grains here in my kitchen — you know, to have something to do to pass the time. I bought a couple half-gallon jars with stainless steel screen tops, read a few instructions, and got to sprouting. I started with wheat berries — hard white — and then moved on to spelt. It was working ok — the wheat sprouted evenly, but even in my chilly March kitchen I opened the jars to find a spot or two of mold on the berries. The spelt grains didn’t mold, but sprouted very unevenly. No matter — after painstakingly removing the molded wheat berries, I dried them all in my dehydrator and ground them into flour.

Why bother? No, it’s not really because I’m bored (if I was a wealthy woman I’d gladly be paying someone else to do this for me — this, along with laundry, mopping floors, dusting, and occasionally hanging with my kids while I did something luxurious like going to the grocery all by myself — but I digress). It’s a relatively simple task — one that takes just a few minutes of hands-on time each day for a few days. The real reason I bother is that sprouting those berries makes for much more nutrient-dense grains, as well as grains (and therefore flour, and therefore baked goods) that are much easier to digest. The grain is at its height of nutritive value when sprouted, and also neutralized of phytic acid (an enemy of nutrient absorption), allowing you bake things without pre-soaking the flour (if you’re into that sort of thing).

But this week has been two steps back. First, the two jars of wheat berries I began sprouting Sunday night were both replete with white fuzzy mold by Tuesday morning. The berries were just showing the tiniest white sprouts by Monday night — but I figured they needed just a few more hours, so rinsed them and let them go ’til morning. But a quick glance at the jars as I poured my morning coffee told me they’d gone too far: the sprout tails were already 1/4″ long, making them more difficult to grind once dried. And a closer look revealed many clumps of berries held together by fluffy white stuff. Way more mold than seemed wise to attempt to remove. So I dumped both jars into the trash, wincing mildly as I calculated the monetary loss (probably around a dollar or two… but before you scoff, wouldn’t it be hard to throw a couple dollar bills down the trash can? I rest my feeble case.)


As if moldy wheat wasn’t enough: just as I was beginning to feel all wildly successful with my sourdough starter, my little Me-Power trip took a turn south. Last week, I had finally landed on a method that produced two perfect loaves of sourdough wheat sandwich bread (not the one in the photograph — I of course didn’t take a picture of the Perfect Loaves) — to me, the holy grail of sourdough, and the one thing I’ve been hoping to master. I had, per usual, kept fairly meticulous notes on my process. A couple nights ago, I set about making two more loaves — and since the method I’d discovered was so incredibly easy, I wasn’t sweating it a bit. Fast-forward 24 hours, and I’m pulling out of the oven two extremely sad loaves of “bread.” They had absolutely no oven spring, had crust that looked dry and deflated. A cut into a loaf revealed not the soft, chewy crumb of last week’s loaves, but holey, waxy slices that were entirely too sour. WHAT IN THE WORLD. I did the EXACT SAME THING. I am completely, totally perplexed, with no where to turn. I was so utterly undone, I capped my jar of starter tightly and stuck it in the fridge. He and I need some time apart (sorry, Jen — this means another week or so on that package).

So I’m throwing up my hands, and throwing in the proverbial kitchen towel — for a while, anyway. I’m off my game, and not sure what to do next to get my baked goods in the shape I want them to be when we eat them. Anyone have any ideas on how to avoid mold when sprouting wheat berries? Why does wheat mold so much more easily than spelt? Or has anyone been making sourdough long enough to help me figure out how there could be such disparity between two batches of bread made the exact same way? Is it my starter — does the acidity matter? If you or someone you know could offer expert advice, please do share. This is my official Call for Help!

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.

24 thoughts on “Bummer, and again.

  1. When you get to your new house, try planting one of those money trees in your back yard. I suggest one that produces large denominations as it will take a lot of flour to feed all those kids (along with Tim).

  2. I have no luck with the jar sprouters either. they always seem slimy! try the variety with stackable trays like those from Burpee, Thompson & Morgan, and Kitchen Crop sprouter.

  3. Something that popped in my mind when reading about your mold dilemma is a technique used in treating foods for allergy-prone individuals (sensitive to mold)…and that is the addition of Vitamin C powder. I do not know if it is a workable idea, since it will certainly affect the taste, but if I remember correctly, this book even had recipes for bread in which it was added to kill mold, added to peanut butter to make it safe to eat for sensitive individuals, stuff like that. It is worth a thought anyway!

  4. I sprout a lot and after a lot of research bought the Easy Sprout Sprouter (Amazon has them if you want to read reviews). I’ve gotten more sprouts with less mold and after a year of using them, I still love them. They’re also really inexpensive.

    As for your sourdough – I wish I could offer more help! I’ve been making sourdough bread myself for the last month or so. I’m making a great sourdough rye recipe (it’s on Moms a few weeks ago) that I got from Wild Fermentation. I made my own starter from the recipe out of the book and so far, so good (fingers crossed). Please post if you figure out what happened.

  5. Thanks for the sprouter suggestions — I’m kicking myself for not doing more research, but these jars were $5 each at my local health food store, and was the low-hanging fruit I needed to get started. I’m definitely looking harder into tray sprouters, very soon.

    Pam, that’s interesting that you mention Vit. C powder — because the guy at the health food store recommended adding Citric Acid — he said this would help the spelt to sprout more evenly (this was before the mold fiasco, when uneven sprouting was the biggest of my worries). I think I’ll give it a try — I have some on-hand already, for making cheese.

  6. I sprout my wheat in a colander in the sink, where I can rinse it easily several times a day. I think sometimes it just gets too packed into those jars.

    1. Great idea! What quantity do you sprout at a time? Do you think sunlight is an issue — right now my sink is under a huge window.

  7. Hey,

    I’m not sure if this will help or not but the To Your Health Sprouted Flour people recommend washing your berries thoroughly in the sink with a bit of vinegar before sprouting. I know grain can carry bugs and all sorts of things from the outside…I’ve had things hatch that I don’t know where it came from but I’m assuming it might be the grain or the legumes.

    Anywho, I’m sure it’s just a glitch. I felt bad just a couple of weeks ago when it felt like everything kept going wrong…things that I’ve been doing for a while and have always come out good. I learned that everyone no matter if you’re an expert will come out with a bad “product” once in a while. I’m reading the Anne of Green Gables series and in Anne of Avonlea even Charlotta the Fourth who is a good helper around the house was afraid that the cream wouldn’t whip and all sorts of things in preparing for a wedding. So I think since we are doing everything from scratch and trying to do things naturally rather than store bought full proof yeast etc. bad batches are bound to happen.

    1. Thanks, Sandy — I think I’ll give that a try before purchasing the tray sprouter (not something I can do this month). Also good to be reminded that sometimes things just don’t go as we plan, with no apparent reason behind the failure — it’s not worth the energy required to over-think it.

      In fact, I just pulled the sourdough starter back out of the fridge… I guess I missed him too much ; )

  8. Yes, I have used jars and bowls. I normally only fill the jars half way with the sprouts. Sometimes after I rinse, I will spread the berries over a cookie sheet that is covered with cheese cloth and allow them to dry a little before putting them back in the jar. I rinse them every 4-6 hours during the day.

    Hope this helps! I can’t afford to purchase sprouted flour online. This is the only way i get to have healthy bread.

  9. Sorry to hear about the sprouting difficulties! I haven’t sprouted wheat berries but I do sprout “salad or sandwich” sprouts. I rinse twice a day, shake and shake and then lean the jar so it is tilted – usually in my dark pantry on the wire shelves. There will be water that drips out. I’ve never had moldy sprouts! I use one of the plastic sprouting lids on a quart sized Mason jar.

    As for the sourdough – it can be a fickle thing! When I was doing sourdough (last year) – I kept my starter in the fridge in between bakings. Not sure if you happened to do that or not. Hope it all works itself out!

  10. I wish I had some advice for you on sprouting! I admire your tenacity, that is for sure! I use purebreadsourdough.com technique and my sourdough works well, but still, occasionally I find that it isn’t quite as good as other times. Could it be the wheat, the temperature of the kitchen, the things floating in the air…? Of course there is a reason, but who knows what it is! I will have to try baking in pans, I always try the free form method, it would be fun to do something different. 🙂

    I wish you luck, and hope you post pictures of your next perfect loaves (because I’m sure there will be some, and I want to see them!)


  11. TCM and GG — I think you’re both onto something with my berries just being too wet. I think I’ll try the jars again, but dry them out a little after rinsing.

    Lindsay, there is comfort knowing that others also experience freak loaves. And believe me — if I ever get those perfect loaves again, I’m definitely taking a picture!

  12. I must be the laziest sprouter in the world, because I just use a big plastic bowl. And a metal colander. I don’t have any fancy equipment. I’ve also only sprouted wheat just once, I almost always do spelt, but I have NEVER had it mold. Ever. And it always sprouts. And it always grinds fine even if I ignore it, and let it get too long, and it sprouts even if I forget to check and rinse it. Maybe I’m lucky?

    As for the sourdough, I have yet to tackle bread (made crackers the other day), but for me, when something doesn’t turn out the second (or third, etc.) time when I think I’ve done the exact same thing, it’s because I got too cocky and went too fast and potentially forgot some tiny little part. I recently had one perfect batch of yogurt (my first one) then I figured, psh, this is easy, right? Three failed batches later and you better believe I very, very carefully tried to replicate what I’d done that first time, and I finally have an acceptable batch. Over-confidence does not make for good cooking, especially if you are still new to the recipe or procedure.

  13. Kate, you hit the nail on the head: I was rushing through it, and didn’t even bother to notice that my starter wasn’t really active. I also under-kneaded the dough, so the gluten was left high and dry. The next batch was much better, and I’m now focusing on consistency!

  14. I ran into mold the other day while sprouting wheat. It was a first for me and I sprout wheat about 2x a week. So (naturally) I thought of you.

    I’ve always sprouted in half-gallon, wide mouth mason jars with sprouting screens. I fill the jar 1/3 of the way with wheat, full of water and 4T of whey for a 24 soak, rinse very well, then tilt with the screen in place till I get the sprout length I want (24-48 hours). I always do this. It always works out. BUT, I did something diff the other day when I got mold: filled the jars half full of grain and used vinegar instead of whey (was out). Not sure which of these factors aided in mold, but I won’t be doing either of them again!! Mold free sprouts please…

    1. So I haven’t sprouted grain since this incident; mostly b/c we had so much going on with the move. But I’m ready to try again — and I’ve never added whey to the sprouts, so that’s the first thing I’ll do. I’m going to hypothesize that it was your filling the jar fuller that did it, and not the change in acid.

      BTW, my sourdough starter is back up and running. Perhaps in coming weeks I can get that Fed Ex to you…

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