Sabzeh, symbolizing birth and growth, is an integral part of the Persian New Year’s Haft Seen spread.
It’s such an optimistic gesture: coddling a seed and coaxing sprouts out of it! Don’t you think?
Growing sabzeh is a cheap thrill and the effort involved is minimal. Seeds really want to sprout. You’d have to try quite hard to disappoint them.
You don’t have to observe Easter or Norooz to grow sprouts either – it does a soul good to grow some green just for the plain pleasure of it. It makes for an engaging kid-friendly activity as well. And of course, it’d be perfect for Earth Day.
How does it work? Easy. First, grab a rake and shovel.
Just kidding! No shovels required! A little Persian humor here.
For real now, here’s Fig & Quince’s fool-proof DIY sabzeh-growing directions.
- 1/4-1/2 cup red wheat or lentils (Unsure which to pick? Wheat grows straight-haired, while lentils will sport a poetic curlicue do.)
- Some type of container: i.e. a jar, plate, shallow bowl. (The plate-with-a-ribbon-around-it is kind of boring. Don’t you think? Get creative and have fun! Just keep in mind that your container-of-choice does have to allow the seedlings to receive light and it has to withstand frequent watering, i.e. don’t use a cardboard box. Any and all types of shallow ramekin would work wonderfully.)
- Several paper towel sheets
- Strainer (helpful tool but not essential)
- Scissors (may come in handy)
- Water and sunlight!
Important note: Over-watering is a kiss of death for sabzeh and a rookie mistake. Whenever following directions re watering, keep in mind that the operative verb here is “to sprinkle” not “to drench.” Moral of the story: you want the seeds to be moist and well-hydrated but never soggy. If you accidentally over-water, tip container over to drain excess water.
Soak seeds in water for 24 to 48 hours. Change the water 1-3 times a day.
(Sweet-talking to the seeds is optional but scientifically proven to brighten their outlook on life. It’s up to you. You do want to give them a good head-start. Don’t you?)
Drain seeds, then spread them on a paper towel. (You may detect that the seeds are now sporting the barest hints of white sprouts. Rejoice!)
Once you tire of fondly gazing at the seeds, bundle them up in that same paper towel.
The bundle should be moist to the touch. If not, sprinkle with water.
Place bundle in a plate (or bowl, or whatever) and let it sit (in an area exposed to direct sunlight to expedite growth of sprouts) for another 24-48 hours and sprinkle it a few times a day – as necessary- to maintain it well-hydrated. (A good technique is to douse it liberally with water, then holding hand against the bundle, tip the container to drain the excess water.)
On day 5 it’s time to unwrap the bundle. By this time, you will notice that your seeds are sprouting in earnest. (Oh joy!) The lentils in particular will most certainly be growing long white tendrils. It’s now time to coddle the seeds, which is done in 3 steps:
1) Line the bottom of your jar (or whatever is your container of choice) with a paper towel cut to fit it. (The paper towel provides a surface for the roots to grab a hold of and acts as a soil of sorts.)
2) Layer the sprouting seeds inside the jar (or bowl, or plate, or whatever is your container of choice) on top of the paper towel. Spread seeds evenly, so as to avoid bald spots! Thickness of the layer depends on the depth of your container. You don’t want a thin bed of seeds but also avoid piling it on too thick as it will suffocate the seeds. A 1/2 -3/4 inch spread is a good bet in general.
3) Cover seeds with a moist paper towel.
Coddle seeds in this condition for two days, during which time you should water them at least 3 times a day to keep them well-hydrated.
By day 7 your seeds should have officially sprouted. Totally adorable! It’s time for the seedlings to come out from their cover and face the brave new world. Discard the paper towel cover and place your jar to bask openly in the sun. Water as needed. (A good watering in the morning and at night should suffice.)
You did it! Now just sit back and watch it grow. And grow. And grow! Where it stops … nobody knows.
Well actually, in the Iranian culture, on Sizdah Beh’dar (the 13th day of Norooz) sabzeh will meet its eventual even-if-untimely demise in a ceremonial manner. But ssshhh, let’s not upset the seedlings and mention that yet.
And that’s all folks. Go forth and sprout.
(And yes, I borrowed a good bit of copy from last year’s post. Don’t judge! I am just being green. Recycling is good for the environment and it is also good for the preservation of blogger sanity. What remains of it. The pictures are all spanking brand new though. So there.)
Love it. To see anything growing here at this time of year is just so heartening. Disappointed that my one and only hyacinth sprouted beautiful green leaves – only to grow so tall they fell over! And, you’ve guessed it, no flower. Ouch, serves me right for forgetting about it.
I don’t have a green thumb but I will give this a try. I have some lentils. I kill any plant that comes into my home. I do love sprouts and this will be a great way to try and grow my own, good tutorial, very well explained and good step by step instructions,
-Photos are so~ cute and your instructions hilarious. Thank you for bringing joy with every post of yours.
What is the next joy you’re bringing us?
-My sabzeh post is ready but will be posted on Wednesday, along with my recipe posts.
P.S. I may have missed reading… what is that black thing in the egg holder?
Fun!!! I want to know what the black thing is, too! Great photos and instructions!
Thank you for your kind words Suzanne & Johnny and Fae joon & Chef Mimi! Re the black thing in the egg holder (ha ha, what a funny thing to write) … I’m tickled that it’s roused the curiosity and to answer you, it is: a rock! An egg-shaped rock. A rock of substance!
I don’t remember when/where I found it but it is amongst my treasured possessions. Here’s a close up of it if you want to take a better look: http://www.flickr.com/photos/figandquince/8496569688/in/photostream
So, you are getting some free eye-balls for your favorite rock! Vay vay!
Beautiful post and clear instructions. I am growing lentils ..
Norouz Pirouz : )
Lentil is an excellent choice! 😉
Norouz shoma ham Pirouz! :)))
How many ways do I love love love this post, let me count the ways…
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So Lovely Azita! You are wonderful. What beautiful illustrations! You definitely need to complete a cooking / DIY pictorial guide book!
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was inspired to do this based on your positive feedback. Thank you for your lovely support!
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These pictures are so charming. I particularly love the way you parcel up the seeds, very inspiring.
Thank you! We are so on the same wavelength! 🙂
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What happens to them after nauruz? Are they eaten, planted, just thrown away?
Super belated reply (sorry!) to say that on the 13th and last day of Norooz celebration, there is a national day of picnic where families take the sabzeh outdoors along with them and get rid of it. It is called Sizdah Bedar.
I am not sure what I liked the most; your instructions or the Persian humor (humor bags 60% marks)
Excellent! I am going to do this for this year’s Nouruz.
Super duper belated reply (oops, just reading these comments now ha ha) to thank you for the lovely compliment! 🙂 <3
You are a true blogger! Love your humour and the simple style of writing. And yes, I clicked on your link for growing the sabzi. Thanks for the instructions and your humour.
Oy! Super belated reply (how did I miss these comments?)to thank you for your sweet and complimentary comment. Hope you’ll grow sabzeh again this year. 🙂
Thanks for the great article, I linked to it from my blog http://owlinda.blogspot.com 🙂
My pleasure and thank you for linking. Good luck sprouting sabzeh! 🙂
I’m not Persian but I’m married to a Persian and raising our children with haft sin traditions. Every year I buy something suitable for the sabzi. This year I saw your post on pinterest & decided to give it a try since I had lentils in the pantry. I. Can. Not. Believe. It’s. Working!!! I’m on day 6 and see green. Thank you!
Hello hello! Sorry for the super belated reply – for some reason I’m just seeing comments on these posts now. I hope by now you are an experienced master of sabzeh growing and that you’re about to start your Norooz sabzeh soon. You should try your hand at sprouting wheat as well, if you feel like experimenting.
Thank you for commenting and Happy Norooz!
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Hello: I will e creating a Nowruz table with my 2nd grade students. how many days before should I start the seed process? I see 11 but does that include the soaking days etc?
Dear Melody, I am so sorry that I missed your comment when posted! It is way past the time when it would be relevant and useful for you to know, but just in case you’re creating a Nowruz table again, as early as possible this week would be the best time to start to have sprouts in time for Norooz (spring equinox)
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Thank you for sharing this great instructions. I could never grow my sabze and it always got molded few days in. now they are growing and making me so happy. <3
Hi Ali jan, thank you for the lovely feedback and I’m thrilled that your sabzeh is sprouting and making you happy. It does a soul good and is a sight for sore eyes for sure.