A lot of preppers have seed kits, which is a smart investment because if there really is a natural disaster or a societal breakdown, being able to grow your own food is going to be a key to survival. Gathering wild plants can work but if you don’t find enough before winter hits, people who live in areas of snow and ice are going to be SOL.

Seeds stored for your garden should be heirloom varieties, because these will grow the same type of plant as the parent plant and produce seeds that will be the same type of plant as the parent plant, unlike hybrids, which product seeds that can be of varieties very different. But there’s another reason why a cache of seeds is a great idea for survival.

Many seeds can be sprouted easily. These sprouts, sometimes called microgreens, are highly nutritious, easy to grow and can give you fresh green food in a matter of days, even when you can’t fully garden with seeds in the ground. Sprouts are harvested before the first set of leaves develop from the seed. Microgreens are harvested after first leaves have developed. Sometimes, you need an inch of soil to grow microgreens unless you invest in a hydroponic tray. For this reason, sprouts are easier than microgreens.

Seeds are stores of nutrition that is meant to provide sustenance to the growing plant. When you eat the sprout, you are eating all of that stored nutrition. In winter, in areas of snow, or if you are having to move around from location to location and you either can’t risk putting seeds in the ground or you don’t want to, sprouting seeds is a great way to get nutrition and fresh food that you can pack along with you. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a survey lead by Agricultural Research magazine reports that “microgreens contain considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts.”

Most seeds can be sprouted in a jar. There are also canvas sprout bags made specifically for sprouting. You can even wrap seeds in a damp towel. I have successfully used a plastic “clam shell” container that lettuce comes in from the store. The seeds need to be kept moist for the first few days until they sprout. After that, experts will tell you that the seeds/sprouts need to be washed daily in fresh water. This is true, however in a pinch you can also just mist with water or rinse once a day or every other day if you don’t have access to enough water.

Choose seeds that are fast growing and have a flavor you like. Experiment a little to find ones that you really like to eat. Having a bag full of several types of sprouting seeds and beans can give3 you the versatility of making fresh sprouts or growing an actual crop when you can.

Here’s what we recommend having on hand for microgreens and sprouts:

Mung beans – these make the traditional “bean sprout” that is often used in Asian stir fry, nice and crunchy

Alfalfa – what people commonly think of as “sprouts”

Beets – sprouts in 4 to 6 days

Mustard – sprouts in 3 to 4 days

Radish – sprouts in 3 to 4 days

Broccoli – sprouts in 3 to 4 days

All lettuces are good choices for microgreens

Even some grains and seeds can be sprouted, such as quinoa and sunflower seeds. We recommend experimenting first with these before you stock up on them as they can be more tricky.