Sprouting a Winter Garden
With summer gently turning to autumn, and all of the garden vegetables slowly withering and no longer producing, it’s maybe time to start thinking about moving your homegrown food indoors for the winter.
As satisfying as it sounds, however, the truth is that unless you have a greenhouse or a perfectly placed window, most produce can’t grow in winter’s limited light.
Sprouts, however, are a completely different story. They grow wonderfully indoors and add some fresh flavor to a wide array of dishes. That freshness is sure to placate your “homegrown” palate during those long winter months. Sprouts are also incredibly healthy. Inside just a single seed is everything it needs to grow into an entire plant. That’s why these gorgeous little plants are such a great source of nutrients.
Unlock Hidden Compounds in Your Seeds
Most winters we eat our stored seeds in the form of toasted nuts and ground into smoothies. But by giving some seeds a little more time, even more of their natural power is unlocked. The same synthesis that occurs in plants to keep them alive and healthy can be sprouted right in your kitchen and then consumed to help your body flourish.
Sprouts are typically enjoyed raw or cooked as flavorful additions to other foods. Rarely are sprouts consumed raw in their natural grown state. (Unless of course, you are like me and just crave something fresh to munch on.)
There are three broad categories of sprouts:
Salad- sprouts including alfalfa, broccoli, clover, cabbage, fenugreek, and radish.
Grain-sprouts including rye, wild rice, brown rice, oats, millet, Kamut, corn, barley, and wheat.
Bean-type sprouts including mung bean, adzuki beans, and soy.
Eating a variety of sprouts is the best way to get a complete buffet of their flavors and their health benefits. There are so many dishes that can be improved upon by the addition of fresh, homegrown sprouts. Try them in your scrambled eggs, salads, coleslaw, dips and spread, wraps, casseroles, soups, bread, and stir-fries.
Getting Started Sprouting
The first step is to choose a few plants and find a source for organically grown seeds.*
Although some types of sprouts are more common, you have tons of options. They require very little hands-on care. As long as they are kept moist and in constant contact with air, your sprouts will flourish. There are kits available online to get you started sprouting, like this one here, I love to have more control over the plants I choose.
The first step to success is to rinse your seeds thoroughly, a couple of times, and then soak them overnight in a clean jar of water.
Hemp Bag– Dump the soaked seeds into the bag. Wet it thoroughly, then hang the bag to drain. I do not use this method often, but when I do I hang the bag on the faucet above the kitchen sink until it is moist and no longer dripping.
Jar– Dump the soaked seeds into a glass jar. Cover the jar with a fine mesh cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Invert the jar over another larger jar to catch excess water.
For the freshest, best-tasting sprouts…
rinse and drain your seeds (and then the sprouts) a couple of times a day. I try to make sure to do it once before work and then again after work. If I think about it, I will rinse again before bed, but twice a day seems to work wonderfully for me.
You can begin to harvest your sprouts as soon as the tails emerge, which is also when they are sweetest. This typically occurs with a few days. Make sure if you are new to growing and/or eating sprouts that you also try letting some grown to an inch or two high, just to taste them and make sure that you are consuming when the taste is best for your flavor palate. Store harvested sprouts in the refrigerator for a few days. After that, they tend to wilt and start tasting a bit slimy.
(Yes, I know “slimy” isn’t a taste. My palate tends to focus more on texture than flavor to determine my likes and dislikes, and the texture of slimy or mushy sprouts is not exactly my favorite.)
Did you know that since 1990, several outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to commercially sprouted grains? Should you be worried about poisoning yourself growing them at home? Probably not. As long as you make sure to purchase your seed from a reputable company and rinse your seeds numerous times before planting, there is only a small risk. Start with clean growing supplies and make sure to refrigerate grown sprouts, and you dramatically decrease your risk.
Seeds to Sprout