Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Here's a really simple grow-your-own project with super fast, super delicious results. It's the perfect project for those long gray months of winter, or where I live the long hot months of summer, when you can't get outside in the garden, but crave something fresh and green that you grew yourself. With just the barest of ingredients and the simplest equipment, you can garden in your kitchen.
I encourage you to either follow the directions that come with the sprouting seeds, and do a little internet search for specific instructions and tips. But the basic idea is this: Find a clean old canning jar and a piece of cheesecloth. Add up to a 1/4 of cup of whatever organic seeds or dry legumes you have handy in the pantry. I've listed several options below. Add enough water to cover the seeds and soak them overnight. In the morning place the cheesecloth under the ring of the jar to act as a screen. Drain off the water, and shake lightly to loosen seeds. Keep your sprouting jar handy to the sink, so you can rinse and drain your sprouts 3-4 times per day, but out of direct sunlight. You should see your sprouts start to germinate in a day or two, and they will be ready to eat anywhere from three to fourteen days depending on what you've chosen to sprout. It's like a miniature garden in a jar.
Once they're fully sprouted expose them to a little more sunlight so they will green. Finally, remove them from the jar, rinse them thoroughly one final time in a colander, and let them dry a on a clean tea towel. Store the sprouts in an airtight container in the fridge, they'll stay fresh for several days.
Here's a list of just some of the seeds and legumes you can sprout. Legumes: Chickpeas, Lentils, Mung Beans. Seeds: Radish, Garlic, Chives, Broccoli, Alfalfa, Cress, Sunflowers, Fenugreek. Personally I love mung beans, and broccoli sprouts, and have never had much luck with cress.
I've seen fancy "sprouting kits" that involve several trays at the kitchen supply store and at my local organic gardening center. I also found the Sprout People online. They sell kits, supplies, and organic seeds, grains, and nuts for sprouting. They also have lots and lots of how-to info on their site. The kits seem like they might be fun to try and the variety of seeds is appealing, but a simple jar and what you have on-hand in the pantry could also be gratifying for its simplicity and ease.
Sprouts are good food! Experiment with the different flavors and textures to find the ones you like best. Radish and broccoli sprouts are a touch spicy, while fenugreek is slightly bitter. The sturdier varieties, like the lentils and chickpeas can be added to stir fries at the last minute. Add the more delicate, leafy seed sprouts raw to your salads, your sandwiches, and even your dog's kibble. Most of dogs love bean sprouts, and the fresh food is as good for them as it is for us.