Missing Your Fresh, Leafy Greens? Get Sprouting!
It's a damp, dreary, chilly, day on the West Coast. It seems like eons since the last lovely, fresh garden salad, and I haven't even started ordering my seeds for spring planting yet. Far from growing, everywhere I look things are in a state of advanced, soggy decay. I don't know about anyone else, but I could sure use some sunshine in my life right about now.
Enter the humble sprout! No matter what the weather, there's no reason why you can't have a little spring in a jar on your windowsill all winter long. Just follow these simple instructions from Homegrown and Handmade by Deborah Niemann and get sprouting! (If you don't happen to have the commercial sprouting lid that Deborah mentions, she notes that a piece of cheesecloth tied over the lid of your canning jar will work just as well).
The first crop I ever successfully harvested was a jar of alfalfa sprouts. While you may laugh at my use of the word “crop” to describe my little jar of sprouts, they are easy to grow and very nutritious. Regardless of where you live or what your experience has been, you can grow sprouts. I often forget about sprouts in the middle of summer when the rest of the garden is producing bushels of produce, but as soon as the days get colder and the harvest gets smaller, I find a quart canning jar and my sprouting lids. Alfalfa sprouts make a great addition to salads and sandwiches, and bean sprouts can be tossed into a stir-fry.
The most popular method for growing sprouts uses a quart canning jar and a mesh lid specially made for sprouting. The lid allows you to easily drain the water without pouring out the seeds. Whether you are sprouting seeds from alfalfa, radishes, broccoli, clover, or mung beans, the process is the same. Sprouting seeds are sold with instructions telling you what quantity of seeds you need for the size container you are using. In a quart jar, you only need two tablespoons for smaller seeds like alfalfa, but you will need one-quarter cup for larger seeds like mung beans. After measuring seeds and putting them in the jar, add enough water to cover, and leave them to soak overnight or for about ten to twelve hours. Pour off the water, and then rinse the seeds three or four times a day until the sprouts are ready to eat, which is usually in about five days. When in doubt about whether to rinse the seeds again, do it. You really can’t rinse them too often, but if you forget about rinsing them, the ones sitting in the water on the bottom of the jar will start to rot and those on top will dry out. If you can’t remember the last time you rinsed them, just sniff. If they stink, they have started to rot, so you should dump them in the compost bin and start over. Nothing is ever wasted if it goes into the compost bin because it is becoming food for the garden.
If you eat a lot of sprouts, you might want to start a second quart jar two or three days after starting the first one so that you will have sprouts available almost every day. Once you know the quantity of sprouts you typically use, production is easily cut back or increased by starting sprouts more or less frequently or by using smaller or larger jars. When the sprouts are mature, replace the mesh lid with a solid lid and store the sprouts in the refrigerator. They will last about a week. Although some people may scoff at the idea that you are making a difference by growing your own sprouts, each quart jar produces a quantity of sprouts that would be sold in two or three small plastic containers, and that can add up to a lot of plastic saved from the landfill over the course of a year.