Spring Is Sprouting, and I Aim to be Too

Sunni's picture

After last year’s garden bust, one might think I’d be wary of trying again. Not so—it was a very important learning experience for me, and I think that even if we had the same sucky, erratic weather, I’d do better this year.

With the pewter skies of winter starting to lighten here at last, and the days lengthening pretty dramatically (if one pays attention, that is), gardenlust has risen in my blood, just like sap in the sugar maples. It isn’t helping that several people are posting their garden progress. Alas, my circumstances are too unsettled at present for me to embark on a full-scale garden this year. But my gardenlust must be sated. And I have found a way to sate it! Best of all, it’ll start producing in very short order.

Of course I will be growing some herbs indoors; I have become accustomed to the wonderful flavors of fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, cilantro, and basil and cannot imagine going without. But my recent travels reminded me of another quasi-gardening activity I greatly enjoyed, and plan to start again soon: sprouting. In case anyone is unfamiliar with the term, sprouting is exactly that—cultivation of specific seeds just to the sprout stage, when they are then consumed.

My guess is that just about everyone who frequents salad bars have encountered containers of alfalfa sprouts, and maybe even the larger and sturdier bean sprouts. But those possibilities are only the tip of the seedling. Many plants’ seeds can be successfully and deliciously sprouted, ranging from vegetables to grasses and grains to nuts and beans. Seed blends are available in an array of flavor combinations too. Sprouts aren’t just for people, either: I’ve seen seeds for birds and cats offered.

Not only do sprouts pack a substantial flavor and texture profile, they are highly nutritious. This is especially true of grains. Many (if not all) grain seeds contain substances that inhibit our absorption of their nutrients, but sprouting them changes that somehow. (I’m happy to be enlightened if someone knows the details of this process.) And sprouts are wonderful far beyond salads. Many bread recipes call for sprouted wheat or other grains (or even other sprouts), for example; I’ve seen a few Indian recipes (or maybe they were Indian-inspired) that called for sprouts to be added at the end of cooking a dish; and of course they can be a delicious addition to sandwiches, vegetarian or otherwise, or a fun soup garnish. A sandwich was the beginning of my adoration of sprouts: a local sandwich shop I liked to frequent while doing the college professor gig had a fabulous veggie sandwich that consisted of sprouts, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber (?), and other stuff I’ve forgotten. I’ve not yet been able to successfully duplicate that sandwich, but that’s okay—I know I can create something even better with my own homegrown sprouts and homemade bread.

Growing sprouts isn’t difficult, although it can be a little fiddly. For someone wanting to give it a test run, ye olde Bell or Mason jar is an inexpensive way to start. Or, if you save the burlap bags that rice comes packaged in at some stores, the plain burlap can be put to this use. Lots of fancier containers can be had too; and I know some of you clever tool-users could build your own sprouting boxes. The fiddly part is that the sprouts should be rinsed a few times each day; also, while most sprouts require low light to start with, some need some sunlight toward the end of the sprouting period to finish off properly. But these requirements really amount to only a few minutes of time and attention every day for 2–4 days—and then one has delicious sprouts! Could gardening get easier? I think not.

One other caution: for those with older packages of garden seeds who may be thinking they can use them for a test run of sprouting, don’t do it. Many garden seeds are treated with chemicals that aren’t supposed to be problematic when grown to create produce, but which might remain present when consuming the sprouts. Best to stick with seed that is designated for sprouting.

When MAL introduced me to sprouting a while back, we each discovered good resources individually. I hope he’ll pipe up with his, if he still recalls them. Mine is Sprout People, as much for their cool and colorful logo as the vast amount of information, equipment, and seed varieties they offer. We got a few of their sampler packs, including some of their blends, and were very pleased with all of them. Some blends I recall with gusto are the Russian mix, French garden, and Italian blend. The snolfs enjoyed moo mix, grabbing handfuls of it to nibble on pretty much every time they opened the refrigerator. Other sites that I intend to explore are Mountain Rose Herbs and The Sprout House.

If your situation is similar to mine—unable to have a full-fledged garden for whatever reason—surely you can find a corner somewhere to raise some sprouts. For those of you constrained financially, I’d be happy to add your items to my order(s) to cut down shipping costs. I have lots of smallish boxes that would be good for shipping seeds ... email me if you’re interested. I plan to have my order(s) ready by this Friday (March 6—and yikes! how did it get to be March already?).

Outsourcing your veggie garden

On a related note for those who don't have time to garden, you can have CSA veggies grown in your garden. I don't know much about this outfit yet, but it's an interesting idea. It's called simply Seattle Farm.

TLA?

CSA? is that like FBI, CIA, IRS, ICE and such other Three Letter Agencies?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(Actually, I just HATE acronyms and am being pissy about it. But then, you GNU that already.)

- NonE ;-)

CSA

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Sorry. I should have spelled it out rather than used the shorthand.

C.S.A.

I looked it up. Sounds like a really good idea at first glance. Of course, it could end up being a "tragedy of the commons" socialist fiasco, too. But if not, I like the idea.

- NonE

Sprouting

I'm not sure my comment went through, so here goes again:
I used to grow wheat grass as well as wheat grass sprouts (recommended by the nutritionist Ann Wigmore).

And it worked very well on pets (budgies) with colds...and in one case, a tumor. I also dangled a bunch in the fish tank and it seemed to keep the water clean.

The downside of sprouts is the smell from all those jars of sprouts in different stages.

A good sandwich - alfalfa sprouts, black beans and avocado on rye.

On commenting ...

I'm not sure my comment went through ...

Comments by unregistered visitors are held for moderation, primarily as an anti-spam measure. Sorry about the delay ... for more details on how this place works, please see Getting the lay of the land.

More importantly, thanks for the information and ideas, Lila!

SPAM on Rye

even with black beans is not appealing at all! (Not even with sprouts and avocado!)

Your samitch idea sounds really tasty, Lila. As an aside I will note that I read somewhere recently (sadly I can't point to it) that alfalfa sprouts are not terribly healthy while many or most other sprouts are very much so. I thought that interesting as it is alfalfa sprouts that one always sees in the "health conscious" places.

- NonE

I love growing sprouts!

I was intimidated at first, not sure what I should use for sprouting material. I had an itch to grow some when my mom was first ill. I needed a creative outlet that wasn't time intensive, but I didn't have time then for lots of research and internet ordering. So, I rinsed a handful of brown lentils I had in the cupboard and hoped for the best. Some legumes we buy in the store are treated so they won't sprout before sale, and I wasn't sure it would work. It did, beautifully, and they are a tasty sprout!

I started out with a mason jar and cheesecloth rubberbanded to the mouth of the jar. In my experience, the cheesecloth gets a bit icky, but it's mainly discoloration. You discard once you move your sprouts to the fridge for noshing on.

At the health food store near me, I found a set of plastic screw-tops that have different sized mesh for different sized sprout medium. They were not spendy at all --- about $4 and they are available online too. I'll need to look up the company name. I saved the tag. They screw onto wide mouthed mason jars.

I checked out Bob's Red Mill and all their legumes and seeds are sprouting ready, according to their web site. The bulk foods area of the store I frequent most is stocked with Bob's Red Mill products. I've sprouted garbanzo beans, too.

I look forward to trying barley and quinoa sprouts soon! Yum! We use them often in stir fries and I want to try the sprouted garbanzo beans in hummus. It's supposed to be very tasty.

Do you have a source for mung beans? We eat those sprouts often but have not found a bean source yet, so we can sprout our own.

Yes, I do

It is Sproutpeople. I’m hoping to put together a group order by this Friday, and would be happy to include some mung beans for you ... maybe we could get together to see this exhibit and deliver your purchases. Is this desirable and if so, workable for you?

Continued warm, healing wishes for your mother and you, too.

Rock on--Yeah!

Cool. If you're able to put together an order, would you put me down for a pound of mung beans?

I'd love to see that exhibit. It sounds very interesting. Have you been to the museum before? I went once, to see a special viking exhibit, and was impressed. Email me and we can set up a date! Yay!