Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Our garden is dead. I tried replanting it for a fall harvest, but that didn’t work, so now that frost has come it’s empty until spring. I shall outwit nature, though: I’m gardening in our kitchen cupboard.
Sprouts are extremely nutritious, and I think they’re very tasty. They’re also easy to grow; they need darkness and very little space. The cupboard is perfect. We chose broccoli, alfalfa and radishes, because broccoli sprouts are said to be very nutritious, alfalfa sprouts very mild, and radish sprouts very peppery. I’m looking forward to the radish sprouts the most.
More or less following the instructions in the book The Backyard Homestead by Caroleen Madigan (Storey, 2009), we sterilized three small glass jars (a half-pint canning jar and two peanut butter jars). Into each I placed one teaspoon of seeds, on the assumption that that many sprouts is enough for a sandwich. If you need more sprouts than that, increase the amount of seeds, though you may need larger jars.
So that air and water can get to the sprouts, the lids must be replaced with pieces of cheesecloth, folded over to keep the seeds in. We screwed the canning jar’s band on top of the cheesecloth, and used a rubber band to hold it on the others. By myself, I could put the rubber band in place, but then I couldn’t quite get my fingers out without pulling the cheesecloth with them. Personally I think that if you have two people, the rubber-band method is just as easy, but if you’re alone you should definitely go with canning jars.
I filled each jar halfway with water and let them sit on the counter for twenty-four hours. The next day, the broccoli and radish seeds hadn’t changed, but the alfalfa seeds had swollen significantly and the water had turned yellow. I poured out all the old water, rinsed with fresh water, and put the drained jars in our cupboard. Then, because The Backyard Homestead said the sprouts needed to be rinsed several times a day so they would stay uniformly wet, I repeated the process after each meal.
We keep our house cold in the winter to reduce energy consumption. After the first day in the cupboard, the seeds hadn’t changed. Worrying that they were too cold, I started wrapping a sock full of uncooked rice (which we keep in the house for muscle aches) around the jars, microwaving and replacing it every time I rinsed the seeds. By the next day, the radishes were sprouting like crazy, their skins cracking and white tails snaking out, and the alfalfa was beginning to follow suit. There was still little change in the broccoli seeds, though they were starting to shed their hulls.
Probably because of the cold house, the seeds are sprouting a little slower than anticipated. According to The Backyard Homestead, it should take three to four days, but we’re on day five and only the radish sprouts are even close to eating size. The good news is, this staggers our harvest. If your sprouts are all ready at once, refrigerate them so they don’t get moldy or grow past edibility. When your sprouts are ready, compost the cheesecloth, since it’s 100% cotton.
Sprouts work nicely in salads and on sandwiches. I’ve heard some people even chop them up and put them in homemade bread for their nutritional content. We’ll be going with sandwiches, but you can do whichever you’d like. Good luck with your winter cupboard garden.
Photos by Claire E's mom, Wendy.