Beat Small Spaces & Cool Weather: Grow Sprouts

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/beat-small-spaces--cool-weather-grow-sprouts.aspx

 

 fresh sprouts 

Why Grow Sprouts? 

We have been craving tender green lettuce from our garden.  However, with mountains of snow still lying around, freshness seems far off.  I made the mistake of purchasing some romaine from our tiny, over-priced grocery store in town. Not only was it bitter and strong, it was ravaged by traveling a long distance and had black chemical burns.  Many of us live in climates where year-round growing is just not possible.  The calendar may say it's spring, but the reality is that Alberta promises 8 months of cool weather. 

To add to the conundrum, teeny yards, balcony's or condo's can restrain the action of growing our own food.  We want freshness without too much fuss, time or space.

How to combat cold climates and small spaces? Sprouts!

Growing your own sprouts is the perfect solution to get you through a season of dreary deadness and will give you the opportunity to grow food in your own home. Watching your seeds grow and then preparing them for dinner provides immeasurable joy! Greenhouses, cold frames, special heaters and clunky devices are not needed.  If you have an unused tabletop, shelf or windowsill- you have enough space to grow your own greens!

soaking sprouts 

 Getting Started 

The beauty of growing sprouts is that tools, space and materials are kept to a minimum.  Sure, sprout kits are available, but we have found a regular mason jar is all you need to do the job.

You will need: 

+ mason jars or glasses {various sizes}

+ cheesecloth, old pantyhose or d-i-y jar toppers {see below for our how-to}

+ sprouting seeds

+ strainer

+ water

A trip to your local health foods store or bulk foods isle will give you all of the sprouting seeds you need!  You may even have some on-hand in your dry storage pantry.  Dried lentils {black, french, green, red}, wheat, mung beans, brown rice, rye, quinoa, chickpeas and mustard seeds are just a few.  Of course, the more common and easiest grown are alfalfa and onion seeds.  Did you know you can sprout almonds and peanuts too?  You can even create your own mix by growing several varieties of seeds together.  Our favorite mix is alfalfa, lentil and mung beans because of their unique flavors.

finished sprouts 

 How To 

Simply soak seeds in water overnight.  Drain seeds and rinse them well in a strainer.  Pop on your fabric cover/cheesecloth/pantyhose and secure with an elastic band.  This essential step helps trap humidity in the jar, allowing for a moist growing environment.

To make jar toppers: 

 jar toppers
 You will need to rinse your seeds twice per day.  In doing so, you will be keeping them moist-- the number one thing sprouts need to thrive.  I like to set up a "sprout station" near my sink.  We set all of our mason jars and the small strainer on a tin tray.  This reminds me to rinse the seeds and keeps everything neat and tidy.  Tiny hands will love helping you grow the sprouts, so be sure to get kids involved whenever possible!

In 2-5 days you will be rewarded with delicious, fresh sprouts! No long waiting!  If you choose, you can let your sprouts grow long, providing you with microgreens.  Microgreens are simply the tops of baby plants.  They are tender and delicious as well!

Using Sprouts  

There are so many ways to use sprouts--and I think most of us overlook the possibilities.  I know we did!  

Wherever you would use lettuce or dark greens, think of replacing them with sprouts in your cooking.  How about on a sandwich flanked by homemade bread and luscious cream cheese? In a slaw, or add them to an asian stir-fry or fresh vietnamese spring-rolls.  Sprouts make crispy salads, lending a crunchy texture to the mix.  The more you grow them, the more you will find ways to use them!  Raw foods, such as sprouts, pack a nutritional punch. But growing your own certainly ramps up the goodness factor!

 ready to use 

Resources 

Here are a few resources that we have found helpful:

Living and Raw Foods 

Good Sprout News 

Sprout People 

We've been growing our own sprouts for one winter and have found them to be a new staple in our house.

Defy the misconception that you cannot grow your own food in cool weather or in a small space! Start with sprouts and see how easy it is!

Liesl and Myles are urban homesteaders from Alberta, Canada.  You can also find them at Nest.