As we approach the Vernal Equinox (3/20, the first day of spring) when the days and nights are of equal length and the sun rises and sets due east and due west, we like to celebrate by planting seeds in honor of spring. As the celestial equator and the ecliptic intersect, we love to get down close to the earth and witness the emerging beauty of the plants as they awaken from the damp rich soil that has been lying dormant in the stillness of winter. As the budding shades of green and white make their way through the cold dark layers of earth, the sun’s rays shine down so delicately on to their new growth in such a naturally calculated manner. It is a beautiful time of year to get down close to the earth, in any little square foot of green space, and witness the tiny little microhabitat come to life. Welcome Spring!
It is that time of year, when the sun starts to shine long enough for seeds to sprout quickly in the kitchen window. At our house, we are sprout enthusiasts. Sprouts are a perfect supplement in the winter when home grown produce is not readily available, unless you have a high tunnel operation going in your backyard. So, while you are waiting for your vegetable starts to get big enough to transplant, try growing some sprouts to snack on in the meantime. Sprouting is an excellent way to pack in those nutrients to get you through the tail end of these gloomy winter days. Sprouts are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are also an excellent source of protein for children. My favorites to sprout are sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, lentils, fenugreek, adzuki beans, mung beans, and broccoli and radish seeds. There are many ways to sprout! I prefer soaking my seeds overnight in a mason jar. I then cover them with cheese cloth. I rinse and drain my seeds each day and keep them in a sunny window. Within a few days they have sprouted and are ready to eat. Sprouting is a fun and easy edible science experiment for kids of all ages. Children get excited about food they take part in. The whole family enjoys raw sprouts as between meal snacks. They can be tossed in various spices such as smoked paprika and garlic. I also like to top soups and salads with them. My favorite way to eat sprouted lentils is to prepare a lentil loaf served with roasted vegetables and gravy. Delicious nut milks can be made using soaked nuts and a high powered blender. I recently made sprouted almond milk sweetened with the maple syrup that my husband made from sap he collected from maple trees near the farm. I served the maple almond milk with raw chocolate truffle cookies also made from sprouted almonds. That is one healthy snack that gets devoured immediately in our home.
My husband and I are continuously looking for opportunities to teach our children about plants. I was showing my son all of the different seedlings in the high tunnel last week, actively thinning trays while letting him sample micro greens including broccoli raab, cauliflower, cabbage and even tiny shoots of scallions and herbs. He was very interested in the different colors and flavors of the plants. He was eating the baby green sprouts faster than I could thin them. [My husband said something to me last year that stuck with me after I had expressed my fear of our son becoming detached from nature as technology entered his life at such a rapid rate. He said, “We just know now that if he shows excitement about plants or nature that we drop everything and embrace his interest”. That is our motto, now and we never stray from that.] So when I asked him if he wanted to do a sprouting experiment so that he and his sister could learn more about plants and then eat the micro greens as they grow, his eyes lit up. He was enthusiastic about another process of growing his own food. We gathered our supplies and set up the experiment at our kitchen table. As I made dinner, he wrote out the procedure, the hypothesis and the variables. He even asked if we could make a video. So we did. After thumbing through our sprouting seeds, he selected 5 different kinds of seeds to sprout; broccoli, sunflower, alfalfa, cauliflower and cabbage. He decided that our theme would be “Which will sprout first?” He liked the idea of a “sprouting race”. His hypothesis was that broccoli would sprout first. He filled the tray with soil, poked holes in each cell, wrote his labels, planted his seeds, covered them with soil, and gave them a gentle drink. He recited the elements that plants need to grow. He was so excited about the opportunity to “eat micro greens anytime he wants”. While broccoli did not win the race, it did not hinder his enthusiasm toward the experiment. Variations to this experiment could include observing plant growth during a full moon, placing the same potted seeds in different windows around the house, duplicating the process but adding a clear plastic lid, and any other creative idea that the little sprout comes up with.
So if you give a boy a seed, he will plant it, watch it grow, possibly draw it, be amazed by it and more than likely eat the food that it produces. Watch their creativity sprout!