GARDEN WORKS: A garden on your countertop

Countertop Sprouts

Emily Catesby Emily Cates

Growing fresh, delicious, nutritious sprouts for the winter table

Brrr! I don’t know about you, but the most I’m getting out of my garden right now is icicles. Wouldn’t it be nice to grow something fresh and green? Is it even possible when it’s so cold outside?

Enter sprouts, the superheroes of nutrition – here to save the day! Not only are freshly prepared sprouts delicious, but they are alive and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are very good for you. As an added bonus, they are inexpensive, easy to grow, and take up very little room in the kitchen. Kids are oftentimes fascinated at the sight of germinating seeds- which affords all of us an opportunity to enjoy a closer, more personal relationship with the food we eat. And even folks in urban areas and those with limited space can enjoy the benefits of fresh, delicious, nutritious sprouts.

If you’d like to give it a try, the first thing you might like to do is find a source of sprouting seeds. Clover, alfalfa, wheat berries, mung beans, fenugreek, onion, and chia are some popular choices. Whole grains like brown rice, wheat berries, whole barley, rye, quinoa, millet, and beans are easier to digest and even more nutritious when sprouted. (I always prepare them this way before cooking and thoroughly enjoy it!) A word of caution, though: Never sprout treated seeds and always make sure your seeds are food-grade. Some seeds such as those from tomatoes, potatoes, and other nightshade vegetables are poisonous when sprouted. And, of course, use common sense while growing sprouts. When in doubt to the freshness or safety of sprouts that have an off-odor or develop mold, throw them out and try again. Keep records when starting out to streamline the learning experience.

With that in mind, a great source for sprouting seed is local health food stores. Sometimes seed companies like Pinetree and Johnny’s sell sprouting seeds along with special sprouting equipment. (For a long term, sustainable source of sprouting seed stock, try starting your own crop outside in the spring.) For best results, use fresh seeds and store the unused portions in a cool, dry location in an airtight glass jar. The freezer is by far the best place for long-term storage of seeds. Just make sure to let the jar warm to room temperature before opening to prevent the formation of moisture on the seeds. That will keep any seeds from that batch from losing their viability if they are to be stored again.

Now that you have obtained the seeds, it’s time to start sprouting! Germination will occur sooner in a warm room. There are several different methods of growing sprouts, but I have found this way to be the easiest: Soak the seeds in water overnight. Use a strainer or colander for the sprouting vessel, and line it with screen or cheesecloth if the holes are large enough for seeds to fall out. Then place the seeds no more than 2 cm thick in the vessel and rinse several times each day. Keep them moist but not waterlogged. In a day or two, depending on the seed, you should see some action. The seeds can be eaten soon after they have sprouted or a while later when they have grown a couple inches or longer. Experiment on what suits your taste. Expose the sprouts to sunlight until they turn green with nutrition. Then enjoy some fresh garden goodness straight from your countertop!


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