Winter can be a difficult time for gardeners. After harvesting fresh food for most of the year, freezing temperatures and inclement weather keep even the bravest farmers indoors, dreaming of tomato juice dripping from the chin, sweet corn kernels popping like caviar against teeth and crunching luscious, colorful leaves that delight the eye as much as the palate. Farmer’s markets, with fresh wares produced in greenhouses or high tunnels, offer solace, but there is nothing that compares to eating one’s own fresh food.
Winter makes gardeners long for summer's bounty.
Thankfully, there is a simple solution for those who enjoy watching seeds germinate and become edible sustenance and the process is fast, easy and only requires a few ordinary household items, a handful of seeds and a sunny window. To alleviate those mid-winter gardening blues, try growing sprouts. In a matter of days, with minimal effort, you can have fresh green produce for salads, sandwiches or toppings for almost any dish. Well, maybe not chocolate cake. But then again, that could be an interesting combination . . .
Wide mouth jars work best for sprouts.
Before “planting” seeds to sprout, gather the following items: 1 quart glass jar, a lid to fit the jar, cheesecloth, mesh screen OR a paper coffee filter that will fit inside the lid, something that will hold the jar at an angle to drain, such as a dish rack, fresh water and some seeds to sprout. That’s it. Easy, peasy.
Soak seeds overnight in a dark room.
Sprouts are an ideal food, especially during winter months when human bodies may move less. Bursting from dormant seeds, sprouts are loaded with energy and eager to become mature plants. The sprouting process increases vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels and makes seeds, especially legumes and grains, easier to digest. Before sprouting any seeds for consumption, be sure to obtain them from a reputable source, such as a health food store or reliable online source, to avoid any possible contamination, or use seed saved from your own plants.
Drain water from seeds using a rack.
To begin, place 1-2 tablespoons seed in the quart jar. Cover seeds with enough water, about 1-3 inches, to completely cover the seeds. Attach the lid, with mesh, cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place the jar in a dark place, such as a cabinet or closet, overnight or about 12-14 hours. *For beans, allow more time for soaking, as much as 18 hours.
Sprouts fill a quart jar in just a few days.
Drain the water through the screen and place jar, on angle, on a rack or other device to hold it in place. Cover jar with a dark cloth. Continue to add water, shake the seeds and drain, covered, several times each day for about 4-7 days or until sprouts look ready. On the final day, remove the dark cloth and allow sprouts to absorb sunlight in order to turn bright green.
Exposing sprouts to sunlight allows them to turn bright green.
Remove sprouts from jar, shaking to remove excess water and seeds that did not germinate. Store in refrigerator and use within a week.
Add sprouts to other chopped veggies and herbs for extra plant energy.
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