Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Get Growing

Even a person like me, who lives in a condo specifically to avoid yardwork, can enjoy growing food. The effort required is small, and the rewards are great.

It's hard to beat the freshness, flavor and quality of homegrown herbs and vegetables. Talk about eating locally and seasonally! Growing part of your own food can save you money, too. And perhaps best of all, it fosters a connection to the natural world, even in the middle of a city.

For example, this past weekend marked a true changing of the seasons. I cleaned up the tattered remains of the summer garden from pots on the deck – goodbye, dear basil! – and planted the first fall crop in a jar in the kitchen. The harvest of sprouts will begin in a day or two.

Sprouts may be the easiest food of all to grow. To give you an idea of what's involved, I'll tell you how my garden grows. It takes:

1 quart-size glass Mason jar;
A sturdy rubber band;
Two bowls, one medium-size and one large;
Mix of alfalfa, radish and clover seeds for sprouting;
Lots of water.

Begin by putting 3 tablespoons of seeds into the jar. Fill the jar about halfway with warm water, and soak the seeds overnight to germinate.

The next morning, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth, and use the rubber band to hold it on. Drain the seeds. Then refill the jar with water, swirl it around to rinse the seeds, and drain them again thoroughly. Rotate the jar to distribute the seeds as evenly as possible, and then prop it at an angle in the medium-size bowl, top-side down so that it can continue to drain. Set the bowl in a warm place - the top of the refrigerator works well.

The seeds need to be rinsed and drained morning and evening, and the jar propped back in the bowl to drain. And that’s it. The rest of the time, they just quietly grow and grow.

When the sprouts get to be an inch or two long, develop little leaves and nearly fill the jar, they’re ready to eat. At that point, it’s good to remove as many of the seed hulls as possible. Put the sprouts into the large bowl, and cover them with water. Most of the hulls will float to the top, where they can be skimmed off and discarded.

Put the sprouts back into the jar, cover it loosely (the sprouts are living things and need to breathe), and store in the refrigerator. These sprouts can be enjoyed in many sandwiches and salads.

In addition to seeds, many grains and beans can be sprouted. Sprouted grain can be used in baked goods, and bean sprouts are delicious in stir-fries or other cooked dishes. Different sprouts are grown in slightly different ways, you may want to do a little research before you get started.

I follow the brief sprouting guide in Lorna Sass's book "Recipes From an Ecological Kitchen." But you can find detailed instructions in other books, and at many sites on the Internet. A thorough site is Sproutpeople’s "Sprout Basics" at http://www.sproutpeople.com/grow/sprouting.html


At 11/16/2006 4:05 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Two words come to mind: Chia Pet! Imagine: be animal friendly and grow your own all at the same time. ;-)


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