Sometimes a small effort on our part can produce enormous benefits both
personally and globally. For example, growing sprouts in our kitchens through
the winter is an easy way to make a big difference.
Sprouting seeds in jars or trays is a traditional way of producing delicious
nutritious, fresh organic vegetables in less than a week. And, eating homemade
sprouts instead of west-coast lettuce is a wonderful way to "just say no" to
some of the most damaging aspects of our food system.
This winter, I've been growing a steady supply of a combination of alfalfa,
radish and Chinese cabbage sprouts. This mix has a zesty blend of flavors, a
wonderful crisp crunchiness and lots of nutritional benefits.
Sprouting seeds is very easy. All we do is take advantage of their stored
energy. When the warmth, moisture and air needed for germination are provided,
the embryo closed in the softened seed coat comes to life. It sends out a tiny
root and lifts the cotyledons which surrounded it inside the seed, up to the
light as they open and turn green.
We make sprouts in a wide-mouth, quart canning jar capped with a piece of
flexible window screening held on with a canning band. Start with about two
tablespoons of seeds. Soak them overnight in tepid water. Soaking softens the
seeds and facilitates the germination process.
The next morning pour out the soaking water, rinse the seeds with fresh, cool
water and drain them. Repeat the rinsing and draining process two-to-four times
daily. After three or four days, the little plants will be big enough to eat.
As you keep rinsing and eating them, they will continue to grow. After a week
to ten days the sprouts will have grown all they can using their stored energy.
If they're not eaten by then, store them in the refrigerator. They are still
alive, though, and appreciate an occasional rinsing to bring in fresh air and
water and to remove waste products.
Start a second jar before the first one is empty and you'll have a continuous
harvest of this delicious food!
Sprouts are a great snack. We also use them on sandwiches, with eggs and
stir-frys, as well as for salads and as a garnish on soups and stews. The radish
sprouts provide a pleasant tang. The cabbage sprouts are very flavorful.
Members of the brassica family, cabbage and radish sprouts supply important,
health-building flavonoids, antioxidants and protective enzyme inducers for our
bodies. Alfalfa sprouts have a milder taste in addition to lots of vitamins and
Many other seeds can be sprouted too! Grains such as wheat, rye, barley and
buckwheat germinate easily, as do legumes like lentils, mung and garbanzo
beans. Seeds for sunflowers, onions, fenugreek and many of the greens we grow
in the garden make good sprouts. Most of the plants in those expensive mesclun
salad mixes can be germinated together to provide delicious flavor.
We start with fresh, organic seed from the natural food store. You can use
regular garden seeds if you're certain they haven't been treated with
chemicals. Although the seeds may seem expensive, two tablespoons of them grow
to fill a quart jar in a week. A pound of alfalfa seeds will produce 12 gallons
Once you get production going on the sprout farm around your kitchen sink,
you'll have no reason any more to buy iceberg lettuce shipped in from western
deserts. The USDA says that 92 percent of our lettuce is grown there, that 62
different chemicals are used to grow it, and that over half of the lettuce
samples tested contained detectable pesticide residues. Expensive government
irrigation projects water that lettuce to the severe detriment of other
Very large west coast lettuce farms depend on low-paid immigrant labor to
harvest the crop and on a large fleet of trucks to deliver their product, which
is 95 percent water, all the way across the country.
Growing sprouts in your kitchen may seem like a small bit of agriculture, but it
is one of the most powerful steps you can take to improve the health of your
family and the environment.
Discover the joys of sprouting. Start some today.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
C 1996, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT
Living on the Earth airs every Friday morning at 6:53 on WSHU, 91.1 FM public
radio from Fairfield, Connecticut. A collection of these essays was published
in 1993 as Living on the Earth- Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful
Solar Farm Education works to increase local sufficiency and organic agriculture
through a variety of projects including lectures, writings and a long-running
school garden program in Bridgeport, and an educational farm in New Haven.