Growing sprouts on your kitchen counter through the winter is an easy way
to make a big difference. This small effort produces both personal and
Sprouting seeds in jars or trays is a traditional way of producing
nutritious, fresh organic vegetables in less than a week's time. 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 delightful crisp crunchiness and lots of nutritional benefits.
Sprouting is very easy. The process simply takes advantage of the stored
energy in seeds. When the warmth, moisture and air needed for germination
are provided, embryos closed in softened seed coats come to life. In each
one, a tiny root pops out 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 continue to
grow. After a week-to-ten days, the sprouts will have used up all their
stored energy. If they're not eaten by this time, refrigerate them.
Because sprouts are alive, they still 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 in salads
and as a garnish on soups and stews. Radish sprouts provide a pleasant
tang. Cabbage sprouts are very flavorful. As members of the brassica
family, both cabbage and radish sprouts supply important, health-building
flavonoids, antioxidants and protective enzyme inducers for our bodies. We
plan to try broccoli sprouts soon. Research indicates that they have up to
50 times the concentration of anti-cancer compounds found in mature
broccoli. Alfalfa sprouts have a milder taste in addition to lots of
vitamins and helpful enzymes.
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
We start with fresh, organic seeds from the natural food store. You can
use regular garden seeds if you're absolutely 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 of sprouts.
Once you get production going on the sprout farm around your kitchen sink,
you'll have little reason 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 this lettuce, to the severe detriment
of other ecosystems.
Very large west coast lettuce farms depend on low-paid, immigrant labor to
harvest the crop and on a large fleet of trucks to transport their product
(which is 95 percent water) all the way across the country.
Growing sprouts in your kitchen may seem like a small agricultural act, but
it is a very easy and powerful step you can take to improve the health of
both your family and the environment.
Discover the joys of sprouting seeds. Start some today.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C) 1999, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill
Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first
appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted
weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are
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