How to grow your own sprouts before Saint Patrick’s Day

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Does harvesting fresh homegrown greens in Quebec City before Saint Patrick’s Day sound crazy?

Keep reading, and you’ll find yourself with a pot full of greens just in time for a festive Irish salad.

What is a sprout?

Homegrown sprouts are just what they sound like – sprouted seeds.  They can be grown from seeds, beans, or even nuts.  A few days past germination, the seed itself and the tender green root and leaf sprouting from either end are tiny bombs of “good for you.”

5 good reasons why sprouts are good for you:

  1. Sprouts are a cost-effective way to include nutritious greens in your diet.  In fact, most varieties of seeds produce 6-8 times their weight in sprouts, which means you’re growing veggies for pennies.  Compare this with what sprouts and microgreens cost at average or high-end groceries, and you’ll quickly see the benefit of growing your own.
  2. Your kitchen counter is as local as food can get.  Above all, and this is the kind of urban gardening at which even the least successful plant grower can succeed.
  3. Sprouted seeds are one of the few known complete foods.  Vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes that can give your immune system a late-winter boost are complemented by a healthy dose of fiber.  (Click here for 8 nutrition facts about sprouts.)
  4. Sprouts are tasty and vary widely in flavour.  Depending on what kind of seed you sprout, you may produce sprouts that are satisfyingly nutty (mung beans, for example) or even have a hearty spice to them (think radish seeds).  
  5. Your culinary options are endless.  Obvious raw uses include salads, sandwiches and garnishes.  Sprouts cooked into baked goods, casseroles and soups are delicious.  If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can even dehydrate sprouts and then grind them into a nutrient-rich flour or powder base for smoothies.

BONUS: GROWING SPROUTS IS A FANTASTIC ACTIVITY FOR THE YOUNG GARDNER/CHEF/NATURE WHIZ IN YOUR LIFE. Since sprouts are seeds doing their thing in broad daylight, growing your own is a great opportunity to teach children about the growth cycle of plants, including photsynthesis.  Try sprouting several types of seeds to compare which grow more quickly, and how the taste differs from one to the next.  Sprouts can also be a handy introduction to urban gardening, a means of talking about where food comes from, or a way to start a discussion about the value of locally grown foods.

Sprout strainer_FQ_DSC_9819Convinced?  Here’s how to grow your own sprouts in 5 easy steps:

  1. You will need: a Mason jar, a strainer for the top of the Mason jar* and food-quality seeds.  *You can use cheescloth or another breathable cloth, or get a plastic mesh cover made for sprouting with Mason jars (like the one pictured at right).
  2. Place seeds in jar before heading to bed.  Depending on the type of seed and how big of a batch of sprouts you want, use between 1.5-4 tablespoons for one Mason jar.
  3. Fill jar with warm water water, cover with screen or cloth, and allow seeds to soak overnight.
  4. In the morning, drain water out through the mesh/cloth, then rinse sprouts under cold running water. Swirl the jar gently, then drain out the water again.  Prop the jar at an angle that ensures any remaining water can drain out.  I use my dish drying rack, but you could also prop the jar in a bowl or in the sink.  Sprouting seeds should not be placed in direct sunlight, but an average kitchen counter is fine.
  5. Repeat the rinse+drain ritual in the evening, and do so morning and evening for a few days, until the sprouts reach the size and colour you desire.  When sprouts are at the ideal size and shape, rinse them in cold water, drain thoroughly, and then store in the refrigerator.

Wondering how to get started?

Here in Quebec City, I have found a wide variety of sprouting seeds at Le Crac Aliments sains/La Carotte Joyeuse (click to view website; French only) .  This eco-friendly grocery store located at 690 Rue Saint-Jean also has the necessary equipment for sprouting seeds, if you feel like shelling out for sprout-specific containers.  However, you can also easily construct your own sprouting containers from ordinary kitchen supplies.

More questions? Click here for http://www.sproutpeople.org, which offers vast amounts of sprout-specific information.

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All images and text copyright 2014, Bethann G. Merkle

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bethann G. Merkle helps people like you communicate about why science and sustainability matters.  Visit www.fruitrootleaf.com to read more of Bethann’s writing about living and eating sustainably in Quebec City.  If you are looking for English-language communication support or tips, visit her professional website: www.commnatural.com.

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