Taking an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management
If the bleak grey days of winter have you itching to plant a garden, growing sprouts indoors may be just the cure for this. Sprouts are simply germinated seedlings of alfalfa, mung bean, soybean, lentil, radish, kale, funugreek, mustard, onion, cabbage, broccoli, etc. Each type of sprout has a unique flavor and some vary in color. For example, China rose radish sprouts have pink stems with a spicy flavor. In contrast, hard red winter wheat sprouts have a sweet, malty flavor, whereas alfalfa sprouts have a nutty taste. Sprouts of any type are a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or many other cooked dishes.
When purchasing seeds for sprouting, make sure they have not been treated with a fungicide. They can be purchased from a variety of sources including online sites or at garden centers and health food stores. Both organic and non-organic seeds for edible sprouts are commonly available.
Specialized germinators can be used to grow sprouts or they can be grown in clean, wide-mouth glass canning jars. For canning jars, a screw-top ring and cheesecloth or fine meshed wire are also needed. Use a separate jar for each type of seed because they vary in the time it takes for them to germinate.
To clean the seeds, first rinse them seeds in cold water. Next, immerse the seed in warm water in a sterile canning jar and allow them to soak for 12 to 24 hours to prime the seeds for germination. After this, with the opening of the jar covered with cheesecloth or wire mesh and secured by the ring or a rubber band, drain the water off the seeds. Rinse them with water again and drain, removing any excess water from the container. Keep the jar in a dark place (or cover the top of the jar with foil) at room temperature at 68° to 72°F. Rinse the seeds two to four times daily until they are ready to be harvested and stored. After each rinse, make sure to drain the sprouts thoroughly to prevent growth of undesirable organisms. If contaminants are visible on sprouts at any time, discard them and maintain a sterile growing environment. Most seeds germinate and grow to an optimal size within three to five days. However, sprouts grown from large seeds like mung bean or chickpeas may require a few more days.
For a little extra color, put the sprouts in a sunny window for a few hours to allow them to green up. If you wish to remove the seed coats, take the sprouts out of the jar and place them in a container with water. With a bit of gentle stirring, the seed remnants will float to the water surface where they can be easily removed. Drain the sprouts again and use them immediately or store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for less than two weeks. Thus, growing sprouts is a quick and easy way to chase away your winter blahs until those warm sunny days of outdoor gardening return.
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REVISED: September 29, 2015