It’s a little hard to get live green food out of the cold frames right now.

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And anyway, we don’t have that many cold frames; … and they weren’t planted that thickly… and they’ve been depleted by earlier harvests. We just need to get more cold frames (not just Reemay over hoops)… and we are working on that.

Meanwhile, what’s to do to get fresh salad greens while waiting for the snow to melt so I can harvest mache, Austrian winter pea shoots and maybe arugula and some land cress? One sprouts.

Because, frankly, I really want to avoid lettuce grown like this.

Sprouting is easy. Gather some wide-mouth pint or quart canning jars and some food-grade seeds (NOT seeds for planting which may be treated with something noxious).

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Soak seeds of legumes (beans, lentils, peas) and most other seeds 12 hours or overnight in a jar. Bigger seeds and hard seeds can take a longer soaking. Mustard seeds should be soaked for 1 to 2 hours only: any more than that and they will turn into a slimy and smelly mess… and no sprouts.

One tablespoon of seeds yield a cup or more of sprouts, so go easy on the seed quantities until you have a good handle on your sprout appetite. After the initial soaking that plump the seeds, drain the water away and cover the jar with a special sprouting lid (or – as I did before I bought the lids – a piece of fabric held with a rubber band or a canning ring). You want air to circulate to avoid molding, but you don’t want the seeds to dry out, so don’t cover with a canning lid or a solid plastic lid.  The sprouting lids are perforated so they act as a strainer; otherwise use a tea strainer to drain the water away. Then, twice a day, in the morning and the evening, gently rinse the seeds and drain the seeds.  Do this for 3 to 6 days depending on the seeds and your house temperature until baby leaves appear. I keep the jars on my kitchen counter (which is relatively dark) and the last day I move the jar by a window to green the leaves a little.

If you aren’t using them all at once, then store the sprouts in the fridge. Make sure they are dry to the touch before doing so and rinse again before using. The sprouts should keep for a few days. The seed coat (which often fell off… but not always) is edible, but the sprouts will keep better if you rinse them away.

Still, I prefer fresh sprouts to 5 days old refrigerated sprouts. So, to ensure a steady supply, I start a batch every other day or so. To make it more fun, I don’t use the same seeds.

Many seeds can be sprouted. Some are as easy as reaching into your pantry (lentils, chickpeas, wheat berries); others (onions, radishes, brocoli, buckwheat etc) might necessitate a trip to a natural food store or ordering on-line (radishes, broccoli etc). I prefer to order from a reputable seed merchant that sell seeds for sprouting – like Johnny’s Selected Seeds: they test their seeds for e-coli and germination rate. Seeds sold through a grocery store may be old and may not be kept in optimal conditions for good germination (they are too hot for good seed keeping) .

Sprouts all taste different, very much like their mature version, but more delicate: radishes & mustard  are spicy, lentils are mild, broccoli seeds taste cabbage-y.

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Mustard seeds soaking
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China Rose radish seeds day 2
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Lentil seeds day 5

Sprouts can then be tossed with other salad materials; used in a wrap; with pita & felafel ; or just any sandwich. It’s kind of fun to play with the flavors.

In fact, when there is very little grass for our chicken to eat, we sprout wheat berries for them. The chlorophyll help to keep those yolk deep yellow. And the girls really enjoy their treats!

Wheat grass for our chicken
Wheat grass for our chicken

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