Monday, 23 June 2008

Grow Your Own - Inside

One way to grow your own veg, whether you have a garden or not, is to sprout seeds. Everyone has grown mustard and cress when they were small, using cotton wool or kitchen roll, but there are a lot of other varieties that can be grown.
One of my favourite is alfalfa, tiny seeds that grow to lovely crisp sprouts; ideal in sandwiches or a mixed salad. Beans, when they are sprouted, are no longer poisonous raw, aduki, mung (the beansprouts used in chinese cookery), lentils, chick peas and loads more. These can all be bought from seed merchants, but you can grow untreated peas and beans from health food shops and supermarkets. This probably works out cheaper, but they might not be as fresh, so germination might not be as good, and obviously heat treated or husked seeds do not grow. If you try mung beans they are unlikely to reach the size of commercal ones, although if you grow them in the dark they will be longer than those kept in the light.
How to do it? Well you can buy special seeds sprouters, but before going out and spending, try out a homemade sprouter to see if you like the flavours. Find a large glass jar with either a screw top lid which you can pierce holes in, or use an elastic band to hold a fine piece of cloth over the neck. Muslin is recommended, but anything that allows the water to drain away can be used.
Soak the seeds overnight in cold water, then drain away all the excess. Rinse the sprouts at least 2 or 3 times a day, more if it's hot. This keeps them fresh; make sure they are well drained in between rinses, if they sit in water, they will rot. Depending on the variety, they can be ready in as little as 2-3 days, the longest is probably 6. As they germinate starches turn to sugars, (the nutrient content is very high at this stage) but do not leave them too long or the sweetness will be lost, and they will get tough. They will keep, well drained, in the fridge for at least 3 days.
Do check for seeds that have not germinated. Some stay very hard, so be careful. Most husks do soften and you just eat them alonside the sprouts, good roughage, but sunflowers stay quite hard, I usually try to remove those ones. It's quite fiddly, but they have a lovely flavour, so worth it. Besides using in salads, they are good added to stir frys and many other dishes. I am not trying to advertise T&M, but they do have an enormous choice.

If you get hooked, then this the time to buy a sprouter. It does make life easier, and usually consists of a drip tray and 3 others. I usually use the top one, which would be more prone to drying out, for growing cress, radish, broccoli etc. that I put on moist kitchen roll. The lower trays retain humidity, which is better for the sprouting seeds. Fresh veg that literally anyone can grow.!

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