Post # 55 The Garden in Your Kitchen pt 1

October 8, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 55 The Garden in Your Kitchen pt 1

In the U.S. it’s not very difficult to get fresh vegetables all year round.  With greenhouses and hydroponics, we can have fresh veggies of nearly any type whenever we want them.  During “off” seasons, the price may go up a bit, but most people are willing to pay a little extra to get their favorite food.

Winter is the time when fresh seems an impossibility.  In the days before science improved our lives with chemicals, all the harvest was stored in various ways to use during the winter.  Very little was fresh then, unless you were lucky enough to live in a climate where the growing season was year round.  I grew up in the desert in the southwest.  Anything will grow at just about any time if you give it enough water and fertilizer.

However, there are things that can be grown during the winter if you follow the right process.   Seed sprouts are easy, fast, and delicious, and can be substituted for fresh veggies in nearly any recipe.  Different seeds give sprouts of different flavors.  Even sprouts from the same seeds that are harvested younger will taste different from older sprouts.  It’s also a fun way to get younger kids involved in the kitchen, and in the growing process since it does return very quick yields.

Back in the 60s and 70s, sprouts exploded on the national psyche.  The organic, and back-to-nature movements took to sprouting like it was the next fountain of youth.  Suddenly sprouts were in every sandwich and every salad.  The most common sprout was the alfalfa sprout.  Alfalfa is a grass that’s fed to livestock.  When it’s ready for humans to eat, it’s usually stuffed into a square plastic box with holes to breathe and drain and looks a lot like this:

It gets torn apart and stuffed into whatever it’s being used for.  I like the flavor and crunch.  I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not a cow when I’m eating it.  I use alfalfa sprouts in salads, in tacos, in sandwiches, in wraps.  Just be aware that they don’t cook very well.  Heat makes them go limp and slimy.  But a few on top of a bowl of soup as a garnish are great!

Another sprout that anyone who’s eaten more than two Chinese meals is familiar with is mung bean sprouts.  These are a thicker and firmer sprout, with a distinctive earthy flavor.  Because they are hardier, they can be used in cooking quite a bit.  A quick saute doesn’t lose their texture or crispness.  Even being reheated the next day doesn’t do them much harm.  They typically look like this:

Another sprout that I love is one that most people don’t think about.  Lentil sprouts have an amazing flavor that becomes more complex the older they get.  I’ve never put them in a cooked dish, preferring to add them to salads or have them as a stand-alone with a vinaigrette and grated cheese.

Sprouts are very easy to make.  First, clean and sterilize a one-quart glass jar.  If it has a canning lid with a removable center, all the better, but it’s not necessary.  Select whatever seed you’re going to sprout.  I recommend you get the first seeds from a reputable grocer or supplier of sprouting seeds until you are comfortable with the whole sprouting process.

Once the jar is ready and the seeds are selected, put 1/2 cup of seeds in the jar and fill it with cool water.  Swish the seeds around to remove any dust or dirt from them and drain the jar.  This is where the removable center lid comes in handy.  If you have one, cover the jar with a single layer of cheese cloth and tighten the outer ring over the jar.  The water leaves but keeps the seeds in the jar.  If the jar you’re using doesn’t have that type of lid, do not use any lid at all.  Cover the jar with two or three layers of cheese cloth or paper towels, and use a rubber band to keep it in place.  When the water is out, tap the seeds back down to the bottom of the jar.  Fill the jar again with cool water and allow the seeds to sit for 12 hours or overnight in a cool dark place.  I usually keep my sprouts under the kitchen sink.  Drain the water completely and rinse the seeds, making certain the water draining from the jar is clear.  Tap the seeds down to the bottom and put the jar in a cool dark place.  Drain and rinse every twelve hours.

Watch the seeds closely.  When they start sprouting, rinse only once each cycle rather than allowing the water to run clear.  when the sprouts reach about an inch long, they’re ready to harvest.  Take them out of the jar and use them in whatever way you like.  To store the sprouts, make certain they are dry but don’t allow them to dry out.  A salad spinner is a great help with this.  Line it with paper towels to keep the seeds from flying out the holes in the spinner.  Once they sprouts are dry, put them in a sturdy container with a few air holes for circulation and place in the fridge.  They will continue to grow, but at a lower rate.  You’ll notice that the sprouts flavor will change and mature as they grow older.  Toss any that are left that you won’t enjoy to the birds.  They’ll have a feast!  Also, watch the ground where you toss them.  You may find some growing!


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