By Diana Earnshaw, Volunteer Contributor
At this time of the year, I am always eager to see my vegetable seeds get going. There is something pretty special about seeing a plant – especially a food plant – develop from a seed. The only problem is that we have weeks to wait! We are nearing the end of the “hungry gap” now, but I want to show you how to grow micro-greens in just a few days – and for just a few pence!
No doubt many of you have grown mustard and cress or even bean sprouts in a jar, but there are lots of other leaves too – all offering a different array of flavours and nutrients.
Possibly the easiest are the bean sprouts in a jar. In fact, get the children to do it!
- Put a tablespoon of mung beans (or other but these are the most popular) in a jam jar and cover with water.
- Put on the lid or a piece of muslin with a rubber band. Change the water daily.
- They will sprout within a few days depending on how warm it is.
- When they have sprouted, simply rinse and drain them twice a day – more if it is warm.
- Use them when they are about 4-5cms long.
Seeds tend to have a fairly high carbohydrate content – grains are seeds so think of wheat and rice. They also have a fabulous nutritional content. They are tiny concentrated packages of nutrition which just want a comfortable moist bed in which to create another plant. When they sprout, much of the carbohydrate content is used and proteins are formed – these are the building blocks for all life forms. Sprouts are therefore higher in protein than their seeds. Plants harness the sun and use its energy to create their own energy systems. Providing they have the sun, a regular supply of water and/or organic compost to grow in, they will become a very valuable source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids in a relatively digestible form.
Seeds and beans can be hard to digest for some. Seed husks before germination, soaking, fermentation or cooking, contain substances that may cause digestive distress if they are eaten in quantity by humans or other animals. Nature has ensured that a plant species isn’t eaten to extinction in this way. Sprouted seeds therefore, are the best.
My favourite seeds to sprout are black sunflower seeds and radishes, but there are lots more. Kale, sunflower, broccoli, radishes (Daikon are the best!) onion and more.
If you want the leaves to be green, the containers must be moved into good light, but not direct sunlight when the seeds have just sprouted. To grow sprouts from seeds, I use ½ trays as there are only two of us at home.
- Put ½ inch compost into a tray and sow the seeds thickly but in a single layer.
- Cover with a thin layer of compost and keep moist.
- Cut with scissors when the right length.
This is certainly better for sunflower sprouts but you can try the jar method with other seeds if you wish.
I would suggest that bean sprouts are lightly cooked as they can still cause a bit of digestive discomfort – especially in husks, so try to remove as many as possible. Red kidney beans must be boiled rapidly until they are soft as they contain a greater concentration of anti-nutrients. Sprouted chickpeas can be cooked and made into hummus – see recipe.
When sprouting seeds/beans/lentils, make sure you buy organic and whole – they must not be hulled/toasted or otherwise processed.
Broccoli sprouts need a special mention. Sulforaphane, a naturally occurring chemical found in broccoli has been shown to have anti-cancer properties and broccoli sprouts have a concentration of this chemical. Sulforaphane also helps protect blood vessels and boosts immunity.