Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sprouting in Winter

The daylight is getting longer and the countdown to March 1st continues - 44 days. We continue experimenting with sprouts and ways of growing them. My regular method is using a wide mouth Mason jar with a mixture of mung beans and alfalfa. We like this for salads, soups, and eggs. This tried and true method gets one a jar of sprouts in a week and they usually last that long. I like to get them started with a warm water soak for maybe 6-8 hours then I drain them and put them and my favorite new place - in the microwave. That space is dark and I usually keep them in there till they have made a nice root growth and the first set of true leaves are showing. Then they go into the sun to green up with chlorophyll and fill in the jar. When the sprouts are in the sun I try to rinse them twice a day instead of the once they get when they are in the dark. Once we start to use them I still rinse them as I take them from the jar and I also use some plastic wrap to cover the end of the jar while they are in the crisper in the refrigerator.

This week I will also start another tray of sunflower seeds. I am still in an experimental stage with technique but I have been fairly successful so far. I soak the seed for the same amount of time but then I rinse the seed really well after the soak. I have used a very very weak bleach solution for the first rinse because on my first batch I had a problem with fungus growth. Not a problem this second time so think I will try that step again. I use a soil-less mix as a thin base in a plastic seedling tray and then scatter my sunflower seed on top. I cover them very thinly with the soil-less mix and then mist the tray before I cover it with a wet newspaper and a plastic tray lid. The seed tray has drainage holes and I sit that tray in another tray without drainage so I can water from the bottom along with misting. This tray is close to my grow lights. I monitor the sprouts and as soon as they begin to break the seed coat I take off the paper. I keep the clear cover on for a few days as I want as many seed coats to fall off as possible and if they are moist they seem to fall better than if they dry out. Misting is a daily activity and as soon as most of the seed has sprouted I remove the clear lid and get the sprouts close to my light source - 10-12 inches. I turn the tray each day to try to get nice vertical growth and when the tray has sprouted and grown to about 3 - 4 inches I cut my crop with a scissors as close to the soil line as possible, rinse them in cold water and put them in a plastic bag and into the crisper tray. From a regular seed tray I get a plastic bag full or about the same amount one pays about $5 for in the store. The process is a bit longer than the sprouts in the jar but we really like the sunflowers.

We have been exploring out ethnic grocery stores for interesting vegetables and fruits. This week we were at both an Asian and a Mexican market. Both had very interesting produce. In the Asian market we bought some very nice fresh bean sprouts that were used in soup and eggs. We also tried a "Fragrant Pear". We both really like Asian pears but this small fruit was more fragrant and had a wonderful extra flavor that went beyond that of a regular Asian pear. Sorry, I have no picture of that fruit as we ate it before I knew just how good it was but you can Google "fragrant pear" for info and pictures. When we decide to try new foods as these we ask the store owners about the product and they have been most helpful in explaining preparation. A week previous we tried a new kind of sweet potato that was very nice and cooked it as suggested in the microwave. I have never eaten a sweeter potato. We also went to a Mexican market this week on Saturday especially because they have special roast pork available in the store. This is common when one visits Mexico. We made pork tacos and used the bean sprouts purchased at the Asian market as part of the concoction - kind of like a pork taco egg roll all in one. Both the markets we visited had many other interesting vegetables and fruits for later experimentation. I was most fascinated to watch a man with gloved hands slicing the spine off cactus pads in the Mexican market - now that is a vegetable I have never had but might like to try next. I'll keep you posted.
Happy Gardening

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