Winter Nutrition

by Bill Duesing

First broadcast on WSHU/WSUF-FM, January 31, 1997

Sometimes a small effort on our part can produce enormous benefits both personally and globally. For example, growing sprouts in our kitchens through the winter is an easy way to make a big difference.

Sprouting seeds in jars or trays is a traditional way of producing delicious and nutritious, fresh organic vegetables in less than a week, right on your kitchen counter. And, eating homemade sprouts instead of west-coast lettuce is a wonderful way to "Just say no!" to some of the most damaging aspects of our food system.

This winter, I've been growing a steady supply of a combination of alfalfa, radish and Chinese cabbage sprouts. This mix has a zesty blend of flavors, a wonderful crisp crunchiness and lots of nutritional benefits.

Sprouting seeds is very easy. When the warmth, moisture and air needed for germination are provided, the embryo enclosed in the softened seed coat comes to life. It sends out a tiny root and lifts the cotyledons which surrounded it inside the seed, up to the light as they open and turn green.

We make sprouts in a wide-mouth, quart canning jar capped with a piece of flexible window screening held on with a canning band. About a tablespoon of alfalfa seeds, a quarter cup of mung beans, or a half cup of wheat berries will fill a quart jar when sprouted. Soak them overnight in tepid water. Soaking softens the seeds and starts the germination process.

The next morning pour out the soaking water, rinse the seeds with fresh, cool water and drain them. Repeat the rinsing and draining process two-to-four times daily. After three or four days, the little plants will be big enough to eat. As you keep rinsing and eating them, they will continue to grow. After a week to ten days the sprouts will have grown all they can using their stored energy. If they're not eaten by then, store them in the refrigerator. They are still alive though and appreciate an occasional rinsing to bring in fresh air and water, and to remove waste products.

Start a second jar before the first one is empty and you'll have a continuous harvest of this delicious food!

Sprouts all by themselves are a great snack. We also use them on sandwiches, with eggs and stir-frys, as well as for salads and as a garnish on soups and stews. The radish sprouts provide a pleasant tang. Cabbage sprouts are also very flavorful. Members of the Brassica family, cabbage and radish sprouts supply important, health-building flavonoids, antioxidants and protective enzyme inducers for our bodies. Alfalfa sprouts, with a milder taste, also have lots of vitamins and helpful enzymes too.

Many other seeds can also be sprouted. Grains such as wheat, rye, barley and buckwheat germinate easily, as do legumes like lentils, mung and garbanzo beans. Seeds for sunflowers, onions, fenugreek and many of the greens we grow in the garden make good sprouts. Most of the plants in those expensive mesclun salad mixes can be germinated together to provide delicious flavor.

Growing sprouts in your kitchen may seem like a small bit of agriculture, but it's one of the most powerful steps we can take to improve the health of our families and the environment.

Discover the joys of sprouting. Start some today!

This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth

This page and its contents are copyright © 1997 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.