In the UK, this is a period in the garden and yard that’s called ‘The Hungry Gap’. The last of the overwintered veggies are coming to an end and the spring sowings are not yet ready to be harvested. If you want healthy food that doesn’t cost the earth either in money or in food miles, it can be difficult to find a way to eat that balances your budget and excites your taste-buds. Enter the sprouting seed!
The system for sprouting seeds couldn’t be easier – you just soak seeds, preferably organic ones, for eight hours in lots of water to get them started. If you’re a big fan of the sprouted seed, you can invest in specialised sprouting equipment, but if you want to try the system out for free, all you need is a jar or tray with a paper or cloth cover, water, and some suitable seeds or grains. Keep the seeds moist and clean by rinsing them well twice a day and maintain a temperature of between 55 and 70°F. Seeds grown in the dark tend to be crisper.
Sprouting seeds are full of valuable nutrients like minerals as well as containing high amounts of protein and fibre. Above all, they taste crisp, fresh and delicious.
Once they start to sprout you can harvest them by lift ripe sprouted seeds away from the others, this means the less developed ones will continue to grow, giving you a staggered harvest. Sprouts that are fully sprouted can be kept in a plastic bag in a fridge. As long as you rinse them every couple of days to keep them fresh, they should easily last a week.
Favourite sprouting seeds:
- Alfalfa has a mild nutty taste and is ready in seven days
- Fenugreek, a bit of an acquired taste because it’s bitter, but wonderful in stir-fries or mixed with milder sprouts to give zing to them – it’s a bit like chicory/endive in a salad. Takes nine days
Mustard is the seed most of us know best, the black seed is particularly hot and easy to grow, and this makes a wonderful addition to almost any meal, or perks up a boring sandwich. Only takes six days
- Wheatgrass is a sprout that has to be juiced after sprouting, this is the king of healthy sprouts but it takes a bit more effort, requiring 12 hours soaking and up to a fortnight to sprout
You can also sprout beans and grains, which are better produced in bags and can be ready in as little as three days. You shouldn’t eat a lot of sprouted beans that are uncooked because they can be difficult to digest, but a few added to a salad or sandwich is fine and cooked they are excellent nutritionally. Favourite varieties here are:
- Adzuki beans, which are crisp and crunchy and can be used sparingly in salads
- Chickpea or garbanzo which can be sprouted and then made in delicious humus
- Mung which is the best known sprout of all, they need to be grown in water, not just made damp and they are utterly delicious
- Wheat can be sprouted to make sprouted breads which are extremely tasty with a chewy dense texture.