Sprouting Your Own Seed Mixtures
One way of supplementing the limited supply of fresh vegetables in winter is to sprout seeds — perhaps the world’s most productive form of vegetable growing! The time from sowing to harvest is often no more than four or five days; noand little space is required, and the end-product is highly nutritious, rich in vitamins and minerals.
All sorts of seed can be sprouted, but some of the most popular, and obtainable, are mung beans (the well-known Chinese bean sprouts), adzuki and soya beans, whole lentils, alfalfa, radish, fenugreek, rye, and brown unpolished rice. The seeds can be bought in wholefood shops or from seed firms: but make sure they are intended for sprouting, and have not been chemically treated. Once bought, store them like all seeds in cool, dry conditions.
Most can be used raw or cooked, though you should not eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts (beans, alfalfa, fenugreek, lentils). Sprouts are generally at their best when between ½ – 2cm (¼—3/4in) long. Seeds can be sprouted in the dark or the light; darkness makes the sprouts whiter and gives them a crisper texture.
All that is required to sprout seeds is to keep them moist and warm, but not in such close conditions that they become mouldy. This is the commonest cause of failure, and the reason for recommending twice-daily rinsing because this keeps them fresh.
Step-by-step guide to sprouting
1. Rinse the seeds in an ordinary culinary strainer, removing any which are chipped or off-colour.
2. Soak them overnight in cold water. This is optional, but speeds up the sprouting process.
3. Next morning tip them into a strainer, and run fresh cold water through them.
4. Put them, moist but drained, into a layer no more than 2cm (3/4in) deep in a jar, bowl or any kind of dish. This can be covered with a lid, plate or moisture-retaining material, partly to prevent them drying out, partly to keep them dark if whitened sprouts are preferred.
5. In winter put the container in a warm place (such as an airing cupboard); in summer it can be put anywhere. Most seeds sprout at a temperature between 13-21°C (55-70°F).
6. Each night and morning rinse the seeds by tipping them into a strainer, running cold water through, draining them, and returning them to the container. It need take no more than two minutes. Continue doing this until the sprouts are at least cm (1/4in) long.
The sprouts are best eaten as soon as they are ready, when they are at their most nutritious and tasty. If delay is unavoidable, keep them in a bowl of cold water in a fridge, rinsing from time to time. Seeds can also be sprouted in commercial sprouters, most of which have perforations or holes in the lid to facilitate rinsing and draining.