An introduction to microgreens and seed sprouting, Part 1.
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Where I live, buying decent, fresh vegetables is impossible. The main sources, Sainsbury and Tesco, are just too dull for words - greens that smell good while cooking taste of sod all once they hit the plate (NO - they’re not overcooked!); potatoes that are a flat-out fraud, as for years now, the Maris Piper I favour have had a substantial addition of cheap and nasty spuds that are as far away from Maris Piper as it’s possible to get - they look right, but they’re way too watery).
Of course, we all know that supermarkets select veg for appearance more than anything else, though I’m not sure how that accounts for main-crop carrots that are fit only for cattle feed or the compost heap. And so it goes, and I’ve had enough. (Yes, I do have the option of a corner shop, but his veg is the most boring Holland can produce - and it’s expensive - even the organic farm shop has veg so old and knackered I’d never even contemplate buying it.)
Starting in the next few days I’m going to start growing my own greens. Not having a garden, this will be a mix of sprouted seeds and microgreens (also called “living greens,” though how you’d grow dead greens I’m unsure…), grown indoors.
Microgreens are a step up from sprouts, being grown on for a further week or so, depending on variety, and harvested when they get their first true leaves. You can grow pretty much anything you can sprout (though I’d give pulses a miss - they’re ok for sprouts but not much else), but unlike sprouts they’re grown in trays filled either with vermiculite or a 50/50 mix of vermiculite and seedling compost with, I believe, the latter giving the better results (vermiculite is inert, and on its own contributes nothing to the growing process but an ability to hold water. I’m tending towards the standard gardeners’ technique of sowing the seed onto seedling compost, then covering with a layer of vermiculite, which will keep the plantlets clean.
Normal seed trays are fine for the purpose, and pretty cheap, but if your home gets chilly in winter, a couple of heated propagators are a good idea, as seedlings don’t like the cold - stripped of the fancy names, all you’re doing is eating seedlings.
So, what to grow? All the usual salad leaves are up for grabs, of course, plus radishes and onions, and you can grow things like beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, celery, carrots - their seedlings are all said to be very tasty. Garlic seedlings are said to be excellent, too, but I’ve not seen any seed for sale. You can grow pulses in this manner, but once beyond the sprout stage they need to be cooked, and what I’m aiming for is vitamin-and mineral-rich raw food, loaded with beneficial plant enzymes, for salads. Grains aren’t worth bothering with, as they need to be juiced if grown on beyond the sprout stage, as they’re - obviously - all forms of grass. And while the juice is nutritious - think wheat grass - the juicers are pricey.
My aim is to provide myself with lunches this way, using bulk-sprouted seeds, like alfalfa and hemp, as a base, tarted up with the more tasty and upmarket microgreens.
Normally, I can’t eat lunch, as food at midday makes me fall asleep for most of the afternoon, a problem I’ve cracked simply by not eating lunch. I’ve not eaten breakfast for years, either, and I do get hungry, so a light snack of a small bowl of sprouts and microgreens, in a light vinaigrette, should be just the job.
I’m awaiting delivery of my first order of a selection of seeds - I’m not over-fond of bean sprouts except in a takeaway - and a small sprouter:-
Hemp Seeds 500g
Alfalfa Seeds 250g
Black Mustard Seeds 100g
Broccoli Seeds 250g
Golden Linseed 500g
All organic except the linseeds, which aren’t for sprouting - though I might try them - they’re for blitzing in the blender and drinking, stirred into a glass of orange juice. In that form they’re an excellent laxative.
I think I may have erred on the side of caution with the sprouter, and should maybe have gone for a bigger one. Time will tell, though I think a couple of small ones - as I live alone - will be better than a single huge one. I’ll also need to modify the sprouter as, like so many of its kind, the tiers are poorly ventilated. Still, it’s not difficult.
Once I have my seeds, I need to take myself off to a garden centre for trays, vermiculite and compost - it’s not really economical buying heavy/bulky stuff online, as it ramps up the postage something fierce.
There’s a chest of drawers in my bedroom that gets a decent amount of light from the window, so this will be my growing area (a cheap piece of particle-board, placed on top, will extend the area by about 50%, if necessary). In fact anywhere I have a flat, reasonably well-lit space can play host to a small sprouter, or a sprouting jar.
Sprouted grains will give my bread-making a boost, too, as they’ll add flavour and texture, especially if I use contrasting sprouts, like rye sprouts in a spelt loaf, or beetroot and onion sprouts in a wholemeal loaf (that’d be great with cheese). Recipes will be posted here, too.
Go to Part 2