Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Kitchen Garden

Apartment-dwellers, take heart! Even if you don't have a yard, you can cultivate a garden right on your kitchen counter.
Sprouting seeds like beans, grains and rice is a natural way to add vitamins to your diet. On the shelf, seeds are full of useful minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates, but their true potential is locked away. Given a long soak, periodic rinsing and good drainage, they transform visibly and chemically like botanical butterflies. All that stored energy comes to life, bringing about a significant increase in vitamin content and digestibility.
Sprouts have a long history of scurvy prevention; sailors and soldiers could easily transport the dry seeds, to be turned into vitamin C factories as needed. Since vitamins are heat-sensitive, especially vitamin C, it's important to cook them on low heat for as little time as possible.
Best of all, sprouting is easy! No special equipment required, just water and time. Wild plants have managed to self-propagate forever without special sprouters, so I don't see why we need them either. I do find it useful to have a bowl and strainer. I started soaking these pinto beans and lentils (pictured above) on Friday afternoon, rinsed and drained them on Saturday, and let them sit on paper towels in a bowl. I took the above photo on Sunday afternoon. I was short on equipment this time around, but in the future I'd recommend sprouting them separately to accommodate for different cooking times. Whatever container you choose for sprouting, be sure to leave room for the seeds to triple in size.
My favorite seeds to sprout are lentils and brown rice, which sprout within two days. Mung beans, pinto beans and wheat also sprout easily, while adzukis take a little more coaxing. I haven't successfully sprouted almonds or pumpkin seeds, which may have been because mine had already been cooked. Sprouting is a check-up on the freshness and vitality of your seeds.
As a last word of caution, stay away from tomato and potato sprouts - they're poisonous! Happy sprouting.

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