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Grow your own sprouts for spring in a jar

  • Sprouts grow quickly and require minimal tending. After about 36 hours, this Ancient Eastern Sprouting Mix is beginning to sprout.

  • Sprouts seeds soaking in water. After soaking for eight hours, seeds will be rinsed and drained periodically for about three days before they’re ready to be eaten.

  • Sprouts, left, can be grown in a mason jar with a mesh lid for draining. At right, after soaking for eight hours, seeds will be rinsed and drained periodically for about three days before they’re ready to be eaten. Storing them upside down at an angle ensures proper drainage.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2020 10:50:25 PM
Modified: 2/18/2020 10:52:47 PM

There are two kinds of people in New England: those who embrace winter in all its blustery, slushy glory and those who start Googling “jobs in Arizona” as soon as they’ve taken down the Christmas lights.

Some of us identify with the former camp only through jaw-cramping effort and often need a bit of propping up come February. In the marathon that is a New England winter, these water stations can take many forms, from knitting to booze. But the most effective ones, in my opinion, are those that provide some glimpse beyond the stark, gray world we currently inhabit.

Yes, I’m talking about tropical vacations, but I’m also talking about humbler distractions. Consider bean sprouts. Inexpensive, ultra-easy to grow and full of vitamins, they turn into a beguiling bouquet of tangled tendrils and offer an opportunity to, if not exactly garden, at least nurture life.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a package of bean sprout seeds at the Co-op Food Store in Lebanon, along with a screw-top strainer lid for Mason jars, and started my first crop of sprouts.

The process is simple: Soak a couple tablespoons of sprout seeds in cold water for eight hours. Drain, rinse, drain, repeat, every 8 to 12 hours over the next 3 to 5 days. In between each rinse, store the jar upside down at an angle so the water will fully drain.

I started my sprouts on a Friday morning. In the water, the “Ancient Eastern Blend” I’d selected from High Mowing Organic Seeds — a mix of fenugreek, lentils, kamut, mung beans and adzuki beans — looked a little like beach pebbles.

They promised health benefits galore. These little buggers boast an impressive portfolio of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as fiber, amino acids and protein. They’re said to regulate blood sugar, promote digestion, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

All that, and they’re relatively undemanding to grow. The only challenges are devising a way to prop the jar at an angle and remembering to rinse and drain them on schedule. I used a miniature bowl to hold the jar in position, and since the commitment was for only three to five days, I managed to keep up with the rinsing schedule. Rinsing and draining are crucial, according to the website sproutpeople.org, because they ensure optimum moisture, which is key to germination.

And germinate they did. By the end of the day Saturday, tiny tendrils had shot out of many of the beans, and by Sunday, my miniature greenhouse was teeming with life. If my weekend schedule had allowed it, I’d have pulled up a chair to watch them grow. Their pace was astonishing, especially against a backdrop of trees that had been dormant for three months.

On Monday morning I declared them done. I transferred the crop, totaling about two cups of sprouts, to an airtight glass container. I made a salad for lunch and nested a forkful on top.

The salad did not change my life, or even my day. But the sprouts were tastier than most I’ve eaten, with a distinct nutty flavor and crunchy texture and a lovely grassy aroma. The next day I threw some in a stir fry, and the day after, they topped a veggie burger. After that, I’ll admit I forgot about them for a couple of days, but when I checked on them a week after I started the sprouting process, they still looked and smelled fresh. According to the package, they’ll stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Since there’s no danger of anyone else in my household sneaking a taste, one batch a week should suit me about right.

There is one danger associated with raw sprouts: they carry a slight risk of harboring harmful bacteria. Growing them at home gives you control over how they’re handled. Experts recommend rinsing them frequently with filtered water, taking care that they’re not resting in standing water and avoiding high humidity environments. You can cook them to eliminate the risk of bacteria, but that also destroys some of their health benefits.

And this time of year, we can use all the health benefits we can get. If you like to eat local, you know it can be a challenge in the winter. Homegrown sprouts are not only as local as you can get, their vitamin and mineral content may help make up for things that are lacking in a localvore’s diet in winter.

It’s not uncommon to lack energy during the darkest, coldest months either. I’d like to say the sprouts gave me a boost of energy — I did feel pretty peppy toward the end of the week — but it would be too hard to isolate that factor. Maybe over the course of a winter I could conduct a longer study on their health effects.

Luckily, it’s too late for that this winter. Spring will be here, technically at least, in less than five weeks. Not that I’m keeping track. I  adore winter. Really. But another batch of sprouts couldn’t hurt.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com or 603-727-3268.




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