Gardening may become more than a hobby this year with the challenges we are all facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us will want to grow more of our own food. So if you have never gardened before or want to learn some new skills I will be posting basic gardening “How-tos” and suggestions to grow food at home. On your next trip to the grocery store, pick up some seeds too. Not all of them please, a little goes a long way. Also buy potatoes to plant (see the next installment for potato planting info). Roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.
NOTE: I garden in Zone 5a so keep that in mind when planning in your area. The last frost date in your zone is a date you should look up. I will refer to number of days before or after the last frost date rather than an exact date for planting as it varies so much around the country.
The easiest garden to start is one in a mason jar on your kitchen counter. You don’t even need a sunny window. I am talking about sprouts. You know those tiny vegetables that hippie restaurants put on your salads and sandwiches. The most common sprouts are alfalfa but the list by no means ends there. There are clover, radish, mung bean, and broccoli to name a few. The health benefits of sprouts have been known since ancient times. Alfalfa sprouts are high in vitamins and minerals especially vitamins C and K and iron. They also contain fiber and protein, are ridiculously low in calories, and lower your cholesterol. Not bad for a modest little jar garden!
There have been warnings of late saying that sprouts can be carriers of bacteria. This can be managed with good practices. Rinsing thoroughly and often will greatly reduce risk so you can enjoy the health benefits of sprouts without worry.
To get started you will need a quart size mason jar with a mesh lid. A circle of plastic screening attached with a rubber bands is a great lid option. Seeds can be purchased at many health food stores and seed catalogs. Johnny’s Select Seeds and Pinetree Seeds are catalogs that offer a good selection. The first step is to add seeds to the jar. I add enough so I just can’t see the bottom of the jar. That creates slightly more than a single layer of seeds. Next soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight in fresh cool water. The next day, with the lid firmly secured, drain the water from the jar. The seeds will be moist but there should not be any standing water. I tip my jar on it’s side with the bottom end slightly elevated on a sponge so any excess water continues to drip out. The seeds should be comfortably spread out not bunched up in one place. The next day fill the jar with more cool fresh water, swirl the seeds around so each one gets a good rinse then tip it over again draining all standing water. Do this every day. You will very quickly begin to see little roots and stems emerge. When the seeds are mostly all germinated, you will have some old maids just like with popcorn, and are of the desired size put them in the refrigerator to stop their growth. Now is the time to add them to soups, salads, and sandwiches for a delicious, healthy crunch. Hint: when you put one jar in the fridge it’s time to start another jar on the counter so, by the time you finished the first batch, the next one is ready!