Reap What You Sow … Now!

The sun is shining, the snow is melting off of the roof and it is starting to feel like spring.

But we are still in the month of February and spring is a long way off.

Still, there are things that can be gardened indoors even in February.

Tomatoes, peppers, onions and leeks all need a long growing period and should be started at this time of year.

And while it will take almost to the end of summer to enjoy the tomato or pepper, there are some plants that can actually be harvested now.

Trimming any plant generally promotes a bushier growth and this is also true with onions and leeks. The nice thing about these plant trimmings is that they also can be added to a salad or sandwich. And that is a taste of spring.

While you’re at it, you could plant several kinds of seeds just for the sprouts themselves. Some seed catalogues have sections specific for sprouts. The most popular are alfalfa and bean sprouts.

When sprouting seeds, care should be taken to ensure that the seed was meant for sprouting and not for planting. Seeds meant for planting can sometimes have a chemical dressing on them to ensure germination. For those that buy organic seed, this isn’t an issue.

There are also seeds that are toxic when they sprout, so it is best to obtain seed for sprouting through an accredited supplier.

Even though the plants are just in their sprouting stage, there are still some noticeable differences in taste. Some are mild in flavour, but fenugreek and mustard are hot; sunflowers have a nutty flavour and radish sprouts tend to be spicy. Alfalfa sprouts are very delicate making a nice addition to salads while mung beans can be cooked in stir fries.

Eating sprouts in the winter, when they are fresh and tasty and most other foods aren’t, has a very real value.

Sprouts are also a concentrated source of vitamins, enzymes, minerals and other nutrients. During the sprouting process, the starches are converted to sugars, making them easy to digest.

Sprouting methods vary from using a mason jar for one variety of seed for personal use, to having automated sprouting trays that will sprout several varieties at once for commercial sale.

Once seeds are moistened, they should be kept at room temperature. It will take a day or two for the seeds to germinate. Once germinated, the sprouts should be rinsed in water two to four times a day. Each time the water should be allowed to drain off. Sprouts that are left in water will very quickly become sour and seeds will rot if the water isn’t drained off.

Conversely, without rinsing, sprouts could dry out before they have reached their edible stage, usually, in three to five days. If the sprouts are left longer than that, they start to produce their first true leaves and can be eaten as baby greens.

Either way, they are a nice winter treat.

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