Chia seeds that were sown a week ago and should be ready a week hence. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Microgreens hit the spot for gardeners in winter

Vitamins like C, B and E increase by 10 to 20 per cent when seeds are sprouted

By Mary Lowther

David approves of sprouts and microgreens in the winter because he says they taste much livelier than lettuce. Besides, I would be unpleasant company were it not for having seeds to sprout when there’s no outside gardening to be done. Apart from their ability to perk up a sandwich or salad and feed the gardening addiction, sprouts add vital nutrients to one’s diet. And seeds are dirt cheap, especially if they’re saved from one’s own crops.

Vitamins like C, B and E increase by 10 to 20 per cent when seeds are sprouted, and proteins are broken down into their constituent, easily absorbed amino acids. Sprouts provide abundant simple sugars and enzymes that aid digestion.

They can be grown from most vegetable and grain seeds, but I don’t sprout seeds whose leaves may not be edible, like cucumbers and nightshade plants. Peas, beans, onions, radishes, crucifers like broccoli and many other seeds produce sprouts and greens that are entirely edible.

I use a dandy tiered set of sprouting trays that nest atop a base so when I water the top tray it flows down to the next tier and so on. This way I can have a continual supply when I start each succeeding tier a week apart. Before I got these trays I used a jar. I poured one tablespoon of seeds into the jar, tied a piece of gauze over the jar mouth, rinsed the seeds every day and allowed the jar to drain by tilting the jar at an angle in the dishrack. When the sprouts looked ready to eat without developing long, tough roots, I took them out of the jar, rinsed them off and stored them in another container in the fridge. Don’t let the roots get too long — trust me!

Microgreens are grown in a growing medium like soil, coir or even a folded paper towel base and only the tops are harvested. The soil needn’t be fertilized. Lay or spread the growing medium on a tray or convenient container and moisten it. Sprinkle the seeds on top in a fairly thick layer, push the seeds down enough to make good contact with the growing medium and cover the whole works with a plastic bag or something else to keep the moisture in. Open it up every day to circulate the air and keep the tray in a warm place until the seeds send up shoots. Remove the cover and place the tray in a window for light to develop the chlorophyll. In a few days, when the leaves are nice and green, cut them at their base and they are ready to eat. Toss the growing medium into the compost heap and use a new one for the next batch.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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