city garden: sprouting seeds.


In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. - Camus

My winter survival plan in snowy Chicago is twofold. First, get cozy. Pile up blankets, knit something for a friend, light candles, drink endless pots of tea. But then when that isn't enough, part two helps: tap into my invincible summer. Anything I can do to bring back that feeling of sunshine and light; turning on my grow lamp for my plants, I sometimes stay and bask in the yellow sun-like glow, too.

One thing that makes me feel sunnier is to grow sprouts from seed in a jar in a bright corner. Living in Chicago without a car, going to the grocery necessarily means bundling up and trudging through slush and wind. Though of course sprouts aren't a substitute for the grocery, it's nice to have something on hand that is fresh and green if I've run out of anything besides bulk grains and root vegetables. Plus, watching new life unfurl reminds me of what I can look forward to in spring.

To sprout seeds, pick up seeds meant especially for sprouting. You can find them in paper packets at Whole Foods, or you might be able to find them in bulk at a local co-op (I did!). You'll also need a Mason jar and a plastic screened lid to enclose it (there are lots of other sprouting systems available, but I think this is the simplest because it uses a minimum amount of plastic and a jar you likely already have on hand. Also, a tip: don't buy metal mesh instead in an attempt to get away from the plastic. Mine rusted within a few days, so plastic it is, in this case!).

To sprout your seeds, follow the instructions on the package of seeds, or look some up online that correspond to the type of seed you bought. I typically just add a tablespoon of seeds and a cup of warm water to the jar and let them stand for about eight hours in a warm, sunny spot. Then, I empty out the water and rinse the seeds briefly, dumping out the rinse water too. I invert the jar into a bowl so the extra water can drain out, and repeat the rinse/dump/invert process throughout the next four or so days until the seeds are ready. One word for the wise: the sprouts expand very dramatically in volume, so start with a smaller amount of seeds than you think you might need.

That's it! I use the sprouts on sandwiches, on top of salads, and even to make tea (after reading about how broccoli sprout tea is basically a tiny superhero). What do (or would) you use yours for? Would love to hear.

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