8.31.2013

gardening in a jar

alfalfa sprouts in thrifted vintage Pyrex sprouter, Day 3

Like my new garden? Actually, by now this batch has all been eaten on cheese and pita sandwiches, all those little baby plants gobbled up, and another batch already started. (I felt more of a killer this week than I normally do when eating.)

Jeff had found a vintage Pyrex Sprout Farm in its original box at Goodwill for four dollars recently and said, "We're growing some at your place." So we did. He bought organic alfalfa seeds at People's Co-op and followed random directions found online since somebody had lost the box returned to him that contained the instruction manual.

It's amazing how complicated some try to make the sprouting process. People offer classes for this stuff, which is crazy since, by definition, seeds want to grow. It's unnecessary to scout eBay or Etsy for a vintage Pyrex sprouter or buy some large tray contraption unless you plan on becoming a sprout seller at your local farmers market or have a Catholic- or Mormon-sized family. Just use a wide-mouth canning jar you probably already have and buy a fine metal screen or a plastic-mesh lid found at any natural foods store. Depending on how much you plan to use sprouts in your diet, keep as many jars-with-screens in rotation as you'll need, knowing that start-to-finish sprouts take about six days to mature.

Easy Alfalfa Sprouts
  1. Rinse 1-2 T. of seeds in a wide-mouth glass canning jar secured by a fine mesh screen.*
  2. Soak them in lukewarm water overnight in the same container.
  3. Drain, rinse, and drain them again, and then lay them on their side in a dark cupboard.
  4. Twice daily, continue rinsing, draining, and keeping them prone until the sprouts start showing leaves, at which point they can be un-banished from the cupboard and kept out on a counter in indirect sunlight. 
  5. Continue rinsing and draining twice daily until maturation (when the tiny leaves turn from yellow to dark green).
  6. When the seeds have matured, skim off the hulls in a bowl of cool water, if desired, or if you're like me, ignore the hulls and just stick the jar(s) in the fridge, using the sprouts as needed and rinsing and draining if the sprouts go a bit dry. And that's it.

alfalfa sprouts at Day 3 in vintage Pyrex Sprout Farm

The sprouts in the photos are at Day 3, and, impatient, we started eating them at Day 4 when Jeff came over to drill more hooks for me. I have the contraption upside down according to the Pyrex box because I wanted the sprouts to have air circulating. The cool thing about the Pyrex sprouter, though, is that sprouting times are printed up the sides of the jar for different kinds of seeds. Alfalfa is just the beginning of the sprouter's alphabet. Try (organic) radish, mung bean, chick peas, or broccoli seeds—virtually anything in the leafy greens, legume, brassica, or grain families—and find a favorite.


*Note: The pictures show sprouts from one tablespoon of seeds. Also, if using a plastic mesh lid, be sure to keep the lid secured with your fingers while rinsing to avoid the water pressure popping the lid off and dumping the poor little baby sprouts out into the sink. (Ahem.)
 

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