Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Inside greenery for a snowy day


I don't know about you, but in the middle of the winter I not only like to dream about summer gardens, I also want to have some greenery inside. Houseplants and I don't get along well (plus my cats like to chew on them) and I prefer something at least potentially edible. Once the seed-starting season is in full swing, those little seedlings satisfy the itch, but until then there are other possibilities.

This winter I found several root vegetables in the fridge that had started to sprout, and decided to encourage them. So I cut off the top parts of the roots with the emerging leaves and put them in small bowls with water, placing them on the windowsill above the sink where they look cheerful. (We ate the rest of the roots.)

Carrot

Celeriac

Turnip (just about to flower!)
Possibly I could pot these up and let them develop into actual plants, but I don't think it's worth it (especially for sizable root vegetables). It's fun just to watch the leaves grow, and all these leaves are actually edible (I should cut that bolting turnip off right now and have it for lunch).

Lots of plants can be started inside from parts of vegetables. Here's one list with instructions and links (it's Buzzfeed, so clickbait headline and wowza prose, but the information seems good).

Another way to jumpstart the seed-starting urge is to grow microgreens. These little mini-plants are extra-high in nutrition and are great as salad or toppings for other meal items. Wendy at Greenish Thumb has quick instructions - and prettier pictures, but here's my current batch getting started:


You can buy packets of microgreen mixes, but you can also use up some of the seeds you have sitting around. Just make sure you know the leaves/stems of the plant are edible, even if they are crops you'd normally harvest roots or flowers or seeds from. I threw a whole bunch of seeds into this batch, and I'm still learning what grows well together. In this case, I think the large brassica-type seedlings are radishes, and they germinate well ahead of everything else, so probably don't play well with other seeds that catch up more slowly. I also put in onions, broccoli, cilantro, beets, basil, lettuce, and probably others I've forgotten. When they have grown a couple of inches high and produced the first set of leaves (or about the third set for the radishes, oh well), I'll snip them off above the soil and eat them.

The great thing about microgreens is that they're ready to eat in about two weeks (so I need to seed some more soon!) and grow fine in minimal light. Unlike the kind of sprouts you grow in a jar and put on sandwiches, you want them green (or red, in some cases), so some window light is good, but the intense light required for starting seedlings isn't necessary.

Next batch I'm going to try some legumes, since it is the Year of Beans and Peas after all. Perhaps I'll try to sprout some of the lentils I have in the cupboard. By the way, the other little flat sitting in the window is growing cat grass (so my cats have something to nibble on besides houseplants). I bought several overpriced packets of oat or wheat seed meant for the purpose before I remembered that I'd impulsively purchased a pound or so of wheat seed at an organic grocery and then never used it for cooking - so I've been repurposing it to succession-plant grass for kitties.

What plants are you using to satisfy the winter growing itch?

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