Wendy is a DC Master Gardener (and high school counselor) who blogs at Greenish Thumb and is writing a book on growing and cooking Chinese vegetables.
But Erica Smith! You don't want us to work in the garden just yet, but we have seeds in hand and an itch to grow something!
When my gardening calendar tells me it's time to work outside, but Mother Nature expresses her disagreement by dumping eight inches of snow in our area, I can still satisfy my urge to grow something healthful by sprouting seeds right in the warmth and comfort of my own kitchen.
The seeds of many vegetables can be enjoyed for their sprouts, from the tried and true alfalfa, to broccoli, green onion, quinoa and legumes such as soybeans, lentils and chickpeas.
One of the most well-known sprouted legumes is the mung bean sprout. You may have had it in a Chinese stir fry, or inside a rice-paper wrapped spring roll or alongside a hot bowl of Vietnamese pho. Mung bean sprouts are crisp and mild and add great taste, texture and nutrition to your favorite dishes. They are equally delicious and can be used raw in a salad or pickle, or cooked in a stir fry, soup or noodle dish.
Sprouts are healthful and easy to grow. All you need are seeds and a container to start the sprouts in. I use a container made specifically for sprouting. An insert, with a sieve-like bottom, sits inside an outer container that catches any drips. Other containers such as canning jars will work and you can search online for a plethora of ideas for DIY containers.
On day one, begin by adding about two tablespoons of seeds to the container. They will grow about tenfold. Soak the seeds overnight in about three times as much water. After the initial soaking, drain very well. The next step will be the same for the next few days: every 8-12 hours, rinse the seeds in cool water, drain very well, and loosely cover. Place the sprouting container where it won't be disturbed and where you will remember to rinse and drain them. Continue to repeat the rinsing and draining process about twice a day every day for the next five days or so.
When the cotyledons begin to open up and the hulls of the seeds are coming off easily, the sprouts are done. Mung bean sprouts are generally deprived of light while they're sprouting to maintain their light color and crisp crunch. Other sprouts can be placed by a sunny window for a day to green up, if desired. When sprouts are ready, rinse them one last time by swishing them around in a big bowl of water. Seed hulls will float to the top of the water where they can be scooped out and composted. Drain and the sprouts will be ready to use. Fresh sprouts should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.