Hope for the impatient gardener

By BROOKE KELLEHER
FoodCorps service member

April is National Gardening Month, and while that’s all well and good, not all of us have the time, patience, money, or sanity to commit to growing the bountiful home gardens that Pinterest keeps bugging us about. Even if we did, our unpredictable climate here in the high desert leads to lots of worries about drought and late frosts. But it’s spring! With the sun shining and birds chirping, even those of us with the brownest of thumbs are starting to pine for some home-grown produce.

Gardening can feel intimidating at times, which is why we should start small. Very small. Often when we think of successful gardens, we think of the many months of tending, watering, and weeding, all leading up to the (we hope) abundant array of fruits and vegetables. With any luck, there will be a few berries to pick, or a couple of carrots to pull through the soil. For those of us short on time and resources, this seems like a fruitless endeavor (pun intended).

We in Lake County are not the only ones with this predicament. In a society where the price of nutritious food is skyrocketing and our amount of free time plummeting, more and more people are adapting to a new way of gardening at home. They don’t just start small. They start microscopic — with microgreens and sprouts.

Though often confused for one another, these trendy little greens differ in how they’re grown, their nutrient value, and their taste. However, both check off the boxes of being affordable, manageable, delicious, and able to grow right in your kitchen.

Mother Nature isn’t new to the game. She’s been working for years to figure out how to help seeds successfully mature into healthy plants. She packed as many nutrients as possible into those tiny seeds to give them the power to push through the soil and to create their own energy from the sun. When we eat sprouts and microgreens, we are reaping the benefits because all of those nutrients remain in these very first stages of plant growth.

Pixabay.com photo

Pixabay.com photo

Sprouts

Sprouts are the seeds right after germination. They are grown in water only and can be ready to eat in just four to six days. These sprouts are smart. They know that being so small and fragile, they are at risk of being eaten by insects. Because of this, cruciferous sprouts produce a compound called sulforaphane that protects them from prey. Luckily, when we digest sulforaphane, it acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Sprouts don’t have a strong flavor, but we can enjoy the nutritious and delicious crunch they give to anything they are added to.

What do I need?

●      Mason jar
●      Sprouting lid
●      Sprouting seeds (my favorite is broccoli)

How do I grow them?

1.     Put 2 tablespoons of seeds in your Mason jar and a couple inches of water. Soak overnight in a dark spot.
2.     Rinse seeds with fresh water. Drain as much water as possible. Return to dark spot. Repeat rinsing and draining three to four times per day.
3.     When yellow stems and leaves appear, remove from dark and place near sunlight. Continue rinsing and draining three to four times per day.
4.     When sprouts have turned green, enjoy!

Pixabay.com photo

Pixabay.com photo

Microgreens

Unlike sprouts, microgreens go through germination and grow their first leaves. They are sprouts’ older and wiser brother, needing one to three weeks before harvesting. They are grown in soil, which means that in addition to the nutrients packed in their seed, they also suck up nutrients through their roots. Their leaves allow them to start the process of photosynthesis, so they require lots of sunlight. A little goes a long way when in comes to microgreens, because they are extremely rich in flavor. In a day where our plates are full of salt, sugars, and fats, microgreens are a tasty alternative if you’re looking to add a little pizazz. They are great to be use as a garnish, in sandwiches, or mixed with other salad greens.

What do I need?

●      Tray with drainage holes
●      Soil
●      Microgreen seeds (lettuce, spinach, radish, beet, etc.)

How do I grow them?

1.     Fill trays with soil.
2.     Scatter seeds on the surface of your tray.
3.     Water daily (using a spray bottle to mist is best).
4.     Keep in a warm place to encourage seed germination.
5.     Once the greens start to sprout, ensure that they have access to sunlight.
6.     After greens are a few inches tall, snip at the base, and enjoy!

Buying sprouts and microgreens at stores can put a dent in your wallet quickly. But if you BYOM and S (birth your own microgreens and sprouts), you’ll get the most bang for your buck and enjoy a healthy, fun, and easy addition to your lifestyle. Living Outback Strong starts with the smallest of choices — even the micro ones