Monday, August 15, 2011

Homegrown - Growing vegetables at warp speed

In just over a week I've managed to grow vegetables from seed to table. That is lightning fast. Most vegetables take at least a couple of months to become edible.

Even better, I didn't need to leave the warmth of my kitchen to do it. Pretty lucky since it's snowing on my garden (in Wellington at sea level!) as I type this.
Yes, that's snow on my strawberry plants. Unbelievable!
I also didn't have to worry about digging soil or applying worm poop. Nope, all I needed to grow these babies was water and sunlight.

Wanna know the secret to my lightning fast vegetable turnaround? It's called sprouting! You might recall your Mum sprouting alfalfa sprouts in an Agee jar on the windowsill when you were young. It was all the rage in the 70s and 80s.

Well I don't know why it ever went out of fashion. Sprouting is easy, fast, frugal and healthy. What a great way to get extra (fresh!) vegetables into your diet in the middle of winter when they are otherwise hard to grow, and expensive to buy.

I chose to sprout mung beans because I like to use them in stir-fries and Pad Thai, plus I remember reading somewhere (possibly Nourishing Traditions), that sprouted mung beans are particularly nutritious. I found a big bag of mung beans at our local Mediterranean Food Warehouse, and I'm guessing it will last me a while judging by this week's sprouting experience.
Un-sprouted mung beans.
This is the first time I've tried sprouted anything, so there was quite a lot of guess-work involved. (Suited me just fine since I'm more of a wing-it type person, than someone who meticulously researches everything.) I used a tiered plastic container set my friends, Kate and Ben, gave me. It didn't come with any instructions, so I started off with way too many mung beans.

These things get a lot bigger than I was expecting. I covered the bottom of one tray with beans, but that quickly filled up so I moved half my sprouts to the tray above.

Soon that was full too so I had to move more sprouts from each of the bottom two trays to the one above, and so on. I ended up with four full trays - ate one tray when it was not quite ready, and filled that empty tray with more sprouts from the bottom three trays. I don't think it's good to move sprouts around as much as I have, as some of them broke in the process.

Check out my awesome cold meat sandwich, featuring homegrown mung bean sprouts by yours truly:
Sandwich made with butter, tomato relish, chutney, roast beef, cheese, gherkins and mung bean sprouts.

Health benefits of eating sprouted mung beans
(Information gathered from an Internet trawl, including Wikipedia, which was the most legit of all the sites I looked at. I can not guarantee the accuracy of the following information, but I'd say sprouted mung beans are pretty dang good for you all the same.)
  • Eating sprouts in general is beneficial for our health, and mung beans are particularly good for you. 
  • Eating sprouts is like eating a whole miniature plant - so you get all its nutritional value - plus it's eating that plant fresh, when its most alive with nutrients. 
  • Sprouting mung beans makes lots of vitamins available that aren't in the bean itself, particularly A,B, C and E. 
  • Sprouted mung beans contain an assortment of minerals, including Calcium, Iron and Potassium.
  • Mung beans (and all other legumes) are fibre-rich, which aids digestion and helps reduce your risk of colorectal cancer if eaten regularly. 
  • Mung beans are packed full of protein, which, combined with fibre, helps to reduce cholesterol.
  • Sprouted mung beans are enzyme-rich, which also aids digestion. Note: the digestion thing is no small matter. It's not just about how easy or hard it is to go number two's, it's about how full of life and vigour you are. I read in Nourishing Traditions that a sure way to feel better is to eat enzyme-rich foods. If your gut is in good working order, the rest of you will feel better for it. 
How to sprout mung beans (based on all my experience of once)
  1. Soak 2T of mung beans for at least ten minutes in cold water. (I didn't know to do this step and they sprouted just fine.) Drain and place in the bottom of your chosen container, whether that be a tiered plastic container like I used, or a large jar with a mesh lid. 
  2. Pour more water on top of the beans to completely cover them. The tiered containers will allow this water to drain off, but if you're using a jar you will need to affix the mesh lid (or muslin secured in place with a screw-cap or rubber band), and then tip the jar upside down on a slight angle so it can drain into a bowl. You don't want the mung beans sitting in water, or they will rot.
  3. Repeat step 2 twice a day for just over a week, until the sprouts are fully grown, fat, white and crunchy.
  4. Wash them (just in your hands under running water works well as you can pick out any funny looking ones) to remove their green shells, and loosely pack them in an airtight container in the fridge. (Washing and chilling them reduces the risk of food-borne illnesses - which are a danger with sprouted vegetables as they grow in the same type of warm, moist environment that pathogens like.)
  5. They will last in the fridge about a week. Eat them raw in salads or sandwiches (raw is healthiest as they lose some of their nutritional value once cooked), or you can add them to stir-fries at the last minute, for a bit of extra crunch and nutrition.
Day 2.

Day 3.

Day 4.

Day 6 - now four layers full.

Day 6. 

Day 7 - Sprouting leaves.
    Day 8 - getting taller. I'm still not sure if they're ready, so I'm letting them sprout a bit longer.
    If you've ever given sprouting a go, I'd love to hear from you. Maybe you've got some tips for me, and can tell me if the sprouts in my day 8 photo are ready or not.

    I've linked this post to Monday ManiaFat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesdays.


    1. Very nice! Yes, it is a bit faster than gardening. :)

      On a side note, I found you on Monday Mania and wanted to direct you to this Blog Carnival Alert on Facebook if you haven't already seen it. Check it out if you want reminders of food and health related link-ups.


    2. Thanks for the info, I have been thinking of trying this one too as it does feature in Nourishing Traditions. I have seen the kits at the farmers market and couldn't decide if I should get one. I was a bit alarmed when reading about raw milk that sprouts are also considered to have high food-poisoning risk. I can't see that it would be any different to plants in the garden, particularly when its hot and humid! Anyway, I need to work out where to get mung beans from. Please update if you learn anything from subsequent sproutings!

    3. Thank you for sharing your interesting article at FAT TUESDAY! I hope to see you next week!

    4. I haven't ever had sprouted mung beans! I learned a lot for this post! Found your blog thru traditional food blog carnival. I'd love to invite you to participate in Healthy 2day Wednesdays for sharing everything HEALTHY! Hope you'll add this post and others that fit in the future!

    5. Emma, I had the same problem with overestimating the number of seeds to use. In the end we had so many sprouts that we couldn't eat them all before thy went bad.

      Farmer Liz, I find it amazing that sprouts pose such a risk too! It turns out that bacteria on sprouts caused the EHEC outbreak in Germany in May this year which resulted in the deaths of almost 30 people.,1518,767935,00.html

    6. Gosh, I just read the article about the deaths in Germany from catching e-coli. Scary stuff!

      I guess that's one reason to sprout your own, so you can be sure they're clean and fresh. I think I'm going to be a little nervous eating my sprouts from now on, but I'll do it anyway for all the goodness they can provide.

    7. Rachel - I've linked up to Healthy 2day Wednesdays, sharing an article about eating raw spinach.

      I'm also following your blog now and can't wait to trawl through it!

    8. Hi Emma, I bought a sprouting jar at the markets - only $20, not as giant as your set up. I've already sprouted alfalfa and have some chickpeas soaking today to start sprouting later on. It is so much fun! I like the almost instant success, proper gardening requires so much patience in comparison! I'll be putting it on my blog soon, was just so excited I wanted to tell you about!

      That article was interesting, but like you said, the contamination occurred at a farm, its just another reason to grow your own, at least you know its safe to eat.

      Cheers, Liz

    9. That's so cool Liz. I hadn't thought about sprouting chickpeas, but I have some in the cupboard so could give it a try. What do they taste like? I'll be looking forward to seeing some pics on your blog.

    10. I am just starting to get into sprouting and I'm going to get an automatic sprouter to make my life easier! They are on special at the moment too! We drink Green Smoothies everyday and I think adding sprouts to them will add alot of extra nutrition into our diets (the rest of the family won't eat sprouts so this will be a sneaky way to get them to eat them!).


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