Sow seeds in a repurposed takeout-food container. In a week or so, you'll have enough greens to garnish several dishes. (Jennifer Causey)
Fast-growing sprouts and microgreens are small in scale and big on flavor — perfect for gardeners short on patience.
This winter, your kitchen can be more than just a cozy place for cooking. It could be a prime spot for growing microgreens and sprouts, which can add fresh notes and extra vitamins and minerals to salads, sandwiches and savory dishes. When you harvest these little crops young, the nutrients are ounce for ounce more concentrated than in a full-grown plant.
The flavors in sprouts and microgreens are intensified, too: Radish sprouts taste like radishes; sunflower greens are nutty. Kate Brun, owner of the North Carolina microgreens farm Lucky Leaf Gardens, says chefs love them for their bright flavors and as garnishes (imagine emerald-green sprays of cress on a white plate). “We even sell varieties used in desserts,” she adds, “like lemon balm.”
And what could be more cheering on an icy day than coming home to a tiny farm on your window sill? Easy to tend, it’s also a good way to keep housebound children busy. They’ll be entranced by the speed at which their effort pays off: Start broccoli seeds on Monday, and snip greens for an omelet a week later. And adzuki beans go from seed to sprout in just a few days. You start greens in a potting medium and sprouts in glass jars or in commercial “sprouters.” Harvest greens when they unfurl their first true leaves, and sprouts once they look like, well, sprouts.
Buy organic seeds specifically sold for sprouting. To keep harmful bacteria and mold from growing, before each use sterilize containers with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 pint of water) or try food-grade hydrogen peroxide or grapefruit-seed extract (following package instructions).
1. Sort the seeds.
Pick through your seeds and discard any bits of soil, rock or other debris.
2. Soak the seeds.
Cover seeds with 2 to 3 times as much cool water. Stir, then let them sit, usually 8 to 12 hours, depending on their hardness and the package directions.
3. Rinse daily.
Transfer seeds to a jar fitted with a screened lid. Fill with water, swirl seeds and drain at an angle, shaking to remove all water. Repeat at least once. Rinse in this way two or three times daily until sprouts are ready.
4. Store, and enjoy.
Spread out the sprouts on a paper towel. When dry, pour into a sealed jar or container, and refrigerate. They are best when eaten fresh but will keep for up to a week.
Grilled Cheese With Bacon, Apple and Sprouts
Active/total time: 15 minutes
2 slices extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices rye or sourdough bread
2 strips bacon, cooked
3 thin slices Granny Smith apple
½ cup assorted sprouts, such as radish or adzuki
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
Place 1 slice of cheese on 1 slice of bread. Layer bacon, apple, sprouts and remaining slices of cheese and bread on top.
Spread half the butter on top of sandwich. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and place sandwich, butter side down, in skillet.
Spread remaining butter on top of sandwich. Cook until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown, flipping once, about 12 minutes.
Success with one tray of greens might inspire more. Planting several in succession ensures a continual harvest.
1. Sow seeds in a planting mix.
A clean, reused food container with improvised drainage holes makes for a perfect farm-in-a-box when filled with organic seed-starting mix and sprinkled with seeds.
2. Cover with soil, and keep moist.
Lightly sift a fine layer of additional planting mix over seeds, and water with a spray bottle. See each seed packet for specific planting depths.
3. Place in the sun and water daily.
Mist every day or whenever soil looks dry, and give plants lots of sun (six to eight hours a day is ideal).
4. Harvest and eat.
Loosen and gently pull up small clumps of microgreens as needed, and wash off dirt. Or snip with scissors just above the soil level to use greens as a topping or garnish.
Active/total time: 10 minutes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 ½ ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
¾ cup microgreens
3 large eggs
Heat half the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms, undisturbed, until they begin to release their liquid, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, and stir. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer mushrooms to a small bowl; stir in microgreens.
Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until well combined; season with salt and pepper. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Melt remaining butter over medium heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. Pour eggs into skillet, and cook, undisturbed, until edges are set slightly. With a heatproof flexible spatula, push eggs from edge toward center, tilting pan to let uncooked eggs run underneath, until omelet is just set, 1 to 2 minutes. Place mushroom filling on 1 side of omelet. Using spatula, gently fold other side of omelet over filling. Serve immediately.
Here are our sources for sprouts or microgreens to grow at home.
Sprout People (sproutpeople.org)
A comprehensive resource for sprouts and microgreens, the website offers organic seeds, growing kits and supplies, and extensive cultivation instructions.
Lucky Leaf Gardens (luckyleafgardens.com)
This microgreens-only site sells a kit that includes all you need to grow them at home. You can also purchase ready-to-eat microgreens here.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com)
Every type of seed (flowers, vegetables and more) is sold here, including organic seeds for sprouts and microgreens.
Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living , 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.