Sunday, June 24, 2007


Some plants are composed of up to 95 percent
water. Water is vital for sprouting seeds; plants need
water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even
for holding themselves up. If the cells don't have
enough water in them, they collapse like a threeday-
old balloon, and the result is a wilted plant. Water
is essential, along with light and carbon dioxide, to
produce the sugars that provide the plant with energy
for growth. It also dissolves fertilizers and carries
nutrients to the different parts of the plant.
Where the water comes from
Ideally, water for plants comes from rain or other
precipitation and from underground sources. In
reality, you'll often have to do extra watering by
hand or through an irrigation system. (If you have too
much rain about all you can do is pray). How oftenyou should water depends on how often it rains, how
long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water
evaporates in your climate. Soil type is an important
factor. Clay soils hold water very well—sometimes
too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water
run right through. Both kinds of soil can be
improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic
matter gives clay soils lightness and air and gives
sandy soils something to hold the water.
Other factors may also affect how often you need
to water your garden:
• More water evaporates when the temperature is
high than when it's low. Plants can rot if they get
too much water in cool weather.
• More water evaporates when the relative
humidity is low.
• Plants need more water when the days are bright.
• Wind and air movement will increase the loss of
water into the atmosphere.
• A smooth unmulched surface will not retain
water as well as one that's well cultivated.
• Water needs vary with the type and maturity of
the plant. Some vegetable seeds are tolerant of
low soil moisture and will sprout in relatively dry
soils. These include Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cauliflower, collards, corn, kale, kohlrabi,
muskmelon, peppers, radishes, squash (winter
and summer), turnips, and watermelon. On the
other hand, beets, celery, and lettuce seeds need
very moist soil. Herbs generally do better with less
water. A large plant that has a lot of leaves and is
actively growing uses more water than a young
plant or one with small leaves.
• Sometimes water is not what a wilting plant
needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves
sometimes get ahead of the roots' ability to provide
them with water. If the day is hot and the plants
wilt in the afternoon, don't worry about them; the
plants will regain their balance overnight. But if
the plants are drooping early in the morning, water
them right away.
• Mulches cool the roots and cut down on the
amount of water needed, increasing the time that
plants can go between watering. When the soil
dries out, plants slow their growth—or stop
growing altogether. Swift, steady growth is
important for the best-tasting fruits and
vegetables. Mulches keep the soil evenly moist.
There's a right and a wrong way to water
So much depends on climate and the ability of
different types of soil to hold moisture that it's difficult
to lay down specific directions for watering your
garden. Generally, however, vegetable plants need
about an inch of water a week. The best time to
water your garden is in the morning. If you water at
night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely
to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of
disease. Some people believe that you can't water
in the morning because water spots on leaves will
cause leaf-burn when the sun gets hot; this isn't the
However hard it is to judge your garden's exact
water needs, there are two hard-and-fast rules about
watering that you should follow. First, always soak
the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do
more harm than no water at all; it stimulates the
roots to come to the surface, and then they're killed by
exposure to the sun. Second, never water from
above. Overhead watering with a sprinkling can or a
hose is easy and seems to do a fine job. But in fact,
overhead watering wastes water, makes a mess, and
sometimes bounces the water away from the plant
so the roots do not get any at all. Furthermore, many
diseases are encouraged by wet leaves. So direct
water at the soil, but water gently so that the soil is not
washed away or the roots exposed.
Watering with a can. Carrying water in a can or a
bucket can be exhausting and extremely unsatisfying,
especially if the water slops over the top into your
shoes. Watering cans are easier to carry but harder to
fill than buckets. They are good to use for gently
moistening the soil after planting seeds and for
settling dust. If you unscrew the watering can's
sprinkler head and replace it with an old sock, it will be
easier to concentrate the water at the base of the
plant where it's needed. The sock will break the force
of the water so it won't disturb the soil around the
Watering with a hose. A well-placed faucet and
hose can save a lot of energy. If you have a large
garden, a Y-connector for the faucet makes it
possible to attach two hoses at one time. Hose strategy
includes having enough hose to reach all points in
the garden and arranging the hose in such a way that it
does not decapitate plants when you move it
If you have a lot of watering to do, five-eighthsinch
hose will carry twice as much water as a half-inch
hose. Spreading the water about can be speeded up
by using basins to catch the water and by digging
furrows or trenches between the plants. A length of
gutter with capped ends, placed on the higher side of
the garden, can be punctured at intervals to
coincide with the trenches. Then when water is slowly
added to the gutter it flows down all the trenches at
the same time. If you want to change the placement of
the holes, the ones you don't need can either besoldered up or filled with a metal screw.
Watering with a sprinkler. Lawn sprinklers are
gentle, but they waste water by covering the whole
area indiscriminately and spraying water into the air
where it evaporates and blows about. They also wet
the leaves, which can spread disease, and often
turn the whole area into a mudhole. Canvas soilsoakers
are preferable. They carry water gently to
the soil around the roots. A wand and water-breaker,
which is a length of rigid pipe that attaches to the
end of the hose, can make it much easier to put the
water where you want it. This is especially useful
when you're watering hanging baskets and patio
containers. A water timer that measures the flow of
water and shuts off automatically when the right
amount has been delivered is an expensive luxury.But it's an excellent device for the forgetful and can
free you to do other things while the garden is being
Gardening is a most satisfying occupation,
because you are constantly rewarded for your efforts.
All the work you put into your vegetable garden—
cultivating, mulching, watering, watching, and
waiting—shows dividends in the shape of healthy
plants that flourish visibly under your care as the
season progresses. And all the labor pays off in
tangible form at harvest time.
But even when you've weathered the whole
gardening season and brought your harvest home,
you still have a few more tasks to complete in order
to put your garden to bed for the winter.

Preparing the soil for direct-seeding

Preparing the soil for direct-seeding
Soil preparation is the key to successful planting.
The first step is to dig up and turn over the soil to a
depth of eight to 12 inches—hard work, but a good
way to spend a crisp, early spring day. It's important
that the soil is neither too wet nor too dry when you
dig. Soil that's too wet will compact or form into large
clumps that will be so hard when they dry out that
nothing short of a sledgehammer will break them. If
the soil is too dry, the topsoil will just blow away.
Before you get into a good day's digging, pick up a
handful of soil and squeeze it; if it forms into a ball
that will hold together, yet crumbles easily, the soil is
ready to work.
Adding organic matter. Organic matter enriches
the soil and improves its ability to control moisture, so
add organic matter in the spring to benefit the new
season's crop. If you planted a green manure or cover
crop in the fall to protect the topsoil, dig it all back
into the soil now as organic matter. Do the same if you
laid mulch over the soil instead of planting a cover
crop; dig the mulch in as you turn the soil. You can
also dig in compost that has been simmering nicely
all winter.
Fertilizing. You should fertilize your vegetable
garden twice a year. As part of your spring soil
preparation, dig in a complete, well-balanced
fertilizer (10-10-10 or a similar formulation) at the rate
of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per
1,000 square feet. Work the fertilizer^venly into the
soil. This application will keep your plants supplied
with nutrients until about halfway through the
growing season. Then you'll apply the same
fertilizer at the same rate, but instead of spreading it
over the whole area you'll side-dress by distributing
the fertilizer in trenches between the rows of plants.
Removing obstacles. When you're preparing the
soil, remove all stones, rocks, and lumps, and all the
assorted debris that has accumulated over the
winter. This is especially important if you're planting
root crops, because they'll fork and split if they
have to contend with large obstacles; but all seeds do
better in well-worked soil. Just before planting,
rake the seedbeds smooth and level off the surface by
drawing the back of your rake across the soil.


In areas where there is little or no space, a wellorganized
container garden can produce substantial
vegetables. A point to remember about container
gardening: The small volume of soil in a raised bed will
warm up faster in spring than the soil in your open
garden. This gives you a longer growing season,
because you can start your cool-season crops
earlier. You can also bring plants inside if the
temperature takes an unexpected plunge — this
mobility is an advantage you obviously lack in an open
Plan a container garden the same way as a small
garden plot, making the best possible use of your
vertical space. Use a trellis for vining crops and
stakes and cages for tomatoes or other semi-vining
crops. If you're planting on a balcony, don't let any
possible support go to waste. Position climbing plants
where the railing provides a readymade trellis.
There are also space-saving techniques unique to
container gardens. You can use the vertical space of
a container itself by planting in holes or pockets in
the sides of the container. Growing some vining plants
in hanging baskets will save space too, but be sure
to place hanging baskets where they won't shade
other plants. When you are growing a container
garden, always select varieties that are suitable for
container growing, and remember that containers
dry out faster than a traditional garden, so you'll need
to water more often. Plants growing in containers
are also more affected by changes in temperature; you
do have the advantage, though, of being able to
move them to a more protected area or even inside on
cool nights.
Essentially, planning a container garden is little
different from planning an outdoor plot. The main
difference may be in the varieties you choose — if
you're planting in a confined space you're going to
take a special interest in smaller varieties and plants
with compact, contained growth habits. But basically,
any plant that will grow in your garden will also
grow on your balcony or patio.
Extending your garden indoors
If you don't have a garden or even a balcony, you
can still have a container vegetable garden. Don't
underestimate the number of vegetables that can
be grown successfully indoors. Near a bright window
that is not too warm, leafy vegetables, such as
lettuce, parsley, and chives, will do nicely. Fruiting
plants are worth a try, but they take a lot more light
at a higher intensity; unless the window is very bright,
the plants may grow but not produce. Cherry
tomatoes in hanging baskets will sometimes grow in
very bright windows, and sometimes plants can be
brought in from outdoors and grown on for several
months. Herbs are rewarding indoor-garden
plants, and they go a long way in adding your personal
touch to everyday eating.
Providing indoor lighting
If you have lights or if you have a place for putting
lights, you can grow vegetables indoors without any
sun at all. Lettuce does beautifully in the basement
or the attic when grown under fluorescent
light—usually these spots are not as warm as the
rest of the house. Lettuce can also be grown in an
apartment if you can find a spot where the heating is
not very efficient or if you don't mind wearing a
Cucumbers will grow beautifully under artificial
light. But just as long days will prevent flowering, so
will long periods under artificial light. The best
thing to do is experiment and find what does well for
you. A timer can be useful in giving certain plants a
dark resting period. Given lots of water, watercress
works almost as well as lettuce under the lights.
Instead of seeds, you can start with cuttings (the
bottoms of some of those stems of fresh watercress
you bought to indulge yourself).
Various possibilities for using vegetables as
houseplants are discussed in the description of
individual vegetables in Part 2.
Gardening in a greenhouse:
A refuge for plants and gardener
With a greenhouse you can garden all year around
and experiment with ail kinds of plants that you have
little chance of growing out in the open garden. A
greenhouse is also a nice, cozy, private place for the
gardener whose gardening time Is often interrupted
by demands from other family members. If you're
going to buy and install a greenhouse, it's worth
getting a good one. Greenhouses vary vastly in size,
price, and construction and many companies
supply them; not all of them, however, are welldesigned
and well-put-together, so you need to do
some homework. The following are reputable sources
that can provide you with basic information to help
you make a choice. Some of them will design a
greenhouse to fit your available space and


Up to this point, most of your garden planning has
been theoretical. You've given thought to the
vegetables you want to grow, what you're going to
do with them, and how much you need to grow.
You've got an idea of how the climate in your area
will influence your final choice of vegetables.
You're beginning to understand your microclimate —
how growing conditions in your own yard may
differ from the general climate of your area. Now
you're ready to start getting your plans on paper,
but as soon as you open the seed catalog, confusion
strikes again. You want to grow your own corn,
tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots — but what kind?
Finding the varieties suited to your area. Because
there are so many varieties, it can be very difficult to
choose the right one. Part 2 of this book describes
the individual vegetables and their cultural
requirements and lists some of the best and most
widely used varieties. But in many cases the varieties
listed represent only the tip of the iceberg. Where a
large number of varieties are available (as with corn or
tomatoes) or where success depends as much on
growing conditions as on variety (as with onions), your
best bet is to get in touch with your local
Cooperative Extension Service. The service's experts
will be able to tell you exactly which varieties will do
best in the growing conditions that exist in your part of
the country. A complete list of Cooperative
Extension Services is given in Part 4, together with
detailed information on how to get your gardening
questions expertly answered by their qualified
Guaranteed varieties: The All-America Selection.
Another way to find the most reliable varieties for your
area is through the All-America Selections. This is a
nonprofit organization of seedsmen who develop
and promote new varieties of vegetables and
flowers. The organization awards gold, silver, or
bronze medals to vegetable varieties that have been
proven to produce reliable results in most areas of the
United States. If a vegetable is listed in your seed
catalog as an All-America Selection, you can be sure
that it has been tested by growers all over the
country and that it's a good bet for your own garden.
The organization does not bestow its seal of
approval lightly — only one or two vegetable varieties
win a gold medal in any year.
Experiment with different varieties. Remember,
too, that you don't always have to play by the rules.
You can plant more than one variety of a vegetable
and decide for yourself which one is best suited to
your palate and your garden. You can also extend
your harvest by planting varieties that mature at
different times. Experimenting is a good part of the
fun of growing a vegetable garden.
Dates: When to plant and when to harvest
Selecting the varieties you're going to grow gives
you some hard information with which to work. You
now know when to plant your vegetables. The
hardiness chart in "Planting Your Garden" will tell you
to which category — very hardy, hardy, tender,
very tender — a vegetable belongs and when to plant
it. Now is the time to decide whether to use seeds or
transplants. Transplants are young plants started from
seed indoors or in a warm place (like a hot frame)
and planted in the garden when the weather's warm
enough. By planting transplants you can often get a
head start on your growing season and avoid some of
the limitations placed on you by your area climate.
Not all vegetables, however, take kindly to being
transplanted. Full information about growing
vegetables from transplants — including what to plant
and when — is given in "Planting Your Garden."
It's important to plan your planting dates
accurately. It's also important to know when your crop
will be ready for harvest. The number of days it
takes a plant to reach maturity varies according to type
and to varieties within a type.
Each vegetable variety has its "days to maturity"
listed in the seed catalog. Take a calendar, and see
how the dates fall for the crops you're thinking of
growing. For instance, "jade Cross Hybrid" Brussels
sprouts take 95 days to maturity. They're very hardy,
so you can plant them six weeks before your last
spring frost. If your area expects its last frost at the
end of April, you can plant your Brussels sprouts in the
garden in mid-March, and they'll mature in mid-
June. They're a cool-season vegetable, so as long as
the weather in your area won't be sizzling hot by
mid-June, you should do well with them. In this way,
work out all the dates on which you can expect to
harvest your vegetables, and make a list of them. This
will give you a chance to make changes if, despite all
your planning, you've got too large a crop maturing at
the same time. It will also give you some ideas about
"pacing" your crop.
Pacing your harvest for best yield
Deciding when to plant involves more than
avoiding killing frosts. It also means pacing your •
planting so you get maximum yields from limited
space. You can harvest some crops gradually,
enjoying them for a long period of time; others
mature all at once. This takes careful planning. You
have to have a good idea of how long it will take
your vegetables to mature and how long the harvest
will last. It will also take some self-control. The
temptation to plant rows of everything at once is great.
Planting short rows. A simple way to pace your
harvest is to plant only short rows or partial rows.
Planting short rows is probably easier; you may feel
more comfortable with a complete row, even if it is
short. A 10-foot row looks short, but 10 feet of
radishes ready to eat at once is more than most
people can handle. Ten feet of parsley or garlic may
be more than enough for the whole neighborhood.
You can freeze parsley and dry the garlic, but what
can you do with all those radishes? Unwanted
excesses of crops can be avoided if you divide your
seeds into groups before going out to plant. Put them
in "budget" envelopes to be planted on definite
dates later on in the season but before the early crops
are harvested. For instance, plant lettuce every two
weeks. This way you can have vegetables all season,
rather than glut followed by famine.
Using several varieties. Another way to pace your
harvest is to plant several varieties of the same
vegetable that mature at different rates. For
instance, on the average date of last frost plant three
different tomato varieties: an early variety that will
mature in about 60 to 70 days; a midseason variety that
will mature in about 75 to 80 days; and a late variety
that will mature in about 80 to 90 days. By planting
these three varieties on the same day you have
spread your harvest over a 30- to 50-day period,
instead of a 10- to 20-day period.
Succession planting. With careful planning you
may also be able to save garden space and get two or
more harvests from the same spot by succession
planting. After early-maturing crops are harvested,
you clear a portion of the garden and replant it with
a new crop. Plant so that cool-season crops grow in the
cooler part of the season, and warm-season crops
can take advantage of warmer weather.
One example of succession planting is to start off
with a fast-growing, cool-season crop that can be
planted early—lettuce, spinach, and cabbage
(cole) family vegetables are good examples. Replace
these by warm-weather crops like New Zealand
spinach, chard, corn, okra, and squash. Then in fall
make another planting of cole crops, or put in root
crops like turnips or beets.
In a small area, one simple plan is to start off with
spinach, which is very hardy but hates hot weather,
and replace it with heat-tolerant New Zealand
spinach. Despite their different temperature
requirements, the two can double for each other in
taste, and you get spinach all season long.
You can also make double use of trellis space — a
big plus in a small garden. Plant early peas, replace
them with cucumbers, and after harvesting your
cucumbers, plant peas again for a fall crop.
Companion planting. This is another way to
double up on planting space. This you do by planting
short-term crops between plants that will take a
longer time to mature. The short-term crops are
harvested by the time the longer-season crops need
the extra room. A good example of this is to plant
radishes between rows of tomatoes; by the time the
tomatoes need the space, the radishes will be gone.
By this time you've put a lot of thought into your
garden plan, and you've got some vital information
and dates on paper — the names of the varieties
you're going to plant and your planting and harvest
dates. Now comes the real paperwork. The size of
your garden depends on your interest in gardening
and how much time you're going to be able to give
to the garden. Some gardeners use every available
inch of space; others use a small corner of their
property — some, of course, don't have much choice,
and this may be your case if you have a small garden
to begin with or if you're gardening on a patio or
balcony. The larger your garden, the more time and
work it's going to need, so unless you're already
hooked on gardening, it's probably better to start
small and let your garden size increase as your
interest in gardening and confidence in your ability
Before you decide the exact dimensions, look at
the list of the vegetables you've chosen and the
amount you're going to grow of each one, and
figure out if they're going to fit into the allotted space.
You may see at once that you've overestimated
what you can grow in the available space, so you'll
have to do a little compromising between fantasy
and reality. If your projected crops look as though
they'll fit, you can now start drawing an actual plan.

More vegetable sprouting tips

Towel sprouting
This method works best for larger grains and seeds.
1. Soak the seeds in a jar in 3 times as much
water as you have seeds for time given in
recipe, then rinse and arrange on a damp
2. Cover with another damp towel, and wrap in
plastic wrap or place inside a plastic bag.
3. Set the bag of towels aside, in a warm (70'* F),
dark place.
4. Dampen the towels daily by misting them
with water.
5. If the seeds haven't sprouted after 2 days,
change the towels to prevent spoilage.
6. On about the fourth day, remove the top
towel and move the sprouts into the sunlight so
that chlorophyll can develop and turn the
leaves green. Mist as needed.
7. Move the sprouts from the towel to a
strainer, and rinse well to remove the hulls, if
desired. Hulls can shorten the storage life of
sprouts, but they also add flavor.
8. Use sprouts immediately in salads,
sandwiches, or as the recipe suggests. To store,
put in plastic bags and refrigerate.
9. Wash and dry all equipment and put away for
next use.

Clay saucer sprouting
This method works best for gelatinous seeds that
are difficult to rinse in jars.
1. Use a clean, unglazed clay flowerpot saucer.
2. Put equal amounts of seeds and water into
the saucer.
3. Set the saucer in a larger pan and pour water
into the pan to within 1/2 inch of top of saucer.
4. Cover with a plate and set aside in warm
(70°F), dark place.
5. Check the seeds daily, misting them if they
become dry, or removing the plate cover for a
day if they're too wet.
6. On about the fourth day, move the sprouts
into the sunlight so the leaves turn green.
Mist as needed.
7. Move the sprouts from the saucer to a
strainer, and rinse well to remove the hulls, if
desired. Hulls can shorten storage life of
sprouts, but they also add flavor.
8. Use sprouts immediately in salads,
sandwiches, or as the recipe suggests. To store,
put in plastic bags and refrigerate.
9. Wash and dry all equipment and put away for
next use.

Soil sprouting
This method works best for sprouting tiny greens
for salads or for wheat, rye, or triticale grasses.
1. Spread a 1-inch layer of equal parts of moist
peat moss and top soiI over the bottom of a box.
2. Soak the seeds in 3 times as much water as
you have seeds and soak for the time given in
the recipe; rinse and jar sprout for 16 to 24
3. Spread the seeds over the soil in the box.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and then newspaper
or black plastic (to keep out light).
5. When the sprouts are \ inch tall, remove the
cover and move them into sunlight so that
chlorophyll can develop and turn the leaves
green. Water as needed.
6. When greens are the desired height — about
2 to 3 inches — pull or cut them, wash them
well, and use them in salads. To store, put in
plastic bag and refrigerate.
7. Wash and dry all equipment and put away for
next use.


Sprouting can be done in a jar, in a tray, on a towel,
in a clay saucer, or in a thin layer of soil. Each method
works best for certain kinds of seeds, as you'll see
from the following descriptions.
Although the basic steps are quite similar from
one method to the next, the times and temperatures
for sprouting will vary due to temperature and
humidity variations in your home. That means you've
got to check sprouts frequently. After your first
couple of batches, you'll have a good idea how long it
takes to produce the flavor you prefer in sprouts.
Many sprouters also like to save the water drained
from sprouts for use in soups or sauces, or for
watering houseplants.
Jar sprouting
This method works best for small seeds, such as
alfalfa, clover or radish.
1. Rinse the seeds in lukewarm water.
2. Put the seeds in a jar, then add 3 times as
much water as you have sprouts. Cover with a
plastic mesh lid, cheesecloth, or nylon net,
then fasten with a rubber band or canning jarscrew
band. (You won't need to remove the
mesh covering until the sprouts are ready to
harvest.) Set aside and soak for the time
given in the recipe.
3. At the end of the soaking time, drain off the
water (through the mesh covering).
4. Rinse the seeds with lukewarm water and
5. Set the jar in a warm (60°F), dark place, at an
angle so that the sprouts can drain.
6. Rinse and drain the sprouts twice a day, or as
the recipe directs. (In hot, dry weather, rinse
them 3 to 4 times a day.) Turn the jar gently as
you rinse and drain so that the sprouts won't
break off. If the weather or your kitchen is
very humid, move the sprouts to a dry place,
such as near the stove or wrapped in a towel
(to keep out light) near a sunny window. Too
much humidity will prevent sprouting.
Temperatures above 80°F can also prevent
7. On about the fourth day, move the jar of
sprouts into the sunlight so that chlorophyll can
develop and turn the leaves green. Continue
to rinse and drain.
8. Move the sprouts from the jar to a strainer,
and rinse well to remove the hulls, if desired.
Hulls can shorten storage life of sprouts, but
they also add flavor.
9. Use sprouts immediately in salads,
sandwiches, or as the recipe suggests. To store,
put in plastic bags and refrigerate.
10. Wash and dry all equipment and put away for
next use.
Tray sprouting
This method works best for seeds such as mung
bean, chia, and lettuce.
1. Rinse the seeds in lukewarm water.
2. Put the seeds in a jar, then add 3 times as
much water as you have sprouts. Cover with a
plastic mesh lid, cheesecloth or nylon net,
then fasten with a rubber band or canning jar
screw band. Set aside and soak for the time
given in the recipe.
3. At the end of the soaking time, rinse the
seeds and spread in a tray. (The tray can be a
wooden box with a plastic, nylon, or wire
mesh bottom, or a perforated plastic tray.)
4. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and then
with newspaper or another light-blocking
cover. Keep one end of the tray bottom
propped up so the sprouts can drain. Set the
tray in warm (70°F), dark place.
5. Rinse and drain sprouts twice a day. (In hot,
dry weather, rinse them 3 or 4 times a day.)
Rinse gently (so the sprouts won't break)
under a faucet (not full-force), the sprinkler
attachment of your sink, or by lowering the
tray slightly into a sink of lukewarm water.
Cover the tray again after each rinsing.
6. On about the fourth day, move the tray of
sprouts into sunlight so chlorophyll can
develop and turn the leaves green. Continue
to rinse and drain.
7. Move the sprouts from the tray to a strainer,
and rinse well to remove the hulls, if desired.
Hulls can shorten storage life of sprouts, but
they also add flavor.
8. Use sprouts immediately in salads,
sandwiches, or as the recipe suggests. To store,
put in plastic bags and refrigerate.
9. Wash and dry all equipment and put away for
next use.


Sprouting is one of the easiest ways to grow
fresh vegetables for e a t i n g s both in and out of
season. While mung bean sprouts have long been
familiar in Chinese cooking, alfalfa and other sprouts
have become equally well-known in recent years.
More and more ingenious and health-conscious
cooks are adding a variety of sprouts to salads,
sandwiches, soups, and other dishes — for both the
crunch and the nutrition. Sprouts are bursting with
nutrients, and certain vitamins even increase when
seeds are sprouted — up to 600 percent.
And sprouts are economical, too — from a single
pound of seeds, you can produce from six to eight
pounds of sprouts. All you have to do is add a little
moisture and a little warmth to the seeds, set them in a
dark place, then sit back and watch your garden
grow in just a few day's time.
It's fun to have several jars of sprouts going at
once, so you'll always have variety as well as a good
supply. For example, put a couple of tablespoons of
alfalfa seeds in one jar, a cup of wheat or rye berries in
another, and a half cup or so of lentils in a third jar.
Alfalfa takes about five days to reach just the right
stage for eating, but your wheat sprouts will be
ready by the end of the second day. It's a fast, easy,
and very rewarding way to enjoy vegetables — both
the ones you grow yourself and the ones you don't.
All you need to sprout seeds is a jar, some
cheesecloth, plastic mesh, or plastic screen to cover
the jar, and a rubber band to hold it in place. But
you can also sprout seeds on a tray, on damp towels, in
a clay flowerpot saucer, or in a thin layer of soil. You
may also want to try the ready-made sprouters that are
available in large department stores and health
food stores. For example, you can buy mesh trays or
sprouting lids made of plastic mesh that fit on
standard one-quart canning jars. It's a good idea to try
various methods to find ones that are most
convenient and work best for you.
You can sprout all kinds of seeds, legumes, and
grains. Try wheat, rye, alfalfa, mung beans, chick peas,
soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or any of
the other sprouting seeds, grains, and vegetables
suggested in "Directions for Sprouting," later in
this chapter. Only one thing is essential — when
buying seeds for sprouting, always check to be sure
you're getting live, untreated seed. Seeds that are
intended to grow crops are specially treated to
make them resistant to insects and plant
diseases — and you shouldn't eat sprouts started
from these chemically treated seeds.
You also can't sprout seeds that have been heattreated,
because even relatively low temperatures kill
the seeds, leaving them edible but no longer
capable of growth. For this reason, if you're growing
beans, peas, or other vegetables for sprouting, be
sure to use the drying method recommended for this
purpose. Seeds dried by blanching, chilling, and
heating will not sprout.
The only other ingredient you'll need for
sprouting is water. Some experts recommend that you
let city water (which may be high in chlorine) sit for
a day or two before you use it, in order to let the
chlorine dissipate into the air. When sprouting
seeds, use lukewarm or room-temperature water,
rather than cold or hot.