Healthy fast growing foods

Posted on: 6th May, 2014

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: West Cork People

by Justine Sweeney

Above: l-r Justine Sweeney and Kerrie Liao

The March meeting of the Clonakilty Grow It Yourself group enjoyed talks and demonstrations by myself, Justine Sweeney and  Kerrie liao from the GIY  steering committee and GIY patron Joy Larkcom. The subjects were sprouting seeds and pulses, growing and juicing wheatgrass and growing micro greens. If you are new to sprouting you may wonder why would you take a seed,  bean or grain and allow it to grow a sprout?

For over 2000 years, the Chinese have used sprouted seeds, grains and beans as a staple food so it’s not just a passing fad. They are a source of green living nutrition. This is a superfood you can grow on your kitchen work top. Sprouts are a quick and easy crop, grown in  all seasons and are especially important in the winter months. Sprouted seeds have hundreds of times more nutrients than the original seed .They are easier to digest and provide vitamins and minerals that are concentrated and more abundant in sprouts than in other greens. They have protein,fibre and are low fat making them great for dieters. They are also a good source of enzymes which help our digestive process and facilitate growth and repair of tissue. So enzymes are more abundant in sprouts because the enzymes themselves are extremely perishable and found only in living foods.

Very easy pulses and seeds  to start with are mung beans, chickpeas, lentils, alfalfa, broccoli, red clover and cress. AVOID sprouting black beans, runner beans, butter beans, kidney beans  and broad beans, potato, paprika, aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and rhubarb and anything that has poisonous foliage. Care should be taken that seeds are intended for sprouting rather than sowing as they may be treated with chemical dressing but pulses intended for cooking are safe to sprout. The dry seeds are dormant and so soaking ends the dormancy and begins new life, soaking needs to be done for eight to 12 hours,  so overnight is the usually the easiest way to remember this. In the morning you pour off the soak water and rinse again then put them into your sprouter. Sprouters can be very basic from a jam jar covered with a piece of  muslin or  tights to a three-tiered shop bought design. This should live on your kitchen work top out of direct sunlight or somewhere you will see it to remind yourself to rinse the sprouts two to three times a day depending on the time of year. Rinsing provides enough moisture to keep the seeds growing, adds oxygen and removes waste components. Drain well as you don’t want the sprouts sitting in stagnant water. After four to eight days they will be ready, so  give a quick taste after four days, as some sprouts are much nicer younger and can develop a bitter taste with age. When you decide they are ready, then no more rinsing should be done  for eight to 12 hours so they dry out and can then be stored covered in the fridge to be eaten straight away or during the week. Any longer than that, I have found the sprouts to look a bit tired and it’s best to eat fresh food so grow some little and often. Eat  them like you would eat lettuce in salads and sandwiches and wraps, adding them at the last minute to stir-fry’s, stews ,soups and  rice dishes  or use as a garnish.

Wheatgrass is different to sprouting in that it is grown on soil. The juice will boost your strength, endurance and health, it also improves digestion because it is high in enzymes. It is very easy to grow. On day one soak the wheat in water three times higher than the wheat for 12 to 18 hours . Next drain and rinse with water then drain again and leave in a sieve for eight to 12 hours. On day two, repeat this whole procedure. On day three, fill a seed tray full of compost and spread seeds evenly on top of the compost quite thickly and water lightly. Cover this in plastic and put into a hot press or a heated propagator at a temperature of 20 to 24 deg celsius. Wait for two days then take off the plastic and place the tray  where it will get indirect light and a temperature of 20 to 24 deg c.  Give a good water once a day, using tepid water . It will be ready in eight to 10 days after the initial soaking. Cut the grass when it is eight to 10 inches high and juice and drink in small amounts or add to juices or smoothies.  You can buy an inexpensive hand juicer or some good electric juicers will be up for the job.

Microgreens are a flavour bombshell; they can be added to salads or sandwiches. They are the seedlings of plants that we usually let grow on to become mature plants like coriander, basil, fennel, rocket, radish and oriental greens. They are grown the same way but cut when they have the first true leaves. They have the advantage of being ready in under two weeks thus avoiding pests and other problems as they are harvested so young. A disadvantage is the cost of the seeds and so allow a few plants to go to seed this growing season and collect some seeds to use for the next

All supplies of  sprouters, seeds, beans, pulses and  wheatgrass were  from An Tobairin Healthfood shop in Bandon.

The next GIY meeting will be in O’Donovan’s Hotel Clonakilty on Monday, May 12 at 8pm and the guest speaker will be George hart talking about Polytunnels. This is a free meeting and the general public is very welcome to attend.

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