Our gardens in many lights

mercredi 14 décembre 2011

The art of germinations

Cet article en français. 
Este artículo en español.

Step 1, lentil seeds soaking in water.
Hélène :That's it, we can't kid ourselves anymore, the gardening season is definitely over. The first snow fell some days ago (probably more if you are farther north), there's not a leaf left in the trees and most neighbors have put out their Christmas decorations. So what to do if you are already longing for Spring? What can we taste that will feel fresh and remind us of the plentiful season?

After a day, we can already see the sprouts!

How about germinations ! This way of eating greens is excellent for the health and is wonderfully tasty. And it's simple. Really simple. If you go in a natural food store, you can find there all sorts of seeds packaged for the express use of germinating them, but sometimes the price tags on these is high (for example, I bought a 250g bag of fenugreek seeds priced at 6.49$). This may seem excessive, but with this bag you'll make a long way. Nevertheless, there is a way to get a better price elsewhere. You can save by buying dried seeds in bulk at your grocery store. We can easily find beans, peas and other types of seeds in plastic bags and all of these, well, they can germinate, as long as they are whole and raw (not crushed, roasted, bleached or whatever processing technique they can do on the poor things to make them suffer). For instance split peas will not germinate, simply because they don't have the germ anymore, the part that makes a plant out of it. The picture on the right features plain green lentils! They make amazing germinations.

I'll give you the "Mason Jar" technique for germinations, which is possibly the simplest one. Or you can also buy a seed tray made expressly to germinate seeds. But it's really not necessary to dedicate space in your kitchen for yet another gadget when an ordinary glass jar works so well.

Step 1, Mung beans germinations
So here's the technique me and Louise are using.

Step 1 is so simple, as shown in the first and third pictures of this post. Put a small quantity of seeds (one or two tablespoons will give you enough germinations to spice up a couple of salads). Rinse them once with water and then fill the jar to cover the seeds with cold or lukewarm water. Let the seeds soak like this 2 to 6 hours or more. I generally let them soak an entire night and the bigger the seeds, the more diligent I am on this point. The water really has to permeate the seeds to make them germinate.

Step 2, take the water out, rinse once more and cover the top of the jar with a thin piece of light textile, kept in place with a rubber band. Keep in mind that the bigger seeds are easier to rinse. With smaller seeds like alfalfa, you have to either use patience or ingenuity. Some people make fitting screens for their Mason jars. (However, just don't ever use aluminum doors and windows screening material; this aluminum is poisonous and it will leave traces on your germinations.) My own trick is to simply use an old nylon sock (after washing it thoroughly). You can rinse through it like a charm! 

Steps 2 and 3
To cover up your jar, you could also use one of those old coton covers used on jam jars to make them prettier. With smaller seeds, like alfalfa, Louise likes to use a small kitchen sieve.

Step 3 : put the jar in a bowl, head down. This way, any excess water will seep out. Rinse the seeds twice a day. It's very important especially in hot weather, else rot might start. After 2 to 4 days (some seeds take longer) you will have germinations for your salads, pastas, sandwiches and more! The ambiant temperature also plays a role : The warmer it is, the faster the germinations will sprout. They are ready when they reach about one or two inches long.

Hélène's favorites : I use my germinations mostly on pasta and in salads. I am far from having tried them all of course, but right now my favorites are Mung beans. Followed closely by corn. Alfalfa is pretty nice too and lentils are fabulous! Next thing I'm trying : chick peas! However, I am not fond of fenugreek and I hate red cress! There's also little to do for some seeds that keep a layer of saponin, like flax seeds (I even persisted on their case an entire week - nothing was growing); they became sticky, smelled bad and their germination rate was close to nothing. 

Louise's favorites : In my home, classics are the most appreciated. Alfalfa is the real winner, but we also appreciate clover very much. Daikon Radish has an interesting hot taste. Anyway, there's so much more to try out there! The time required to make germinations at home is ridiculously short and what I especially appreciate of this technique is that I'm growing a vegetable right on my kitchen countertop !

Here's one for the camping lovers : Put seeds in a nylon sock and that sock in a ziploc full of water. Strap this securely on your backpack. 6 hours later, take the ziploc and water out and keep the sock with the seeds strapped on your backpack. Rinse it twice a day and after 2 to 4 days, surprise! A fresh meal as sprouted. This idea comes from this book.

One last trick. If your green thumb isn't fulfilled with all this, keep a couple of germinated seeds aside and make plants for the winter. Lentils make an absolutely adorable little plant! This last idea (tested by yours truly) came from this book.
Update : Well, chick peas germinations didn't work for me. The time it took for these peas to grow to a decent size, a quarter of them become slimy and smelly and were mostly just rotting away! Maybe they needed to be rinse more frequently to prevent mold? Anyway, it then occured to me they could be used another way... to make another beautiful house plant!
Chick pea plants looks like lentil plants, but are straighter
and bushier.

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