Even in the absolute dead of winter (they claim it’s now spring, I don’t believe them), even if you don’t have any low tunnels or cold frames or fancy-schmancy stuff like that, even if you have little or no space or light inside your home, you can still grow a bunch of incredibly delicious, nutritions, organic-as-the-day-is-long shoots indoors. It’s a simple technique I learned from Will Allen of Growing Power fame, “the father of urban agriculture,” who told our group “if you can’t grow shoots, you can’t grown nothin’.”
Happily I’ve already been able do it several times, which means anyone can do it!
Both sprouts and shoots are grown for their tender and nutritious young seedlings. Sprouts are immature seedlings that are eaten just after seedlings emerge and the cotyledons (first leaves) open up, but before any true leaves appear. (They are not grown in medium, as shoots are.) The most popular types of sprouts are greens and grains, with notable health interest in broccoli or other Brassica crop sprouts. Shoots are similar to micro-greens, being grown in medium and clipped along the stem, and tend to be large seeded crops, like peas and sunflowers.
Many seed companies sell seeds specifically for shoot production. My favorite is Dwarf Grey Peas. Here’s how to do it (and please pardon the funky picture/text arrangement, as we apparently have some bugs in the website program…):
Get a normal 10-20″ flat (and make sure it doesn’t leak – you really don’t need much drainage for this), and fill it with 1 and 1/2″ of growing media. (Really, that’s all you need!) I use a 50-50 mix of LeafGro compost and peat moss, but any decent growing media will do.
Next, spread about a 1/2 pound, or 1 cup, of seeds as evenly as possible over the surface of the flat. You can use less but I like a nice full flat, just so long as you don’t have the seeds piled on top of each other. Then water thoroughly, and cover with another flat, right side up (as if you were stacking the two flats together). This helps keep the seeds moist, and helps keep the growth even when they start to sprout. Keep it in a dark, cool place and check to make sure they stay moist.
You shouldn’t need to watch too hard to know when the seeds sprout, as they will literally start to push the covering tray up. (I use a shallow covering tray, but a second standard one works fine.) Once they do that, give them another good watering if they need it, then turn the top tray over, so it’s upside down. That will again help keep the growth more uniform. Keep stored in that dark, cool space.
Then just keep ’em watered and watch ’em grow for a few more days, and by two weeks you should have an absolutely lush flat of luscious, highly nutritious greens, perfect for your winter salads – it’s that simple!! The combination pictured below is my new favorite salad: fresh (cut ’em 10 minutes before you eat ’em!) pea shoots with chopped up local apple or pear, some chopped up pecans or other nuts, and crumbled blue cheese. Delish! And served here with garden sweet potatoes out of cold storage and some local snausage. Yum!!!