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Local food: Sprouts

Posted Mar 12 2010 12:00am
Local food? ...in March? ...in New England?

Sure, if you grow your own sprouts. After all, your kitchen counter is as local as it gets!

I just harvested my first batch of sprouts in an “EasySprout” grower I ordered online from Sproutpeople.com . I also purchased Sproutpeople’s French Garden Mix, a blend of clover, arugula, cress, radish, fenugreek, and dill seeds. Fancy... and delicious!

Growing your own sprouts is a foolproof project that will satisfy your late-winter gardening itch, as well as your craving for really fresh greens. The grower is essentially a large plastic cup with drainage holes, set inside another plastic cup with a solid bottom. A perforated lid sits on top. You put seeds in the cup, then rinse and drain them twice a day for five or six days. You end up with a big cup full of sprouts. Mine worked perfectly on the first try.

As fans of Make Friends With Food will recall, I have a hard time resisting kitchen gadgets . In particular, I have a fondness for the kind of specialized tools Alton Brown of Good Eats calls “uni-taskers” because they only do one job, and the rest of the time they sit around taking up space. (Examples: pasta machine, tortilla press, and yogurt maker, all of which I’ve misguidedly purchased in the past.)

The sprout grower, however, is a uni-tasker that promises to see some regular use in my kitchen.

Sprouts are fantastically good for you. A seed contains all the energy and nutrients a baby plant needs in order to burst out of the ground, and sprouts offer exceptionally high levels of vitamins, protein, enzymes, and antioxidants -- much more, in many cases, than the mature vegetable they will eventually turn into. For example, three-day-old broccoli sprouts have been shown to contain 20 to 50 times more sulforophane , a potent cancer-fighter, than full-grown broccoli.

Other studies suggest eating sprouts can help boost your immune system, improve hormonal function, and increase calcium absorption.

About a year ago, alfalfa sprouts were linked with salmonella . The sprouts were traced to tainted seeds from a large commercial operation. As consumers are finding out the hard way, any food produced on an industrial scale has the potential to spread contamination far and wide (see spinach and tomatoes). However, the fresh sprouts you grow on your kitchen counter, from tested and certified seeds, are as safe as any other vegetable you harvest from your backyard garden.

What can you do with sprouts? They’re wonderful in sandwiches, bringing a crunchy texture and fresh flavor to egg salad, tuna fish, sliced turkey, or (my favorite ) avocado and cheese. You can also mix sprouts into salads, or use them as a filling for omelets or burritos.

For dinner a few nights ago, we had falafel sandwiches with sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, and red bell peppers, accompanied by cucumber-dill sauce (Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, minced garlic, and chopped dill). They were really fabulous. (Psst. I used Fantastic Foods falafel mix.)

text © 2010 Eleanor Kohlsaat LLC
image courtesy Sproutpeople.com
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