Preparing for winter, I planted Brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale into seed trays. As I did so I became aware that I mightn’t have containers to plant them into once they reached the four-six leaf stage. Growing vegetables to their full size is how I normally add value to my vegetable gardening efforts. Yet my perceived lack of capacity clashed with an intuitive desire to make the most of the moon’s first quarter by planting more leafy greens from seed. These, after all, are highly alkaline and thus anti-inflammatory. The result was planting indoor microgreens.
To sprout or not to sprout?
Preparing for the Jewish Festival of Pesach (Passover), I became aware of how much dried food I had hoarded. Fenugreek seeds, untouched for over two years, looked at me; we first met four years ago. Delicious tea I had made over the previous years. So fond was I of them that they accompanied me through two moves. If that isn’t attachment, what is? Miserliness? Frugality? Or a refusal to let go of anything that has seeding potential?
Regardless of whatever else it might be, it was a sure sign of hoarding, for that is one of the bad habits I was working on releasing. Sprouting thus became an opportunity to change this scarcity pattern within me…
However, other than making tea, how might I utilize these fenugreek seeds? I could, of course, give them away. Yet who would want them? And how do I do so during lockdown?
That’s when sprouting came to mind. Onto a paper towel laid out on a plate they went. After folding the paper towel over, a generous amount of water was added. Four days later about six lovely looking sprouts to a salad were added. As I swallowed them, I realised something was not quite right. I remembered too that I don’t particularly enjoy the faint toxicity my tongue always picks up in raw sprouts.
Yet, many people enjoy them. You might too. Easy, traditional ways to sprout seeds can be found at the bottom of this page under ‘Resources’. A new design that has merits for home sprouting is this one from Livingseeds. (According to their website, they are delivering even during lockdown, but have a backlog of orders.)
Turning sprouts into microgreens
Upon a Google investigation I learnt that sprouting requires changing water many times. Not to do so is to risk a bacterial or fungal infection! In addition, some sprouts contain toxins that are part of their sprouting makeup…
Sprouting is not for me, I decided. Besides being water-intensive, the potential contamination risks are too high. I do not have the confidence nor the patience for this type of beneficiation. Yet you might, for we are all different. And sprouts are said to be a more easily digested plant protein; they transform acidic dried plant proteins into anti-inflammatory alkalines.
From the paper towel the remaining fenugreek sprouts into a thin layer of potting soil at the bottom of a flat glass dish were turfed. Into micro-greens they are growing… And I have been told that once I have cut the first crop, another will follow. Now, that I like: maximum yield from minimal input. This then is another way to increase anti-inflammatory (alkaline) foods to the winter diet.
Post-Pesach greens the fenugreek will be. And as I wait for those to be ready in a day or so I’ll try the amaranth seeds. Amaranth seeds are a delicious anti-inflammatory superfood, I read. So out I went and bought some. Added to soup I disliked them. Added to strew was no improvement. Popped with the intention of adding them to muesli was a messy failure. So, in the cupboard they have been waiting for this moment. For young amaranth leaves my palate has declared delicious.
I found the following video particularly helpful in demonstrating how to grow microgreens.
Types of Seeds to Sprout or Microgreen
From the literature there is a wide range of possibilities. However, for the purpose of this article, I recommend that you have a look at the dry edibles you already have in your possession. For example, besides fenugreek and amaranth I have sorghum, pearl barley, yellow mustard… These I will also grow into micro-greens. Not all at once, but in batches, for they must be harvested and consumed within specific time frames.
I would encourage you to use organic seeds where possible. Yet if you don’t have access to these, use what you have. The most important rule is to avoid seeds packaged for vegetable gardening. Besides making the process hugely expensive, seeds for agricultural purposes are processed with toxins to minimize or eliminate attack by pests. These seeds are most definitely not suitable for sprouting or micro-greening.
Health Benefits of Five Types of Seeds
The benefits of food are dependent on a number of variables, such as quality of soil, water and sunlight in which they were grown; as well as levels of hygiene and fertilisation. This is one of the chief reasons why scientists are skeptical of the benefits of natural products, including supplements and medicines; two batches of the same tea, for example, might have marked differences in their therapeutic levels and thus efficacy.
Nonetheless, for those who are uncomfortable with the level of interference with nature found in commercial products, these facts can be put aside. With awareness. I certainly consider heritage and organic produced seeds and foods superior in quality to those that are exposed to artificial fertilizers, pesticides and shelf-life extension preservatives.
The attitude with which you plant and prepare food also plays a role. Yet I’ll put that aside, for love cannot be scientifically measured, only experienced…
The protein rich legumes are a good source of iron. These seeds also contain B-vitamins, magnesium, copper and manganese. Fenugreek seed tea is used to treat period pains, stomach upsets, fever and diarrhea. (They are also used to induce labour so must be avoided by pregnant women.)
Fenugreek sprouts and leaves are said to reduce cholesterol, help control diabetes and aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and aiding the digestive system.
To increase lactation in breast-feeding mothers, view the link under ‘Resources’.
A low GI gluten-free grain with good levels of protein. It also contains Vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E. As though this isn’t enough it also contains folic acid, iron, copper, calcium, manganese and zinc.
According to Margaret Roberts in Healing Foods, an astringent tea made with a quarter cup of amaranth leaves is used to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and excessive vaginal discharge. It is also used to treat colds and coughs and to soothe mouth and stomach ulcers. Traditionally it is used to treat anemia and chronic fatigue…It is also useful in increasing milk production in lactating mothers.
Oh dear, I can find examples of sprouting sorghum. I cannot find any examples of people growing sorghum microgreens. I wonder why not. I’ll have to look into this…I would hold back publishing this, if the ancetors weren’t so insistent that I publish it today. I am not to leave it out. At the very least, it may be of use to potential sprouters.
Organic sorghum flour is my favourite gluten-free porridge. It contains thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorous and potassium. This ancient African staple it is healthier than maize and easier to grow in dry conditions.
From blocking the onset of some cancers (colon, lung, liver, pancreas, and breast) to being beneficial to people with coeliac disease, its benefits are wide ranging. See the link at the bottom of this article.
Barley microgreens or barley grass is popular as an addition to smoothies. It is rich in Vitamin B3, C and K, as well as folic acid. It also contains potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and calcium.
Barley water is said to be the best natural cholesterol treatment. In addition, Margaret Roberts lauds it as a treatment for stomach ulcers, digestive problems, care of the liver, treating diarrhea, preventing tooth decay and prevention of hair loss. (Barley water is simply the water you cook barley in. Simmer pearl barley gently for about an hour, topping up the water as it evaporates. Save the water as you strain the barley. The barley water can be refrigerated and a cup drunk daily. Use the strained barley as a rice substitute.)
Rich in Vitamin K and A these anti-oxidant rich seeds detoxify the liver and blood.
In addition, they protect against osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease. For this reason, Margaret Roberts recommends them for women going through menopause.
(Mustard is also a winter cover crop that can be used to fertilize your soil or add to your compost as a green manure. I think that mustard microgreens, and other cover crops, can be used as a fertiliser to boost ordinary soil for use in micro-green production. Below is an outdoor way to do enhance soil fertility.)
Reflection on purpose of this article
I begin to see that the reason I have written this with such urgency, is because during lockdown even more people will go hungry or be malnourished. Millions of South Africans are unemployed. Post-lockdown even more will be added to their already vast numbers. Yet even little children enjoy watching seeds sprout and grow. Sprouting and microgreening is an earth-friendly family activity you might want to consider. As a source of nutrition that can be added to common staples such as mielie meal and sandwiches or rolls it is hard to beat.
May whatever comes your way, as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, be an opportunity to re-invent yourself and your lifestyle in a way that supports a healthy environment. Within an inclusive economy.
Urban farming would be a step up from this. These activities can become a source of income as well. The beauty of microgreening is that it requires very little input and space. It does require good quality soil…
Booking a Consultation
If you would like to book a weekday consultation with me, contact me on 060 370 9893 via sms or WhatsApp. Altenatively, email me on email@example.com. Provide me with your full name and, briefly, what you hope to achieve from the consultation. My working hours are 11h00- 14h00 and 19h00-20h30 on Monday-Wednesday. A consultation is R250 and usually lasts between ten and fifteen minutes. Do let me know if this is unaffordable for you at this time and together your ancestors and I will see if we can make a plan…
Sources and Resources
How to Sprout Seeds:
Benefits of Sprouting:
Growing Microgreens at home, as a source of income: I decided to include the following video even though it isn’t in English. Starting from 5:03 the visuals are self-explanatory. This woman uses a variety of containers and in addition to growing microgreens she produces baby leafy greens with exceptionally high yields.
How to prevent deal with moulds in microgreens:
Additional Information on Fenugreek:
Additional Information on Amaranth:
Additional Information on Sorghum:
Additional Information on Barley:
Additional Information on Mustard: