Some folks make New Year's resolutions to exercise, eat healthy, and change their lifestyles. Some are even more ambitious focusing on eating locally grown foods. The truly ambitious set goals to eat something every day that they grew personally. Crazy you say? Well maybe, but it really is not that hard to do. We are not talking about building a greenhouse out of 2x4s and plastic wrap and planting summer crops. We are talking about sprouts, micro-greens, in simple terms the first shoots from seeds.
I must confess I am not a big fan of common bean sprouts and iceberg lettuce and other cellulosic packing materials that need to be lathered in dressing, sauces, and dairy products to have flavor. However, for a multitude of reasons I tried growing sunflower seed sprouts this past week. To those in "the know" they are often called Sunnys. Wow, they are great. The 2-4 inch sprouts have a bit of crunch like celery or good crisp lettuce and just a hint of sunflower seed flavor. If you like putting sunflower seeds on salads and in dressings or just eating roasted you will love these sprouts.
Sunnys are packed with nutrition, containing Vitamins A, B, C, and E; calcium, magnesium, and other minerals; chlorophyll, and 20-25% protein and amino acids. Clearly, healthy food.
How I did it. First, I raided a bag of bird food and collected 1 cup of black oil sunflower seeds and soaked them in water for approximately 8 hours. When seeds absorb water the sprouting process is initiated. Next, I found a plastic tray that was 2 inches deep and spread 1 inch of 100% Organic Skolex Castings in the bottom of the tray. Now for the seeds. The water-logged seeds were evenly spread across the Skolex Castings. I was not very careful and many of the seeds overlapped each other. Next, the seeds were completely covered with 1 inch of Skolex Castings. Finally, using a spray bottle, I moistened the tray and placed it on a shelf in the garage where the temperature is approximately 60 F night and day. I moistened the surface every day using the spray bottle. The Skolex Castings control and hold an optimum of water.
After 72 hours, the sunflower shoots were pushing up and out of the Castings. By day 7, the sprouts were ready to eat, but I decided to grow them a bit longer, and placed a light over them during the day. A picture of the tray of sunflower sprouts is below.
There are many methods and techniques for growing sprouts and you may need to experiment with what works best in your house or garage, but I have to admit this was really easy. This success has sparked interest in other sprouts including broccoli, peas and radishes. I will let you know how it goes.
One thing is for sure, the birds are in trouble as I don't expect they will see many sunflower seeds in their feeder anymore.
Use raw sunflower seeds (black oil) that are still in their shells and that have not been processed. No cooking, no salt, just raw seeds.
Light is not needed to start the sprouts. After they are above the surface indirect room light is fine.
Sunflower seeds sprout well at room temperature or slightly below (55 F - 70 F).
It is interesting to watch the sprouts push the seed shells up and out of the Castings and then drop them as the leaves open. See the picture for shells that are still hanging on. One word of caution. Be gentle if you are "helping" the sprout along by pulling the shell off. You can easily pull the whole seedling out of the tray...and you can't put it back.
If you are interested in more details about sprouting and expert tips visit the Sprout People. They have a very colorful informative site, and have been growing a lot of sprouts for a long time.