Guest Blogger – Garden in a Jar

I am so excited to announce my very first guest blogger today, Dan Parziale. Dan is new to the blogging world, but not new to the world of gardening. Growing up in Ojai California, lemon, avocado and orange trees lined his driveway and fresh, homegrown food was always incorporated into their meals.

One time when Dan came to visit Matt and I in New York City, he suggested that we cook dinner in one night, a suggestion that I am ALWAYS happy to hear. We decided to cook up a Mexican dish and Dan offered to make fresh salsa. We went to the local grocery store, where our Dan was appalled by the outrageous price for herbs like cilantro and mint.

In today’s post, Dan outlines an inexpensive and fun way to spruce up your cooking! Thank you Dan for being a “big thing” in our life and for always providing “little things” to focus on that make our NYC life a little more fun.

GARDEN IN A JAR:

Do any of the following refer to you?

1) No yard

2) No money

3) No green thumb

4) Desire fresh, homegrown food

5) Running water in your house/apartment

6) You’re a kickass, interesting person willing to try new things

If so, homegrown sprouts are for you. If not, homegrown sprouts are probably still for you. All that is needed is some counter space and a jar and you’re well on your way to healthy, fresh, homegrown sprouts. Keep in mind that any/all of the recommendations here are just that–recommendations. Feel free to alter what you use given what you have or have access to. Its pretty hard to screw this up. That being said, I’ve tried different ways and I think this is the easiest and I’ve had the most success with it.

First, get a large mason jar with the screw on top and some fine screen (not fine like good looking, but fine like small holes). You want the kind of top that has both the ring and lid as you will only be using the ring for this. For the screen, if the holes are too big, then whatever you are sprouting will fall through the screen. I went to the hardware store and bought the screen they sell for screen doors by the foot. You just need enough to overlap the sides of the top of the mason jar by about an inch. I recommend having 2 or 3 jars/tops/pieces of screen so you can sprout different things at the same time. That way, if something doesn’t sprout or if you don’t like the taste of one of the varieties, you will still have good sprouts. That, and it looks badass to have a bunch of different things sprouting in your kitchen.

The screen is extremely cheap. I bought enough for about 8 jars for less than a dollar. You can get the mason jars new at most markets and if you already have jars, but don’t have the tops, you can buy the tops separately. It’s about $15 for a case of 12 quart size jars/tops. Luckily mason jars are sweet for doing things like drinking beer too, so the extra jars won’t go to waste (or you can learn how to make jam–I use half of the remaining jars for beer and half for jam which I think is a good balance).

Next, pick out some of the dry beans/seeds you want to sprout. I have used raw sunflower seeds, lentils (both green and red), black quinoa, pinto beans, black beans and mung beans. I have had the most luck with the black quinoa, lentils and mung beans. In my experience, anything too small (like white quinoa) packs too densely when soaked and tend to rot because they stay too wet.A small one pound bag of lentils will give you about 20 quarts of sprouts so it’s incredibly cheap and I’ve found that the sprouts last longer in the fridge than the sprouts you get at the store.

OK, you’re ready to start sprouting. Put about a half-inch of your product (lentils, for this example) in the jar. For sprouting, you will not use the disk part of the top as you will be replacing it with the screen. Lay the screen on top of the jar and screw on the top (without the disk). The reason you use the screen is so you can fill the jar with water without having to remove the lid and you can pour the water out without worrying about the lentils falling out. It also allows air flow into the jar throughout the day.Start out by filling the jar with enough water to submerge the lentils. Fill it enough so that when the lentils absorb some of the water over the course of the next 24 hours, they will still be submerged. After 24 hours, pour out the water, refill, and pour out again. For the next 3-5 days, you will need to rinse the lentils twice a day. Simply add water through the screen top until all of the seeds are covered and then pour out the water. There will be enough residual water on the lentils to keep them sprouting.

After the 24 hour soak, I lay the jar on its side so the lentils have space to spread out and grow vertically. Depending on the conditions, it should take 3 or 4 days to complete the sprouting but some things take longer–I’ve found the black quinoa takes about 5 days. The sprouts will fill the jar, so don’t use more than a half-inch or so of raw seeds/beans to begin with. You want to remove the sprouts from the jar and put them in the fridge once they look ready to eat. I’ve heard that allowing them to “oversprout” (you start to see some roots form at the bottom) causes them to lose some of their benefits including the ability for your body to absorb all of the nutrients, but they still taste good and are good for you even if they go a day or two too long.

See which kinds of sprouts you like the best–they are great on salads and sandwiches, but there are always new uses for them–as a topper for omelets or on top of stir fry for a little extra crunch. Enjoy!

Three different kinds of sprouts. Top is green lentil, right is black quinoa and bottom left is mung bean
Oversprouted mung bean sprout
The three items you need--quart size mason jar, ring of the top and screen mesh
Submerging the lentils for first 24 hours.
First step of the process--submerging the lentils in water for 24 hours.

4 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – Garden in a Jar

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