Fall is here, and after the heat of this summer I think we’re all breathing a collective sigh of relief! Autumn means school’s back in session. It’s a good time to start new family activities, and a good time to bolster the immune systems of your children. Why not do both at the same time?
New research on sprouts adds to what we already know: they’re good for us. They fall into that ambiguous ‘healthy stuff’ group that kids often avoid without tasting, but you can fix that. They’re certainly worth the effort. Their health effects range from heart health to anti-cancer agents; they’re a good, low-cal snack, adding flavor and zest to a variety of dishes. And you can grow them yourself.
Growing sprouts is easy. It’s also fun to do as a family. Instead of using jars, like we did when we were kids, the most effective way to grow is in a hemp sprouting bag. They’re inexpensive and available all over the web. One will run you about $15, but it will last a long time. Jars take up space and require more time, break and limit the amount of air sprouts get while growing. Bags have none of these problems. Simply dip them in water and hang it to drain, saving kitchen counter space and time.
Pick your seeds carefully. Any vegetable, grain or nut seed will grow sprouts, but different seeds require more or less time (bean sprouts grow in a few hours, macadamia nuts need 60 days) and each has a distinctive taste. Some will maintain their nutrients when cooked and others need to be eaten raw. (See the link below for more information).
Do a little homework of your own and turn this into a cool science experiment for the kids. Chart how long different seeds take to sprout and then grow to harvest, or graph how hot or sweet a sprout is (radish are ‘hot’ by sprout standards and sunflower sprouts are sweet) or size of seed/bean/nut to growth time to see if there’s a correlation.
Once your sprouts are all grown up, it’ll be time for the family to hit the kitchen to some tasting. Recipes for sprouts abound. Use them in sandwiches, soups, quesadillas, pureed and used in paté … the possibilities are almost endless.
Make the kids an important part in growing, harvesting and preparation. Because the ‘farming’ is simple, you might give each child a sprouting bag as their own little farm. Help them get it going and remind them to dunk and drain the bag daily and help with harvesting. Pick recipes that are age-appropriate and let your grower make a dish for dinner using their plants as an ingredient. Alex and Soph get a kick out of feeding the family, from seed to serving, and we’re betting your kids will too.
Happy Family Cooking (and Gardening) Everyone,
Alex, Soph and Kelly
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