Thursday, September 27, 2012

Growing & Cooking with Sprouts; Heavenly Soup from Leftover Collard Greens

Hello All!  It's good to be back.  As promised, today I wanted to start a conversation of what I know so far about a really delicious, healthy and easy food source that is going to be my new learning experience for Fall:  growing and cooking with fresh sprouts.

At the PA Horticultural Society's Fall Garden Festival a week ago, we met a man who was selling seeds & beans to sprout. We struck up a conversation with him, saw the wide variety of sprouts that are out there, learned the many ways that they can be used, and got started on sprouting our own the next day.

First of all, "sprouts" are not just the thin, squiggly entities with a brown tiny bean on the end that most of us are familiar with - there are, in fact, tons of varieties.  We started with a pretty traditional mix of Broccoli, Radish, Red Clover, & Alfalfa seeds (Spring Salad Sprouts), along with a less well known and much larger mix of Garbanzo Beans, Marrowfat Peas, and Lentils Beans (Crunchy Bean Mix).  The process is pretty simple and rarely varies, except for the time it takes the sprouts to be ready. You place a couple of tablespoons of seeds or beans in a 1/2 quart glass jar (canning jar), you top the jar with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band.  Then add cool water and soak the beans for 2 - 3 hours - some, like the Garbanzo mixture, require longer soaking - usually 4 - 8 hours.  In my case, I fell asleep and forgot about the two jars so they soaked overnight and seemed to be none the worse for the longer time!  Pour off the soaking water, keeping the cheese cloth in place, and shake to get as much moisture as possible out of the jar and off of the beans.  Invert the jar and prop at an angle in a bowl; twice a day refill the jar with cool water, swirl, and drain - and again, give it a good shake -  excess moisture during growing will kill off sprouts.  I used an early morning and last thing at night schedule. At day three, this is what we had:

Crunchy Bean Mix on the left; Spring Salad on the right
Today - day four - I took the cheese cloth off of the Spring Salad mix, put the lid on it and refrigerated it.  The jar is packed.  I am giving the Crunchy Bean Mix another day in "growing" mode.  I used a nice layer of the Spring Mix for a sandwich of Cashew Butter (from Green Aisle Grocery) on multi-grain bread.  It was an amazing, delicious, satisfying combination.  I have found a number of recipes for the Crunchy Beans too.  They make a great appetizer and snack, especially when you add a tiny bit of oil and your own favorite seasonings - sea salt, good pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme, with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese makes a crunch mix that will stand alone or go with cocktails.  You get the idea - a mix of whatever flavorings are in your pantry and fit your mood will work. There are entrees and soups and breads using various types of sprouts that I will be trying out as I learn more and get my technique perfected.

Sprouts can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

My source for all things Sprouts right now is:   If you are interested, it's a great place to start. There's lots of useful information, recipes, and a wide variety of sprouts that you can purchase.  I will be searching out more sites and information, of course, and I'll keep you up to date on what I learn.

Sprouts of all sorts are incredibly useful to the human immune system - they detoxify and rejuvenate.  And they are delicious and very, very versatile.  Perfect!

A Simple Recipe for Leftover Collard Greens

As some of you know from my Facebook page, I made a big pot of collard greens the other night.  I do a very southern traditional recipe.  Ham hock, smoked turkey wing, chunks of smoked bacon, onions, some chili peppers, salt and pepper and the cleaned greens.  I cook the meats in the water with the onions for about an hour before I add the greens - this contributes to the development of fantastic "pot likker" - the nectar of the gods broth that develops after the greens have cooked for hours.

So, I was wondering what to do with the left over collards - obviously, we love them and are very happy to just heat them up and pour them over rice, but I wanted something different.

I found a recipe that merely requires pouring a can of tomatoes, their juices, some more sliced garlic, some drained canned white beans - and frankly, whatever else you want, into a pot of the collards and let it slow simmer.  Top it with some homemade croutons and freshly ground black pepper.  That pot likker makes a damn fine soup - the flavor, the richness and the aromas are amazing.  I can't really compare it to anything - if you get a chance, do not hesitate to do this with your left over collards!

Hope your Fall plantings are doing well!
Keep in touch.