Gardening: Sprouts — an easy, all ages activity for greenthumbs

When looking for a quick activity for children, young or old, consider starting sprouts. It is a simple activity that requires few motor skills, is successful, and, after a few days, provides a healthy snack.

Start by purchasing the specialized seeds that can be found at grocery or health food store.

If you use garden seeds, make sure that they have not been treated with chemicals.

Stores that sell sprouting seeds can have a large variety of different sprouting seeds. Start with Mung beans and Alfalfa sprouts as they are tasty, but not spicy. Mustard, cress, and radishes sprouts, are for the more adventuresome as they are often described as hot.

The simplest sprout garden is made with: a plate, paper towels, and a clear plastic bag or wrap.

Wet the paper towels with warm water and squeeze out the excess before and placing them on the plate. They can be in any shape, but should cover the complete plate.

Next sprinkle the seeds on the paper towel. The entire plate does not have to be covered with seed. While seeds can touch and overlap each other they should not be piled in one spot. Each seed must have access to the paper towel that supplies the moisture needed for germination.

Cover the container with plastic, or place it in a sealed plastic bag. Containers that are placed in a warm area germinate faster and have less problem with mold than ones that are in a cool location

By the next day, the seeds will have started to swell. Open the plastic slightly to allow air to circulate through the sprouts. Warm, humid conditions that have just been created to enhance germination also breeds mold. Check the container on a daily basis removing mold that appears.

Sprouts will start to appear on the second or third day. At this point the container should be moved to a sunny location. Bright light will turn the sprouts a dark green.

Expect the seeds to germinate over a number of days as there is variation between individual seeds as well as different varieties.

Once the sprouts have produced their first two leaves they should be eaten. Try them as individuals straight from the tray, in a salad or sandwich.

When the majority of the sprouts are ready to eat, place them in the fridge to slow down the growth allowing them to keep for a longer period of time.

If the children are eager to try the sprouts earlier; let them.

As seeds, they will be hard, and only the spicy ones will have flavour. Once they have started to swell, all the seeds will be enjoyable.

For people that enjoy sprouts, there are a number of different containers on the market that make growing sprouts easy.

A good cleaning and a quick sanitization between crops keep the harmful bacteria away.

Sprouts are a easy and inexpensive way to add fresh greens to the diet.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives close to Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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