Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Grow Lettuce in a Bottle

Lettuce is pretty easy to grow. It's forgiving. It wants you to succeed in growing it and ultimately killing it. It's basically masochistic.

Lettuce also needs very little soil to grow, which makes it an optimal container plant. Unlike tomatoes, which need lots of soil, lettuce can probably survive in softball-sized amount of soil.

So making tiny greenhouses for your lettuce is very easy. You could do it with an empty water bottle.

Simply take the a bottle (this is a Dasani bottle), remove the wrapper. Using a box-cutter, slice the bottle right below where the neck begins to curve. Fill the bottle about half-way with moist potter's soil (you can buy a small bag of it about $5).

Plant three tiny little lettuce seeds by just placing them on top of the soil and pressing down with your finger. Lettuce doesn't really need to be "buried." Then place the top of the bottle back on, leaving the cap off. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist and place in a window or anywhere there is sunlight. The bottle will protect your baby lettuce from getting eaten by critters, so you can be more daring with where you put these. Once they start growing full size, it's fairly easy to pull the rootball out and replant it, if you want. You can also harvest baby lettuce straight from the bottle.

This lettuce shown here is baby black seeded simpson. Each packet of seeds (about $1-2) could probably cover at least 20 bottles if you got ambitious.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sprouting Lentils

Everybody wants to have fresh greens in their diet. If you don't, you should. But when people talk about why they want fresh greens, a lot of the time they don't think about the science. You want fresh greens because the closer a plant is to its natural state, the richer its store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that will, over time, deteriorate and dissipate--meaning the stuff at the grocery store is losing nutrients every minute it sits on a shelf (which is also the reason I try to tell people to buy frozen over fresh produce when it doesn't make a culinary difference).

But sprouts--oh man. Technically, sprouts you grow at home from dormant seeds and legumes. Most of us already have dormant seeds and legumes in our house. Like lentils. 

Cooked traditionally, lentils are good for you. Full of fiber and protein. But sprouted? 

The sprouting process changes the nutritional composition of lentils. There are obviously debates about whether any of the this matters, but remember, I err on the side of science that says we haven't yet identified all the things in plants that assist the body. Nor have we figured out a way to deliver these things in isolation so they can be assimilated. There's a breakdown in our scientific understanding of how food affects the body and you really don't want to trust your virility to it. You should just eat more plants and err on the safe side.

So sprouted lentils. Like I said, the process of sprouting lentils changes them. They change from seed to plant. By soaking them, you germinate the seed, telling it to wake up, producing enzymes and catalyzing the growth of new plant cells. These new plant cells are (*shocker*) tiny plants. In other words, sprouting is like gardening, but really, really tiny gardening.

How to prepare sprouts:
  1.  Soak your sprouts in water over night (12 hours or so), using at least 3x as much water as you have lentils. They will absorb the water and triple in growth.
  2. The following morning, drain your lentils in a colander. Rinse them. For expedience, you can just keep your lentils in the colander, since you'll be rinsing again
  3.  Rinse at least twice a day for three days, keeping your lentils in a dark area, away from sunlight.
  4. In 2 days, you'll start seeing little tails.
  5. On the third day, they are ready to eat. You can eat them raw in salads.

More info on sprouting? Try here

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Grow Your Own Pea Shoots Stupid Easy

Pea shoots are a fancy, rich-person green. You can find them adorning canapes, which are French for bougie-shit-on-crackers. They cost like a million dollars.

You can also, you know, eat them like a human being and reap the insane nutritional benefits that come from eating sprouted seeds and beans.

For less than a dollar, you can grow pea shoots in practically any container that will hold 2" of moist dirt.

So, basically, you need to buy a bag of WHOLE (not split, dumbass) green peas. These are found wherever they sell dried beans.

Then, you soak them for about 24 hours. You could go ahead an soak the whole bag, but each pea will produce one shoot (duh) and you'll be hard pressed for containers if you go this route. Try a quarter of the bag first.

Then fill your containers with dirt. Practically any crappy dirt will work. Seriously. I tried this with clay-laden dirt from my backyard and they still grow pretty well. But for your purposes, I mean, seriously, you could just go steal some dirt. Dirt is free. Go find some.

Ok, then you basically just toss your soaked peas over the dirt and sprinkle a little dirt on top. That's it. Donzo. Keep it moistened and in a relatively sunny spot (windowsills work fine). They're idiot proof.

Here's what they'll look like after four weeks:

You can repeat the process repeatedly all year long. These things are really good for you. You can eat them in a salad or prepare them pretty much any way you might prepare spinach. You eat the entire thing, so grab a pair of scissors and snip when they reach around 4" tall.