Are you looking to join the locavore movement? Well, it doesn’t get much more local than growing your own…unless you grow your own right there in the kitchen next to the stove!
Sprouts are the easiest thing to grow in a small space such as a kitchen counter. This is simple stuff. Seeds will sprout with nothing more than water and air. Sure, you can buy a kit, but really all that you need is a paper towel, a hemp bag or a jar.
First, rinse your seeds well, then place them in a bowl full of water and let them soak over night. If you’re using a paper towel, spread the towel on a plate, soak it then spread the seeds evenly on top. Use a spray bottle to keep the seeds moist. If you go the hemp bag route, just dumped the previously soaked seeds into the bag, spray it with your bottle until it drips and hang it on a hook above the sink for it to drain. Rinse it under the faucet 1-2 times a day.
The jar method will find you dumping that same pile of previously soaked seeds into a jar, covering the top with a strip of cheesecloth (secure it with a rubber band). To keep the seeds moist, you’re going to want to rinse and drain the seeds 1-2 times a day as you do with the hemp bag. I like to let mine grow to be about an inch long but you can eat them as soon as the tails appear. Once they are at the length you want them, rinse out any seed husks that remain and store them in the refrigerator.
Sprouts not only taste good, but they are incredible good for you. Those little sprouts contain the B-complex vitamins, vitamins A and C and other goodness like iron, calcium, protein, antioxidants, and beneficial enzymes…the list could go on – and it does. For more information on sprouts, be sure to check out Steve Meyerowitz’s book, Sprouts: The Miracle Food.
There are an amazing number of gadgets out there to help you grow herbs on your kitchen counter. Check out the AeroGarden or Herb kits – loaded with a lot of fun stuff for your countertop garden.
So yes, you can go with a kit but my friends David and Ellie (who happen to be blessed with a vastly larger countertop than yours truly) have their incredible little herb garden growing in tiny pots all around the sink and stove (they even grow salad and green chile!). They key? Sunlight and water. Imagine. Again, follow the basics of indoor container gardening: quality, well-drained soil, adequate sunlight and watering and be sure to pick the appropriate plant for the size pot (those little 4 ½ inch terra cotta pots work nicely for most herbs). I would suggest using annual herbs such as basil, chives, mint and parsley in place of the more woody perennials. But I also encourage you to experiment! Both sage and rosemary do well indoors. Oh and don’t forget, garlic…I’ve had very good results growing garlic in small pots.
Harvest your herbs before they flower. That is when their flavor is the best. Use them often. Pinch those leaves off and eat them so that the plant branches out and becomes more productive. If you can’t keep up and the plant is putting out flowers faster than you can deal, shear the whole thing back by about a third and start again.
You’d be surprised at just how dry your indoor air can be. You’re going to have to be very careful to keep your herbs moist. Another friend of mine with ample counter space has his herbs sitting in pots and the pots sitting in a shallow basin filled with water. The herbs are able to suck up water from the base of the pot and likewise benefit from the evaporating water. If you do this, don’t let your basin dry out. Other issues can arise from it being too hot or too cold in the house or that your herbs are not getting enough sunlight.
I’ve also had a problem with pests taking over my basil. Because there is no winter chill to kill off bugs, you may find your herb garden swarmed with pests. As you would for other indoor plants, create a solution of tepid water and soap and either dip the top of the plant into the solution or use a spray bottle to soak the plant. Be sure to get the solution on the underside of the leaves where the eggs live.
You’ll have to experiment at first but after you get your counter-top garden set, maintenance will not be an issue. Visit Indoor Herb Garden and Make a One-Pot Indoor Herb Garden for more helpful hints.
Seed Sprouting List
Here’s a list of plants that have great seeds for sprouting from Mother Earth News:
Adzuki bean, Alfalfa Kale, Arugula, Broccoli, Buckwheat , Cabbage, Chickpeas, Chinese cabbage, Clover, Cress, Crimson, Fenugreek, Garlic chives, Kale, Kamut, Lentils, Mung bean, Mustard, Onions, Peas (green), Quinoa, Radish, Red Clover, Sunflower
Jim O’Donnell gardens in the mountains of northern New Mexico. A certified permaculture designer and ecological restoration specialist, Jim’s first book Notes for the Aurora Society was published in 2009.