If you're looking for an easy, low-maintenance food to grow yourself, sprouts are the way to go. Alfalfa, broccoli, red clover, radish, red lentil. Sprouts are a light, crispy, and fresh garnish for sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salad.
A small bag of alfalfa sprouts typically sells for $3 at the grocery store. But at home, after investing in a sprouting apparatus and bulk sprouting seeds, you can grow oodles of sprouts for just pennies. To get sprouting, you'll first need either a plastic sprouting canister or a hemp sprouting bag. The trick to growing sprouts is to water them every day. You want them to stay slightly moist, but never allow them to sit in standing water, which will cause rotting and mildew. I sprouted with great success through high school by using a plastic canister. The canister is specially designed to drain all water, but keep your sprouts just moist enough. It is attractive and fun- it can be kept openly on your counter top and you can keep track of the growth. With a canister, several different types of sprouts can be grown at once, or you can stagger when you start your sprouts. This way, you can be 'harvesting' fresh sprouts frequently, instead of all at once.
A more environmentally-friendly and slightly cheaper sprouting apparatus is a hemp bag. These can be purchased pre-sewn or made yourself. With the help of my crafty friend, Patti, I cut rectangles of hemp and sewed them into bags with a drawstring at the top. I purchased about a yard of organic hemp linen online and made over a dozen bags, which I plan to give as gifts. A hemp bag allows for easy water draining, however, the bags may dry out. I straddle the bag inside a large glass jar, which helps retain more moisture in the bag. With, say, three bags, you can grow three different types of sprouts or start your sprouts at different times for succession 'harvesting.'
Bulk sprouting seeds can be bought from a variety of different mail-order companies and I've even seen chia seeds in the bulk bin section of my grocery store. I purchased 1lb bags of sprouting seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs, which are about $4.50-$7 a pound. You can grow A LOT from sprouts from a pound of seed! MRH also sells 4 and 8 oz packets as well as canisters, hemp bags, and screens for retrofitting a mason jar into a sprouting apparatus (I've read that sprouting in a mason jar is tricky, though).
Sprouting seeds is the easiest 'vegetable' you'll ever grow. Simply place about 2 teaspoons of seeds into your canister or hemp bag then, everyday, thoroughly water and drain. You'll have edible seeds in about 5 days! Once grown, remove sprouts from the apparatus (to prevent rotting) and store in an air-tight container- they'll keep for quite a while. To speed the germination time of your sprouts, soak the seeds (in the bag) in water overnight then continue to water and drain daily.
I made a sprout salad the other night as part of a vegetarian dinner of potato-leek soup and mushroom-spinach quiche. The sprout salad paired nicely- it added it bit of raw, freshness and has a light, tangy dressing. Enjoy your sprouts!
sprouts (I used radish and alfalfa)
shredded red cabbage
minced fresh ginger
Make a simple dressing of cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, dill, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Toss dressing with with above ingredients, then place on a bed of shredded green or napa cabbage.