Greens in Winter
Growing your own greens in a cold climate
Many of us live in climates that have warm summers and cold winters. In Southern Ontario, Canada, we are blessed with a somewhat lengthy growing season, even though we have a 4-5 month long winter that varies in severity. You might wonder how those of us in cold climates manage to find both local and organic ingredients for our fresh food dishes during the winter months. With very little effort you can have living foods all winter long. For those who are blessed with the space and inclination for greenhouses, their growing period can be extended by a few months or even for the full year. However, some of us don't have access to that system and make the most of our indoor growing space by sprouting, planting herbs and growing microgreens.
Sprouting takes the least amount of effort and very little space and there are many sprouting products available on the market. We use an Easy Sprout, a Biosnacky, and of course the good 'ol mason jars with some wire mesh or cheese cloth. For sprouting, you basically rinse and drain well twice daily, paying attention to the sprouting time of whatever it is you are sprouting. Towards the end you can start tasting your sprouts to determine when you like the flavour best. Then it's time to green up your sprouts a bit, or start using them in salads, stews, pasta, soups, etc. We also make a delicious and very satisfying sprouted wheat bread. There are so many flavours in sprouts that you can really spice up a dish (literally) or just add some extra flavours to enhance both the taste and nutrition of your dishes. You can also find sprouting mixes that have pre-mixed flavour combinations such as the detox mix which consists of red clover, radish, mung beans and lentils. Sprouters, mason jars and sprouting seeds (which should always be organic) can usually be found locally and can always be found online.
Microgreens take a little more planning, time and space. You will need a container to grow your greens in, a good quality soil mixture and perhaps a natural fertilizer such as sea kelp. We will also sometimes use growing lights to help them achieve maximum growth and nutrition. Microgreens are grown in soil, or on sponges or fabrics so that they are able to take root, and are harvested when they begin to show their adult leaves. Where sprouts take a few days to a couple of weeks to grow, microgreens can take ~3-5 weeks to mature. If you already have plants at home, you can grow microgreens which are basically edible houseplants. They grow in all sorts of gorgeous colours and flavours, some of which decreases with cooking.
Herbs are another easy way to have fresh living foods throughout the cold winter months. Like microgreens, you need a little more space than sprouts require as herbs need to be potted and cared for according to their specific watering, light and space needs. However, unlike sprouts and microgreens, herbs are the gifts that keep on giving. Sprouts and microgreens need to be harvested at specific times to stop them from growing larger, usually when it suits your palate, whereas herbs can continue to be grown and harvested as needed. These are houseplants that will require careful monitoring of the things you would expect your houseplants to need; water, light, soil, fertilizer, humidity, etc. Some examples of herbs you can grow inside are Basil, Oregano, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Chamomile, Dill, Fennel, Lavender and chives, among others.
For those of you who are living in warm climates year round, you are blessed with the ability to have outdoor gardens to grow your fresh, living foods for all 12 months of the year. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the delights of sprouting, you certainly can and should, but for many of us in colder climates we need to come up with some creative ways to continue growing all year round. Sprouting, microgreens and indoor herbs are all examples of ways we can enjoy those fresh foods throughout the winter months.
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