A Vegan Permaculture Garden in your Kitchen
The kitchen can be a ‘garden’ in its own right, using the minimum amount of space to produce intensively grown, nutrient rich crops all year round, especially during the winter months when other fresh vegetables can be hard to find. They can make an important contribution to any healthy diet, being high in enzymes that assist digestion, help cell repair and boost immunity, and chlorophyll – ‘liquid sunshine’ that acts as a blood cleanser and helps to remove toxins from the body.
Seeds or beans such as mung beans, alfalfa, chick peas and fenugreek can be sprouted on any spare window ledge or shelf, and are easily available from health food stores and many grocers. The main requirements for successful sprouting are moisture and warmth, and providing a few guidelines are followed, it’s easy to obtain good results that require very little time or effort. Run a small handful of seeds under a tap and place them in the sprouting vessel. This can range from a simple upside down jam jar with a piece of net curtain secured over it’s rim by an elastic band, to specially designed multi-level self-draining sprouters. There are several makes on the market, but we’ve had great success with our ‘Biosnacky’ 3 tiered mini-greenhouse germinator that allows us to keep a constant succession on the go. What is important is that the vessel is maintained at room temperature (approx. between 13-21 degrees C) and is free draining, for waterlogged sprouts will quickly rot. The seeds will germinate within a day or two, and should then be rinsed at least twice a day, possibly even three or four times in hot weather. When around 1 to 3 inches in length – that is, after 3 or 4 days – they will be ready for use. If left much longer they will begin to develop leaves and can become bitter tasting, although the growth process can be halted by placing them in a cool place until needed.
Mung beans are a particularly popular indoor crop, and can be sprouted either in light or dark conditions, for example, an airing cupboard. Those sprouted in the dark will be whiter and crisper in texture, but have less nutritional content. Growing in full sunlight however should be avoided as this may cause the beans to overheat or dry out. Subjecting the sprouts to pressure, eg, by placing a weight on top of them in their sprouting container, will result in larger, crunchier sprouts similar to those sold in Chinese grocers. They are a valuable source of Vitamins A, B, C and E, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Amino Acids and consist of 20% protein. However, they are fast growing and quickly pass their nutritional peak. Its also worth experimenting with combinations of seeds and sprouts – among our favourite mixtures are mung, alfalfa, fenugreek and broccoli, and alfalfa, radish and green lentils.
It should however be noted that all raw legumes contain varying levels of toxins. These are reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (eg, stir frying), although some have advised that to be on the safe side one shouldn’t eat more than about 550g (20oz) of raw legume sprouts a day. In reality the risks are probably minimal in most cases, although kidney beans are one legume that should NEVER be eaten uncooked.
Herbs such as chives, parsley, basil, thyme, sage, etc, can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill. These can of course be raised from seed, but if you have trouble getting them started off they are often sold grown-on in supermarkets, health food shops and garden centres for ‘fresh picking’. Divide them up from the pots they are sold in and replant in small containers of potting compost and they will last indefinitely! Most of us are probably familiar with the mustard and cress we grew at school, but other leafy vegetables such as wheatgrass, buckwheat and sunflower greens can also be cultivated indoors. Soak the seeds overnight then drain thoroughly. Germination should begin after about 24 – 48 hours, when they should be planted in 2″ deep seed trays half filled with soil or organic potting compost. The sprouting seeds should be gently spread on the soil surface and covered with newspaper (not soil) to exclude the light, then positioned in a warm place. When the growing shoots push off their coverings (usually after about 4 days) place them in full daylight and water regularly. The leaves will turn green and be ready for harvesting after about a week. This can be done by cutting with kitchen scissors as close to the soil as possible, leaving a mat of soil held together by a root mass which can then be composted. ‘Cut ‘n’ Come again’ salad plants like red and green ‘salad bowl’ lettuce, rocket, chicories and oriental ‘saladini’ mixtures can be cultivated in large seed trays in the same way, but will regrow after harvesting, providing a succession of edible leaves rather than just a single crop.
|Bean, Grain or Seed||Optimum Sprout Length||Days to Sprout||Nutritional value||Comments|
|Alfalfa||1 ” / 2cm||3-5||Vitamins A, B2, C, D, E, niacin, minerals inc. iron, magnesium, amino-acids, chlorophyll||Described as ‘a complete food’. Exposing to indirect sunlight helps to develop chlorophyll. Shoots can be eaten when long or short|
|Broccoli||½” / 1cm||3-5||Vitamins A, B, C, E and K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Carotene, Chlorophyll, Amino Acids, Trace Elements, Antioxidants, sulforaphane||Said to stimulate the body’s natural defences against cancer|
|Cress||1 ” / 2cm||6-8||Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, D, niacin, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous||Good companion to mustard, eg as grown on damp kitchen towel|
|Chick pea||½” / 1cm||2-4||Vitamins A, C, amino acids, carbohydrate, fibre, minerals inc. calcium, magnesium, potassium||Pre-sprouting will reduce cooking time. Sprouts will go bitter if left too long|
|Fenugreek||½” / 1cm||2-3||Lymph, blood and kidney tonic. Vitamins A, C, iron and phosphorous||Strong spicy aroma. Best eaten mixed with other sprouts. Goes bitter if left too long|
|Green lentil||½” / 1cm||2-3||Vitamin C, iron, amino acids||Good in sprout mixes|
|Mung bean||1 ” / 2cm||3-5||Vitamin C, iron, amino acids, potassium||Sprout under pressure (eg, place a weight on top) to produce crisp white ‘bean shoots’|
|Mustard||1 ” / 2cm||2-7||Said to clear sinus congestion. Vitamins A, C, minerals and chlorophyll||Good companion to cress, eg as grown on damp kitchen towel|
|Pumpkin||0||1-2||Vitamin E, amino acids, essentail fatty acids, phosphorous, iron, zinc||Use hull-less cultivars. Seeds will swell rather than sprout|
|Quinoa||1 ” / 2cm||1-2||Vitamin B, E and amino acids||Rinse well to remove bitter saponins. Has pleasant nutty flavour|
|Radish||1 ” / 2cm||2-5||Said to cleanse and heal mucus membranes. Vitamin C, potassium, chlorophyll||Strong shot flavour. Best eaten mixed with other sprouts.|
|Red clover||1 ” / 2cm||2-5||Blood cleanser, vitamins A, C, minerals and trace elements||Similar to alfalfa|
|Sunflower||Until first 2 ‘leaves’ (cotyledons, not true leaves) form||1-10||Vitamins B, E, amino acids, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, potassium||Use hull-less cultivars. Good ‘indoor green’. Will go bitter if true leaves allowed to form|
|Wheat||½” / 1cm||2-3||Vitamins B, E, amino acids, essential fatty acids, magnesium, potassium||Good for juicing. Will go tough and stringy if left too long|
Some ideas for using sprouts and windowsill greens
Sprouts and windowsill greens can be used in a whole variety of ways, either juiced, eaten raw in salads or added to dishes such as soups, stews, curries, stir-fries or bread. Some ideas include:
Try sprinkling a handful of sprouted alfalfa seeds over pasta sauce dishes in the same way you might use Parmesan cheese
Blend with vegetable juices or smoothies, especially wheat grass (see below)
Stir into soups, curries or stews when serving up
Eat them fresh and uncooked in a sprout salad (see below)
Add to vegetarian sushi (particularly hot/spicy flavoured sprouts such as radish, mustard or fenugreek)
Sauté lightly with onions
Steam and serve dressed with olive or hemp oil
Use in sandwiches, or blend together to make a sandwich spread
Spring Sprout Salad
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 cup broccoli sprouts
2 cups of mung bean sprouts
1 small red pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
Place beansprouts, red pepper and spring onions in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss gently. Chill for one hour before serving.
Stir-Fried Sprouts and Vegetables
2 cups of fresh sprouts (alfalfa, lentil, mung, radish, sunflower, etc.)
1 medium sized onion
Any other vegetables you fancy, e.g. broccoli, carrots, chard, courgette, mange tout, mushrooms, green or red peppers, sweet corn, etc.
Dash of cider vinegar
Dash of Fairly traded olive oil
Dash of red wine
Dash of soy sauce
Heat olive oil in a heavy pan (or wok) until very hot. Chop onions and other vegetables into small pieces, and drop into the pan, taking care to keep them constantly on the move, add bean sprouts to pan, and continue to stir. After a few minutes splash wine, vinegar and soy sauce into the pan, continue to let the veggies and sprouts cook in this sauce for a few more minutes until veg is crunchy but not over-cooked. Served with cous cous or noodles topped with sweet and sour sauce (see page
Lots more home growing information and recipes can be found in The Vegan Book of Permaculture by Graham Burnett – order your SIGNED copy today and get a bonus free copy of ‘The Ecology of the Self – Zone Zero Zero Permaculture Design Notes’, or buy it together with ‘Permaculture A Beginner’s Guide’ plus extra booklets for the special price of just £21!