Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sprouting experiment

By sprouts I am not talking about the small cabbage like vegetables. But more the salad variety, such as alfalfa or cress. Now this may not be exciting to many, but following the open day at CRT (our local Rural Supply Store) a few weeks back, I have been keen to experiment with sprouts.

Sprouting is apparently not new, as Matt informs me that was how he learned to germinate seeds at primary school. Personally we didn't, but I do vaguely remember my sister growing cress on a potato when we were kids. It sat on our window sill, with a face on it, til it grew 'hair'.
Apparently cress is not the only thing you can 'sprout', it's a legitimate germination technique- something I may be doing more of in the future (if this is successful).  
Anyway, at the open day this guy was feeding a clump of 'grass' to some of the animals. This grass was in fact barley grass; excitedly sharing how he turns 1kg of seed into 5-6 kg of feed, that he uses as animal fodder in just 7 to 10 days!
For any health enthusiast out there barley grass is considered a 'super food' due to its high protein levels and is often used in smoothies or salads... the same reason it makes ideal animal fodder!
This guy explained how he had purchased a second hand kit, but essentially it was a temperature, humidity and moisture controlled unit containing shelving and trays.

Now looking into 'sprouting' this appears to be possible on any scale. There are examples on the net in colder climates where they grow it in poly tunnels heated by methane from cows, which in turn eat the grass. But small scale, kitchen top kits also appear being widely available from most garden stores- for sprouting your own salads. Although I am experimenting on a smaller scale (least for now), depending on the potential turnover, I feel a counter top kit just isn't going to suffice for feeding the animals, though I may look into one for us at a later stage.

The general rules for sprouting appear to be that the seeds require soaking and draining and then they need to be kept moist. And whilst they do not require direct light, they can be affected by temperature. Ideally they need to be 16-24 C- so given the climate here, winter is ideal conditions for 'sprouting', so I do not see why we would require a 'kit' or 'room'. After all winter would be the most beneficial time to 'sprout', as  that is when the animals have less to graze on. I believe the issue in temperatures about that is the potential that the seeds may become mouldy, which with the humidity here this may be a problem for the summer months. But that is a few months away yet.

So I managed to source some barley seeds, but I also bought some wheat, oats, chia, amaranth, German chamomile & cress. I still had a small amount of alfalfa seeds that I had bought last year, so have used them too.
I have soaked eat over night, then rinsed and placed on damp cotton wool- currently cluttering up my kitchen bench (not their permanent location). I have also use a tray and damp kitchen paper for a larger version.

The idea in 'experimenting' (loose term) with different seeds is not only to see what sprouts quicker or yields better, but to see how successful this technique is in general. I really feel that I missed out as a child, having not done this!

The process itself has been simple, but it has already produced unexpected results.
Soaking the chia seeds, produced a gel like coating.
And after 2 days, we already have some development! I know the guy we spoke to explained how he had turn around in 7-10 days, but I have been pleased to see the seeds beginning to sprout. So I will update you at the end of the week.

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