Colleen Vanderlinden

DCL

We're all concerned with reducing our food miles and eating local and in season. Nothing is more local than food that you grow in your own home and garden. No garden, you say? Not a problem&emdash;you can grow sprouts on your kitchen counter and use them in a wide variety of dishes.

When I first started growing sprouts, all I knew were the alfalfa sprouts that I often saw in those little plastic tubs at the grocery store. But there's a whole world of sprouts out there, each with its own unique flavor.

Start here for how to grow sprouts, then try these varieties...

Five Tasty Sprouts

You can grow almost any edible crop as sprouts, but you should avoid eating sprouts from foods that have poisonous or toxic parts (such as tomatoes--not a good sprouting option!) Here are some of the best options for your sprout garden:

1. Alfalfa: Alfalfa sprouts have a delicate, slightly nutty flavor that is delicious in salads, and serves as an excellent lettuce replacement on sandwiches. Alfalfa sprouts are ready to eat in five to seven days.

2. Broccoli: Broccoli sprouts are considered to be one of the best foods you can eat. They are high in antioxidants, as well as vitamins A, B, and C. They are delicious in soups and stir fries, as well as on sandwiches. They are ready to eat in three to six days, and can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

3. Peas: A one ounce serving of pea sprouts provides ten percent of your daily folate requirement, as well as a bit of protein and fiber. They are very quick to produce, providing you with edible sprouts in as little as two days.

4. Radishes: If you like the spicy zing of radishes, try sprouting radish seeds. They are fairly high in nutrients, providing decent amounts of vitamin A,B, C, E, and K, as well as calcium. They take three to six days to sprout, and the sprouts can be stored for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

5. Wheat: We eat wheat grass for health, and it's easy to get those same health benefits by sprouting wheat grass seeds in a jar of water on your kitchen counter. Wheat grass sprouts in two to three days, and you can add it to breads, soups, blended health drinks, or anything else you want to sneak some vitamins into. They'll keep in the refrigerator for about one week. One final all-important food safety note: there have been warnings issued about sprouts and E. coli, and most articles about growing your own sprouts contain the obligatory warning. There is one surefire way to ensure that you don't have to worry about E. coli. Buy seeds that are specifically labeled both organic and "for sprouting" ("pathogen-free" is another good label to look for.) Seeds that are labeled in this manner have been harvested, cleaned, and tested for pathogens. Several online sources sell pathogen-free sprouting seed, as do health food stores.