Crossing an ocean or to a new island group can be a trip of three or four weeks. Without refrigeration this means that fresh greens will be limited. Cabbage and onions do well, carrots will last for awhile, but after that we’re looking at canned greens – unless we grow our own. A few cruisers are experimenting with growing vegetables to the leafy stage hydroponically or even in dirt, but keeping those plants restrained and healthy during a blow could be problematic. Luckily sprouts are a bit easier.
I’ll describe some supplies and methods that make sprouting while sailing as easy as on land. Sprouting requires a container for growing, viable seeds meant to be grown (some seeds are treated so they don’t sprout easily), and a simple regimen of moistening the seeds until they sprout the first few leaves. If the seeds stay too moist they’ll rot, so the container becomes an important part of the equation.
The traditional way to grow sprouts is in a mason jar with cheesecloth across the opening. More recently jar lids with screen or mesh have become available and are certainly easier to keep clean than cheesecloth. However both these methods require that the glass jars are drained upside down in the sink each day. This proved difficult underway on our last trip and I was always nervous the glass would break. For true “travel-sprouting” a plastic double envelope jar makes sense. This way you can wet the sprouts but the water can drain harmlessly into the other jar until you have time to empty it. The Sprout People make the EasySprouter for just this purpose. The inner chamber (1) holds the seeds. The floor of this chamber is perforated so the water can run into the outer chamber (2). A domed top (4) secures both chambers. Although the device is fairly resistant to spilling, I would secure it upright it the galley. A seed insert (3) can be used to prevent particularly tiny seeds from falling through the grate in (1). A solid top (5) can be used for storage when air circulation isn’t needed. I also use this top during the soak phase.
I buy my seeds at co-ops or online (Sprout People has a great selection of seeds). Make sure they are organic! If you try nothing else, get some mung bean sprouts, alfalfa, and brocolli sprouts. These three are a great start. Mung beans are robust enough to add to recipes, as they can withstand some heat without melting into nothingness. Brocolli is very high in antioxidants. Brocollis and Alfalfa are great on sandwiches or added to cooked grains as you serve them. Once you have tried these branch into spicier mixes or into Sunflower sprouts. Sunflower sprouts are grown from the hulled seed – you can also grow the sunflower seeds (with hulls) in dirt as microgreens, but the hulls are mucilaginous and don’t do well in sprouting jars. Chia and flax seeds are also mucilaginous and get gross and gooey in a sprouter.
Different seeds require different processes, but here’s a basic starter method. For more details consult the Sprout People.
Rinse the seeds. If you’re not sure of the source, look for foreign matter such as stones while rinsing. I do this in a bowl.
Soak the seeds. You will need to add at least 2-3 times the amount of water as seeds. If you’re using the EasySprouter you can do this in the larger (outer) cup and put the top on. Soak most seeds overnight or up to 12 hours. Remove floaters before proceeding to the next step.
Drain the seeds. Draining is essential – seeds sitting in a bit of water will rot. If you’re using the EasySprouter you can pour the soaked seeds into the inner cups after the initial soak is over. Then rinse out the outer cup and place the inner cup into it to catch the last bit of moisture as they sit there.
Rinse and Drain 2 to 3 times a day for 5 days or so until your sprouts look tasty and green.
De-hull and Drain thoroughly. Put them in a bowl of water for de-hulling. Swish around, and the hulls will rise to the surface of the water. Scoop them out and keep swishing gently to loosen the last bits.
Harvest by draining them one last time for 6-8 hours. To speed this up put the sprouts in a salad spinner. For a quick fun way to get the last water out, put the sprouts in a tight mesh produce bag, take them out to the foredeck, and spin them around and around above your head! After a thorough draining they are ready to eat and/or store. They’ll keep for a couple of days, max.
And enjoy the crunch, freshness, and flavor of fresh greens – all while preventing scurvy and the mutiny of bored palates!