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Inspirational ideas for nutritious spring eating

by Kerryn Easterbrook

Spring can be one of the more challenging seasons to find quality fresh veggies to add to your meals. There are some easy techniques you can use to incorporate nutritional foods into your food.

Spring is a wonderful time of year to get into sprouting - they are so easy to do and add more variety to the fresh veggies available at this time of year! If you have never had a go at sprouting before I suggest starting with mung beans - they are so easy and only take three days to sprout enough to enjoy eating them. There are so many seeds, lentils and beans you can have a go at sprouting. Your body will love you for it! I have attached a seed sprouting chart and the easy process of making your own sprouts (see below).

I encourage you to go ahead and soak some seeds or lentils or beans after reading or if you don't have any in your cupboard, put them on your shopping list! Try to source organically grown seeds, lentils or beans as they will not have been heat treated (once they have been heat treated they won't sprout!).

Begin by putting two to three tablespoons of what you are sprouting in a clean big jar. Fill the jar mostly full of cold water. Cover with a tea towel and leave on the bench to soak overnight.

Next morning drain off the excess water (you can buy mesh lids that help with this or create your own using mesh fabric and a rubber band) rinse again with cold water and drain upside down (cover with a tea towel).

Rinse sprouts morning and night in cold water and drain. Watch your sprouts grow.

You can begin adding them to your meals once the sprout is as long as the seed or bean. Once ready, a final rinse then store in a clean lidded container in your fridge.

What to do with all your sprouts? You now have instant, nutritious salad ingredients, add them to stir frys, omelettes or even put them in your smoothie!

Growing microgreens

Microgreens are tiny edible greens grown from vegetable or herb seeds that are packed with nutrients. They are harvested when very young, just 2- 5cms long including the stem and leaves and can have wonderfully clear, intense flavours. They also look beautiful on your plate with their different colours and textures.

Microgreens are so quick and easy to grow. You can grow them outside in a garden bed, in containers, on your balcony or deck or inside on a sunny windowsill. While sprouts are grown without soil, microgreens are planted in soil. Different kales, radishes, broccoli, pea, kohlrabi, sunflower seeds are commonly used. They look really amazing on your plate if you combine green and purple varieties of veggies.

Begin by sowing your seeds densely in trays with good soil. The soil should be at least two cms thick, depending on the size of seed you are sowing. You want the container to have drainage holes so when you water your microgreens the excess water can drain away.

You can also sow them in attractive containers. Either cover seeds in a thin layer of soil or you can cover them with a paper towel (by using a paper towel you can see when they need watering as the paper dries out.) Water with a mister spray daily and watch your seeds sprout. If you have used a paper towel, remove it once you see the seeds sprouting underneath.

The best time to harvest microgreens is when they have developed their first set of true leaves, - the first set of leaves to grow are called the seed leaves and the true leaves appear after them - they are called cotyledons. You can start trimming them once a few leaves appear. Cut with scissors and use in salads, on top of soups, as a side to any meal.

Root crop greens

I remember growing these when I was at school in science :) Yes you can regrow greens from root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot and celery. Keep them in a saucer or jar of water and the green tops will keep sprouting. You can then incorporate them in your meals. Re-grown carrot tops can be made into a tasty pesto if blended with walnuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

How to go about resprouting your root veggies

Choose beetroot or carrots that have a healthy looking top and unblemished root. Remove most of the root leaving one cm below where the leaves sprout from. This is the part that will regrow new greens.

Place the carrot or beetroot in a shallow dish with a lip to keep the water surrounding the base of the veggie. Put enough water in to cover the base of the carrot or beetroot. To prevent rot change the water every few days. After a few days you will start to see new leaves forming. After a week or so the new greens sprouting from your beetroot or carrot will be ready to harvest and eat.

Making the most of your cabbage crop

When harvesting your cabbages from your garden, leave a few outer leaves which will re-sprout. Limit the new shoots to three to four and you will get small cabbages in mid spring from your winter main harvest.

The excitement of fresh spring vegetables

After eating root vegetables all winter we get excited to welcome the freshness of the spring veggies. New season peas, salads, asparagus, broadbeans, artichokes, radishes and eventually early strawberries and potatoes start appearing in your garden or at your local markets.

Broad beans are easy to grow in your garden and can be used instead of chickpeas in your recipes (chickpeas are imported into Aotearoa and add food miles to your plate). Broad beans make great falafel mix, hummus and if you pick them before they get too big they are yummy lightly boiled and added to salads or to complement any meal. Once they get bigger they taste a lot nicer if you briefly cook them in boiling water then submerge them in cold water, and the grey outer case will easily slip off.

Recipe for broad been salad

1 ½ cups broad beans shelled and outer grey layer removed (see above)

1 clove garlic

2 Tb olive oil

juice & zest of ½ - 1 lemon

handful fresh mint leaves

½ tsp salt or add more to taste

ground fresh pepper

optional to add chilli flakes

Blend all the ingredients above in your blender. Add water if needed to make a thick paste. Taste and add extra seasonings if needed. Enjoy with carrot sticks or on fresh flat breads or crackers

Enjoy the up & coming Spring & all the new variety it brings to our plates. Happy planting, growing & eating :)



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