JULIE FINUCANE

Last week we talked about resolutions for our 2019 gardens. Gardening can also support more traditional resolutions to improve our diets and our health, and we don’t have to wait until spring to reap the benefits.

Seed sprouts, microgreens, and baby greens are easy to grow and can provide a nutritious harvest in just days.

Sprout seeds in a kit consisting of several shallow stackable plastic boxes and a lid. Sprinkle seed in each growing tray, add a little water, and set it on the counter. The bottom is designed to catch and hold water, and the lid is slotted so that fresh water can be added daily. No lights or windowsill is required, and in less than a week you have fresh sprouts to harvest. Be sure to discard the water from the bottom before rinsing with fresh, and pat sprouts dry before storing.

Microgreens are sprouts taken to the next level. Grown in soil and sunlight, moisture is absorbed through the roots while the tops stay dry. Yet like sprouts, they capture the full nutritional punch of nature’s perfect plant-starting package, holding all the essential nutrients and minerals to needed to sustain life until leaves develop and can fire up the plant’s natural food factory.

Grow on a bit more, and you’ll have baby greens. These are a great way to enjoy the benefits of super-greens like kale and arugula, especially if you prefer a sweeter, milder flavor than their mature form.

Grow your greens in a shallow layer of sterile, peat-based potting mix, pressed into a lightweight plastic container with plenty of slits for drainage.

The clear plastic boxes used to package salad mix work great, or you may use an open seed-starting tray with a clear greenhouse top. Set the containers in a shallow pan and scatter seed generously across the soil surface — no need to worry about spacing or the need to thin, since you won’t leave them to grow for long.

Use a small, screen-type strainer to sift about 1/8-inch of soil over the seed and tamp down gently. Mist or sprinkle gently with water, place the trays in a bright, sunny window or under a grow light, cover with a clear plastic lid or film, and wait for the seed to germinate.

Seedlings should be allowed to grow for at least six days before harvest, keeping the soil consistently moist. When seedlings are between one and three inches tall, grasp a bunch and snip the stems close to the soil surface.

Rinse, pat or spin dry, and enjoy fresh as you would a salad green or fresh herb. Add to salads, sandwiches or use as a light, fresh topping to any prepared dish, from soups to sides.

For best results, choose seed varieties packaged for sprouts or microgreens. This seed will be untreated and free of bacteria. Additionally, any mixed types will be formulated so that all will germinate at about the same time, to ensure that your harvest will include the full assortment.

Depending on type and variety, these young seedlings will range in color from deep ruby red to myriad shades of green. For a spicy flavor, choose radish, mustard greens or cress. Kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, collards, broccoli, peas and amaranth provide a mild, sweet flavor. Beets, chard, celery, fennel, onions and herbs such as dill and basil have a milder version of their mature flavor. Some novel options include black oiler sunflowers and popcorn shoots.

Follow instructions on the specific type to get details on how many days to germination and harvest, and the ideal size and stage to cut.

Delightful fresh harvests can be just days away.

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