It’s cooking season: Thanksgiving comes, and Christmas comes right after that. So why are our local culinary options so limited? They don’t have to be. If you’re like to grow food for the holidays or for every day, you can do so in the winter months. You just need to think indoors, unless you have a heated greenhouse – in which case, I’m coming over to your place!
Sprouts and Microgreens
As our immune systems struggle with the convergence of more indoor time, cold air, and lots of cold and flu bugs, now is the time to bulk up on fresh, nutrient-rich sprouts and microgreens. If you live in a place where winter means that your greens are flown in from far away, this also means that you get greens that are a lot less pricey than the ones in the stores, and you can’t beat going shopping in the basement or on the kitchen counter!
To sprout your dinner, get some easy, beginner sprouting seeds or a sprouting seed mix. Mixes are designed so that the seeds sprout at approximately the same time. Place your sprouts in a mason jar with a mesh lid, and rinse and drain them one to two times a day. When you are not rinsing them, place the sprouts in an area out of direct sunlight so that they don’t get too dry. Watch for mold – it’s a sign that your sprouts are too wet, and you should get rid of them. In three days to a week, you should have lovely, fresh sprouts!
In the past few years, I’ve moved to microgreens as well. I grow these under lights, although you could also grow them in an area of your home that has plenty of sunlight. Use seeds like sunflower seeds that you might use for sprouting, but plant them in a high-quality soil mix instead. In a few days, they will begin to germinate. One they develop their first pair of leaves, snip off the tops and stems with scissors and toss them into a salad.
Herbs That Like to Live Indoors
If you enjoy fresh herbs, you know how very expensive these can be in the winter time. Many herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill instead. Just buy a plant from the nursery, or get some seeds or a cutting from a friend, and you’re good to grow basil, rosemary, parsley, and mint indoors. Basil and parsley will grow from seed, while it’s best to buy rosemary as a plant. Mint is tough, so it will grow well from a cutting. While I love parsley and mint, I particularly like the taste of summer that basil brings to a kitchen!
Grow Your Own Stir Fry or Salad Garnishes
Onions and garlic and chives, oh my! While you may not be able to grow the big bulbs indoors, you can certainly grow onion and garlic greens indoors to grace your salad or stir fry. Plant a few garlic bulbs in a pot, and in a few weeks you’ll get some lovely, lightly garlic-flavored greens popping up. Chives are even better, since you can snip them and they’ll grow again and again.
Last year I had a lovely little indoor mushroom log. Like herbs, mushrooms can be plenty expensive, and growing your own in log form indoors can be quite cost-effective if you like mushrooms. The logs are not pretty, and they’re often made of packed sawdust and soil infused with mushroom spores. The best place to grow mushrooms is cool, damp, and out of direct sunlight and living spaces. A cool garage that doesn’t get heavy use is the perfect place! Mushroom logs generally go far beyond the traditional button mushrooms, and you can grow all sorts of culinary delights. Oyster mushrooms are one of my favorites.
Do you have plans for indoor gardening to supplement your preserved food this year? What food do you grow indoors?