Growing Sprouts on the Kitchen Sink

Off and on for years we have grown alfalfa sprouts to eat. It’s very simple, really. Take a quart jar, add some seeds, put on the lid, cover them with water to soak, drain off the water, rinse them a couple of times a day, and watch them grow. With very little effort, you have a fresh, nutritious addition to your diet any time of year. I could just end the post there, but it would be pretty short, huh? Okay, a few more details and some pictures.



We haven’t grown sprouts for a number of years, but we used to regularly. I bought a batch of mixed sprouting seeds somewhere along the way that have been around for quite some time. I don’t remember how long, but I figure it’s long enough that some of them may no longer be viable. When I started growing sprouts again, I started off with one tablespoon of these seeds just to see if any of them would grow. They did okay, but one tablespoon of seeds didn’t grow enough sprouts for the time and effort, so the next time, I mixed in two teaspoons of alfalfa. They are also a number of years old as well, but appear to remain viable for a long time. Once we have a jar sprouted and ready to eat it goes in the refrigerator, and we start another jar so it will be ready when we run out.

We bought these sprouting lids about 15 years ago, to use on wide mouth jars. We’ve also tried sprouting trays, but much prefer the jars. About 8 to 10 years ago I looked for more lids and couldn’t find any, but now they appear to be readily available.

Fresh sprouts are a great, nutritious treat in the dark, dreary days of winter. Alfalfa sprouts are high in vitamins A, C, and K; phosphorus, potassium and calcium. And sometimes growing sprouts provides just a bit of gardening in the midst of the cold winter days, minus the dirt, of course. Growing the sprouts, plus all of the seed catalogs coming in the mail, have me thinking of starting garden seedlings. I know it’s too early yet, so I’ll see if I can hold off until at least the first of February.


The mixed batch of sprouts had some mung beans, but very few of them sprouted, which is good, since Frank doesn’t like them anyway. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get Frank the Carnivore to eat anything green, but he will eat alfalfa sprouts if I put them on something like a salad. The cold winter winds are upon us, but spring is just around the corner. In the meantime, while we wait for the warm spring breezes, we’ll be growing and enjoying the sprouts on the kitchen sink.

Until next time – Fern

P.S. About the “I am Charlie” picture on the header. We are saddened and very disturbed about the turn many events in our country and world are taking. There is a great evil abounding in our midst that if left unchecked will soon devour everything in it’s path. The question is, who and how will it be checked? Or will it? It appears that many different groups of people have had enough, and are willing to speak out against some of the atrocities of our times, like these folks in the picture. The clock is ticking ever louder. People are getting more restless and desperate every day, and whether it is by chance or by design, it doesn’t matter. There will come a day when the cup will overflow. What happens then is anyone’s guess. Be ready.

The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens

September 8th

This is the first year we have grown turnips. Our purpose for growing them is threefold. We wanted another source of food for ourselves and our livestock. The versatility of this crop provides two sources of food, the turnip bulb and the greens. The hardiness of this crop in our location, zone 7, will provide us with greens for much of the winter, both for us and the animals.

October 25th

 

October 3rd

We haven’t eaten very many turnips in our lives, actually very few. They are apt to have a bitterness to them if not picked and cooked in a way to minimize that flavor. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of experience cooking them, but I have found a couple of ways to fix them that are okay. Not bad, but edible. 

 
First, I used the recipe that our friend, Grace, showed me. Add a little salted water in a pan. Peel and cut up the turnips. Boil long enough for them to becomes soft, then add a few tablespoons of butter. As the liquid cooks down, sprinkle in a little cornmeal to thicken. Right before serving, sprinkle in a little sugar to help cut the bitterness. This recipe is pretty good. I find the smaller turnips taste better, and they are better after a few frosts, like my gardening books indicated.

 
We have also baked peeled, and cut up turnips with carrots, onions and potatoes. I put a little butter in the pan, added the vegetables, and baked until soft. We find that we enjoy them more if they aren’t the only vegetable on the plate.

So, what nutrients do turnips include? 1 cup of turnips cubes, cooked, boiled, drained with salt have the following nutrients.

  • calories 34.3
  • carbohydrates 7.9g
    November 23rd
  • protein 1.1g
  • vitamin C, K
  • choline
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

 
 

November 23rd

From this small patch of turnips, I have been harvesting greens for the chickens almost every morning, with few exceptions, for almost two and a half months. I expected them to die down once we started having temperatures below freezing, but that has only slowed them down. I figured the night we got down to 17 degrees, that would do it. Nope. They are still growing leaves left and right. 

So the next thing I needed to learn, is how to cook turnip greens. A woman at church fixes them for our monthly potluck meals this time of year, so I picked her brain for her recipe. She told me there isn’t really a recipe, so she just talked me through it.

 First she wilts the greens in just a little water. 

Then, add a little bacon grease and let them cook. Sprinkle with a little sugar right before serving to help cut the bitterness. That’s it.

Well, my greens were okay, but there are definitely things I need to do different next time. I added too much bacon grease, for one. Two, I needed to let them cook longer, and at a higher temperature. After I had added the grease and the water had cooked out, I lowered the burner and put a lid on the skillet to let them cook, stirring occasionally. I cooked them this way for about 10 to 15 minutes. I knew they needed to cook for a while, but wasn’t sure how long. 


This pan full of leaves, turned out to be two very small helpings. And, that was okay, because they weren’t the best greens in the world. Next time, I will tweak my technique and hope they turn out better.

What was the nutritional value of these greens? Just as with the turnips, the nutrients included in the butter and bacon grease are not a part of this analysis. 1 cup of turnip greens, cooked, boiled, drained with salt include the following nutrients.

  • calories 28.8
  • carbohydrates 6.3g
  • protein 1.6g
  • vitamins E, C, K
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • iron
  • selenium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

If I were figuring the nutritional content of turnips and greens for the chickens, I would be looking at raw instead of cooked nutrients. But that will be another post.


I find it fascinating to be able to grow food that will continue producing in the winter in our location. In an emergency, short term or long term, this could be another source of food for us as well as our animals. The opportunity we have been given to learn to grow and utilize a variety of foods is a gift I am truly thankful for. You may not want to grow turnips, but there is something that you’ve been wondering about. Something that will be of benefit to you and yours. Go learn it, figure it out and be able to use it. With the way things are going now days, you just never know when you may need to use your new found knowledge and skills. So get busy.

Until next time – Fern

The Nutrition of Carrots

Aren’t carrots pretty? It’s nice that some foods that are good for you are also attractive and appetizing. Now that we have had some success at growing a small patch of carrots, the nutritional benefits of home grown, non-chemicalized carrots can be at our fingertips, either raw, cooked fresh into a meal, canned or dehydrated. Another added benefit is the possibility of using them as a supplement to our animal feed.

Since we are growing another fall crop of carrots and hope to be able to eat them fresh through the winter, another experiment and learning opportunity, I will start off with the nutrients for raw carrots.

1 cup of raw carrots include the following nutrients.

  • calories 17.6
  • carbohydrates 3.9g
  • protein 0.8g
  • vitamin A alone is 6372 IU

  • vitamins E, C, K
  • folate
  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • omega-3 & omega 6 fatty acids

Compare that to 1 cup of canned, sliced carrots with salt.

  • calories 28.7
  • carbohydrates 6.6g
  • protein 0.7g
  • vitamin A alone is 15085 IU

  • vitamins E, C, K
  • folate
  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • omega-3 & omega 6 fatty acids

I was surprised at the increase in most nutrients from the cooked carrots. I always thought it would be less because of the leaching of nutrients into the water, although this list does include the liquid. The only reason I can come up with is that maybe you can get more cooked carrots vs. raw carrots in a one cup serving.

We are very curious to see how our fall crop of carrots turn out. So far they are growing pretty well and weren’t affected by our first frost. We will be having a few more frosts over the next week and I expect the cooler temperatures to slow down the growing process. They were very slow to get started, but I planted them when the weather was still pretty hot and they didn’t seem to appreciate the temperatures in the 90’s. 

 

The opportunity to learn new things that will benefit both man and beast is an enjoyable experience for us. Not only that, but it could mean a few more things to increase our chances of survival should things collapse and we have to live by the sweat of our brows, instead of by the availability of food on the store shelves. And besides that, we prefer to eat food that has been grown without any chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. We are grateful we have the freedom to choose.

Until next time – Fern


P.S. Patrice Lewis, from Rural Revolution, has started doing podcasts about homesteading and prepping over at The Survival Mom Radio Network. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to them, we would recommend you do so. They are informative, encouraging and convey the message Patrice brings us regularly in a way that the printed word just can’t project. We enjoy listening to them weekly.

The Nutrition of Okra & Other Lore

Okra is truly a southern vegetable. Not many people we have met from the north or in Alaska, have eaten okra. Some had not heard of it, and most didn’t even know what it looks like. There are a variety of ways to fix okra. Some like it in gumbo, which we have not had, some like it fried and some like it pickled. Then there is okra and tomatoes, which Frank has eaten back in one of his last lives. Okra is a heat loving plant. It doesn’t do well in cool, cloudy weather. Until it gets hot and sunny, okra doesn’t grow well here in Zone 7. Historically speaking, more food is fried in the south than in the north, and fresh fried okra is one of our favorite summertime meals. We fry our okra in olive oil, which is the only type of oil we use.

 
One of the easiest ways to preserve okra is to freeze it. We like to wash, slice and coat it with cornmeal, fill up a quart size freezer bag and it’s good to go. We have also canned okra for frying before. There are a lot of different opinions out there about the safest way to can okra so it is still good to fry. You will have to decide about that for yourself. But, as always, follow tested, recommended procedures.

By the way, our experiment with cutting back the okra plants when they get too tall to reach is going very well. The plants have bushed out at the bottom with numerous side branches. These lower branches are really starting to produce quite well, so I feel like we are getting a second harvest in the fall. It’s very interesting, especially since it has been so successful. I put another three quarts of sliced okra in the freezer today.

The nutritional information I am going to provide is for raw okra. If you go to the website, you can search for okra and find the nutritional values for boiled but not fried. The nutrients included in 1 cup of raw okra are:

  • calories 31
  • carbohydrates 7.0g
  • protein 2.9g
  • vitamin A, C, K

  • niacin
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium 
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • phytosterols
  • omega-6 fatty acids

I find it interesting to see how many vegetables contain vitamins A, C, & K; along with a fair amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. When I finish this nutritional series, it will be interesting to see what combination of vegetables provide a fairly balanced daily vitamin and/or mineral source.

We have all grown up knowing that our vegetables are ‘good for us’. How many times did we hear that as kids? Now that we are growing some of our own food, it means more to us to know what we are getting out of what we grow. Add that to growing open pollinated or heirloom varieties, without chemical additives and the nutritional content of each plant increases. How much, I don’t know, but I know the dirt our vegetables grow in are full of worms, organic matter, wood ashes and barnyard. That in itself doesn’t sound very appetizing, but the food it produces sure is. There was a very good casserole at our Sunday luncheon at church last month that had okra, squash, potatoes and onions in it. I’m not sure exactly how they cooked it or seasoned it, but I will find out and let you know, because it was very good. What is your favorite okra story? Please share with us in the comments below.

Until next time – Fern

Our Winter Squash Failures

Two years ago I planted a number of winter squashes in May. They struggled through the hot part of the summer, but produced very well, eventually. That summer we tried a number of different varieties to see how we liked them. These included Buttercup, Cushaw, Hubbard and Acorn. The Hubbard didn’t produce well, but tasted okay. The Acorn didn’t produce well either. We had previously grown Butternut and Spaghetti squash. The Butternut was okay, but we didn’t really care for the Spaghetti squash.

Immature Buttercup, September 2013


The Buttercup was prolific, and although rather ugly and warty, tasted great. The flavor is very similar to sweet potatoes. We peeled off the worst of the warts, cut them in half, removed the seeds and placed them face down in a shallow baking dish with a small amount of water, covered with foil and baked. They were so good, we didn’t even add butter. Another plus for the Buttercup, is that they are great keepers.
 

Immature Cushaw, September 2013


The Cushaw squash produced very well, also. The flavor wasn’t as sweet, but they were huge. We were surprised. The volume of edible squash is very large. This squash freezes well either in chunks or boiled and mashed into a puree type consistency. One of  our goals is to can some of this squash, but we haven’t achieved that goal yet.

Both the Buttercup and the Cushaw make great squash pie which we enjoy every winter.

The last two years I have planted our winter squash in late July or early August. I figured it was still hot enough for squash to grow, but closer to fall, which is when I thought a winter squash should be grown, like pumpkins. It hasn’t worked out well at all. Both last year and this year the plants have suffered from powdery mildew, had the flowers affected somewhat by potato beetles, still had to contend with some squash bugs and just overall haven’t thrived. This year we will be lucky to get 3 decent Cushaws. We only planted one variety this year because we wanted to save the seeds. It was difficult not to plant the Buttercup because we really like them, too.

The last Cushaw on the vine for this year. We hope it gets bigger.

Next year I will plant the winter squashes when I plant the yellow squash. In May. There may be locations where the winter squashes do better later in the season, but it just doesn’t seem to be the case here. We really were hopeful about this crop. Our goal was to be able to store at least 20 large Cushaw. They are very nutritious and so are the seeds, which is an added bonus. Squash seeds also make good animal feed for chickens and goats.
 

Our Cushaw harvest. All 2 of them.


We are glad we have had time to learn the most effective growing patterns for the vegetables we like. The knowledge that some crops grow and produce better than others in our location is valuable information. There are always things that come up that compete with the time and effort needed to grow and preserve food. This year has definitely been one of the less productive years for us. But, in the midst of the gardening and preserving disruptions, we have still learned a lot of very valuable lessons. For that, we are thankful.

Until next time – Fern
 

The Nutrition of Tomatoes & Peppers

I never really think of tomatoes as being a nutrient dense food. But I thought it would be interesting to include it in our nutrition series, since so many of us love to eat them fresh from the garden. We read years ago that peppers contain many nutrients and trace minerals that you don’t find in most other foods.

1 cup of raw cherry tomatoes include the following nutrients. We don’t grow cherry tomatoes, but this is the one listing for raw tomatoes.

  • calories 28.6
  • carbohydrates 5.8g

  • protein 1.3g
  • vitamins A, C, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • phytosterols
  • omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids

1 cup of raw, sweet, green peppers include the following nutrients.
The nutritional content of jalapeno peppers is very similar to sweet peppers.

  • calories 29.8
  • carbohydrates 6.9g
  • protein 1.3g

  • vitamins A, C, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • phophorus
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phytosterols
  • omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids


The list of nutrients here surprised me. I knew that tomatoes were not high in calories or carbohydrates, but I didn’t realize how many other benefits they included. It also surprised me to find out that tomatoes and peppers both provide very similar nutrients. So now when you make up that batch of pizza sauce or salsa, you will know how good it is for you.


When thinking of a survival garden and the nutrition it provides, tomatoes and peppers will not be rich in carbohydrates or calories for energy, but they both provide needed vitamins and minerals in larger amounts than some other vegetables. Something to think about. The size of garden you are able to tend successfully will determine what you are able to grow. That, along with the availability of seeds. Do you have some? Do you have enough? Make sure you have what you need, just in case you can’t get anymore.

This morning I was reading Rural Revolution and noticed that Patrice Lewis has had success with a short season corn. If this is of interest to you, please check it out. We talked about it, and even though we live in the south, we may be able to grow two crops. I think we will try it next year.

Until next time – Fern

The Nutrition of Green Beans & Some Pondering

Green beans are one of those All American foods, right? We all grew up knowing that we needed to eat our green beans because they are good for us. We had to eat them so we could have dessert, or some other preferable food. So, for all of these years we have continued to grow and eat them.


Recently, Frank and I were talking about this year’s green bean crop, how they taste and such. We came to the conclusion that green beans are okay, but not something we really enjoy. If there is another vegetable option, we will normally choose something else besides green beans, or corn either, for that matter. It’s an interesting revelation to come to after all of these years. 

Green beans are easy to grow and easy to can. Corn, on the other hand, takes up a lot of room and nutrients before it produces much. Most of the open pollinated corn we grow only produces one ear per stalk. We have decided that we won’t grow corn or green beans in the garden next year. The corn we will just do without. We may try growing some field corn for the animals and to grind into corn meal, but the sweet corn we will forgo for a time. What we will plant are pinto beans. We have grown them once before and they are just as easy as pole beans.  A friend of mine grew pinto beans and initially picked them young and tender, to cook like green beans. We can do that, as well as let them mature and cook as pinto beans. Then, we will also be able to can them as pintos, or let them dry and store them to cook later. So, this is the result of our garden pondering lately. 

With all that being said, I still wanted to see what nutrition green beans provide, after all, we all know they are good for you. From one cup of snap green beans, boiled with salt we get the following nutrients.

  • calories 44
  • carbohydrates 9.8g 
  • protein 2.4g
  • vitamins A, C, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids

Our mother’s were right, they are very good for you. There are many different varieties to choose from, both bush and pole beans. In our location, they don’t have many pests. The grasshoppers like to eat the leaves, but it doesn’t seem to deter the plants, even when they look rather dismal. Green beans and other legumes are great for fixing nitrogen in the soil and rebuilding an area that grew a heavy feeder, like corn, the previous year.

When we have moved from place to place over the years, corn and green beans are always one of the first things we stock up on. They are the old standards, easy to fix and have a dependable flavor. But after we get set up and have a variety of things to choose from, the corn and green beans kind of go to the back of the shelf. And now, they are going to be left out of the garden. We still have quite a few green beans left that we canned last year, which will eventually get eaten, or not. It’s good to learn what works best, and what works best for us, will not necessarily work best with you and yours. It’s something we all have to figure out for ourselves. So, happy pondering.

Until next time – Fern