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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Winter Vegetable Gardening

We had a mild December, here, enough that the kale began to grow a tiny bit since I harvested last in mid-November. The trough planter on the deck is filled with radish greens. In addition, the sorrel and watercress are also putting out some new leaves. I harvested kale on Friday and radish greens yesterday. I'll need to get out and grab some sorrel and watercress for a salad in the next day or two. Snow is in the forecast for the end of this week, so my outdoor winter gardening may be put on hold for a month or so.

Indoors, the lentil sprouts have been a fantastic addition to our vegetable supply. I sprout between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of dry lentils every week. I try to keep at least one quart-size jar of sprouting lentils going at all times. Since I try for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, the sprouts get gobbled up quickly, mostly as a plainly dressed side salad with vinegar, oil, and salt. If I have a day where I feel I just haven't had enough fruits and veggies, I grab a handful of sprouts and eat as-is.

As the weather forecast is now looking like a snowy period coming up, I was thinking about how useful sprouting lentils could potentially be for my household. Last winter, we had a month of snow, where the road in front of our house wasn't plowed until the tail end of the third week of snowfall. As we have neither winter tires or a car with all-wheel drive, we were stranded at home for weeks, with exception to hiking out of the neighborhood to catch a bus somewhere. 

So, my thinking this week is that it's possible that we will have severals days very soon where we can't get out to stores. I really don't want to be one of the many who descend upon grocery stores later this week, clearing the shelves of food. 

Last year, my daughter and I made what we thought would be a quick stop for milk the night before a major storm was predicted. It was after 9 PM (I was picking her up from work) and the parking lot was packed with cars, there were no grocery carts in the store, and the lines were the longest I've ever seen in this one store. This was not an experience I want to relive. 

Sprouting lentils may be part of the solution to avoiding going out, for produce at least. With sprouted lentils, we can time the readiness of our in-home produce supply, down to the very day. And once they're fully-sprouted, they keep in the fridge for 5 days. I started an extra jar of lentils yesterday morning, anticipating the need for fresh produce this next week, just in case I don't make it to all of the stores on my shopping list before the snow falls.

If I sound like I talk about lentil sprouts a lot, it's only because I can't believe how simple they are, yet they produce a nice vegetable product when my garden is slow. For anyone here who enjoys sprouts, I encourage you to try sprouting a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of dried lentils to see if this is something you and your family would enjoy. And for anyone else who is on a limited grocery budget, lentil sprouts will save you money on fresh produce purchases in the winter months, when there are few bargains in the produce department. Okay, off the lentil sprout soap box.

I'm still growing microgreens, but I find that I'm much more satisfied by the quickness of the lentil sprouts. The microgreens take close to a month until they're ready for harvest, whereas the lentil sprouts are ready within a week.

I made one change to my sprouting technique during the holiday season. I was simply too busy to remember to rinse them twice per day. Instead, once per day, I covered the lentils with water in the jars, allowed to stand for 2 to 5 hours, then drained and set the jars on their sides. The sprouts seemed to do okay with this treatment. They never dried not nor became moldy, so this has been my technique going forward. My even lazier method of sprouting.

I am about 2 weeks away from starting seeds indoors for transplanting into the garden in very early spring. I'll begin with parsley and cold-tolerant leafy greens like kale and chard. I'll use my light set-up, which I place on top of the dryer in the laundry room. The heated surface of the dryer provides a good temp for germinating seeds.

I don't know about you but I'm still catching up from the holidays. My house needs a good cleaning, the decorations need putting away, I need to catch up on baking and cooking, the laundry has piled up, and I'm just this week catching up on comments here. I'm sorry I've been mostly absent the past few weeks. As you know, it takes an enormous amount of effort to pull everything together for the holidays, and often on a limited time schedule (with special programs, family get togethers, and friendship group gatherings all entering the mix). Thanks for your patience with me! 

This morning, I'm off to Fred Meyer for Senior Shopping Day. I don't need a lot, but will be picking a month's supply of milk and checking all of the clearance items. I hope your day is off to a great start!


  1. Lili, you don't need to apologize about anything. We have just come through one of the busiest times of the year and of course you have had a lot on your plate!

    It was interesting to hear about your experiences with snow. I thought your snowfalls melted rapidly--I didn't realize that sometimes you were home bound for so long. My husband and I are geeky about the weather--we keep a close eye on the forecast and plan optional outings (grocery shopping) around that. I, too, hate crowds when shopping, so if I can predict when the stores will be busy and avoid those times, I will. I also dislike shlepping through icy, snowy parking lots with a cart of groceries so that's another good reason to plan my visits.

    You have many unique strategies for getting through the winter. Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Lilli, I just want to drop you a note and tell you how much I enjoy your blog. You are truly an inspiration in what you can do on a limited grocery budget. My grocery budget is very small and sometimes I get so discouraged, but then I look to your blog for fresh ideas. I just wanted to add, that your climate & garden seems to grow a lot of kale. I watch chef Lidia Bastianich (Lidia's Kitchen) on PBS a lot. This past week she made a Pesto out of kale. It looked really delicious and easy to make. Might be another idea for all the kale. Thanks again for your wonderful blog. It sure helps keep me fed! .....Cari

  3. As fun as the holidays may be, it always feels good when they are put to rest for another year. Hope that happens for you soon, Lili.

    Today is the first snowfall of the year here. I got off work early, but did not attempt the grocery stores. I'd rather be home safe and sound than have some extra milk.

  4. Too late because you have already been shopping but do like us nuts on the East coast. Buy bread, eggs, and milk. That always goes first and the shelves empty.😂

  5. Please continue to keep us informed regarding your forays into Sprouting -- such a healthy and frugal choice and I'm going to be giving it a try soon....!

  6. Hi Kris,
    Thank you for what you said about the holidays as the busiest time of the year. I always feel like somehow I should be able to manage better. But you're right. thanks!

    So, normally, snow does come and melt within a day or two. But weather has been anything but normal the last few years. Snow has been staying on the ground for more days than what I was used to. That, combined with the fact that we're in an unincorporated part of the county, so our roads are not a priority for plowing, sanding, or de-icing. Plus, the Seattle area is very hilly. without winter tires or all-wheel drive, we're stuck at home when the road in our neighborhood has snow on it. But like I said, your perception of our weather is what I would have always said was normal. We're just not normal any more. That one time last winter when there was snow in the parking lot at the grocery store, I got a taste of what many people go through in winter. Evidently, shopping carts were not designed to plow through snow and ice! I hope to avoid that in the future!

    I guess I'm a bit of a geek, too. I read weather forecasts, almost as entertainment. Strange, huh?
    Have a pleasant evening, Kris!

  7. Hi Cari,
    thank you. I'm sorry you face some of the same discouragements that I face, but glad that you are here!

    I've watched Lydia a couple of times. I will check for the one on kale pesto. That sounds delicious, so thank you!! I can imagine a kale and garlic pesto as a pasta sauce. You're right, we do grow a lot of kale in our garden. When I first planted a garden at this house, kale and parsley were the two things that grew prolifically and with little attention. So, i thought I should just go with that. My kids joke that they were eating kale before it became cool to do so.

    Thanks again for the suggestion, Cari. I'll look for that episode. Have a great evening!

  8. Hi Live and Learn,
    You probably made a wise choice. Better to be safe at home and wait a few days for milk, if that's the case. Most of us have more than enough other foods in our kitchens to feed us through a long snowstorm, anyway.

    Enjoy the beauty of the falling snow, Live and Learn!

  9. Hi Cheryl,
    Bread, milk, and eggs. I'll remember that. I bought lots of milk today because I found gallons for $1.19. I'm good on bread, as I bake ours and I have plenty of flour and yeast. It's the eggs that I might not have enough of. I'm down to 10 eggs. Walmart had marked up their eggs from when I made out my list, so I didn't buy them there. If I have a chance to get to Cash & Carry (restaurant supply) before the weekend, I'll do that leg of the shopping and get eggs. If not, I'll just have to stretch our use of eggs.

    I do remember the milk situation last year. It was not only before the snowstorm hit that stores ran out of milk, but the milk trucks couldn't get through to our area for a while and one grocery store was completely sold out of milk for several days.

    Have a good evening, Cheryl!

  10. Hi there,
    I hope that sprouting works as well for you as it has for me. You're right about the health benefits of sprouts. When you think about it, when you eat sprouts that are still in the process of sprouting (meaning, they've still been growing on the counter when you serve them), you're eating a living food -- the plant is still growing at the time of consumption. The nutrient level, such as vitamin C content, of the sprout is at its very peak.
    Good luck with your own foray into sprouting!


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