January 4 – 17, 2016
Mt. Washington — Seeds are valuable winter food for two-leggeds, four-leggeds and winged, warm-bodied living beings happily feeding ourselves by our wits during wintertime. In our kitchens and classrooms, with the most basic supplies, dry seeds can be transformed into fresh baby vegetables in a few days. Seeds inside the squash and pumpkins we have stored or will purchase are nourishing, delicious and of medicinal value. The nascent root and leaf of a new plant is dormant in each seed that, if not eaten, is ready to reproduce itself: once sown it will grow a new adult plant that will flower and create abundant seed.
The New Year begins as the northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun; we experience day length increasing. Many gardeners and farmers have already procured their seeds for the 2016 growing season. Others of us have yet to inventory the seeds we have that remain viable for many years. Seed catalogues are arriving, colorful displays have appeared at nurseries, and online sources are fully stocked. Of more immediacy, I am prompted to open my pantry and pull out a bag each of radish and clover seeds with an eye to salad and a bag of mung beans to sprout for sautees.
I have found that conscientious purveyors of bulk organic beans and seeds offer stock fresh and clean enough for successful sprouting. In addition, a great variety of packaged sprouting supplies are widely available locally and mail order. There are many inventive ways to sprout, but the basic garden-in-a-jar is accessible and effective. Illustrated instructions are provided on the websites listed below, however, the steps are few.
Place 2 – 3 tablespoons of small-seeds, more of beans, in a wide-mouth quart jar. Wash the seeds by swirling in water. Cover the jar with cheesecloth cut to fit and fasten with a rubber band. Pour the wash water out through the mesh cover and run fresh, unchlorinated water into the jar through the cover; let soak about 8 hours. Pour the water out and place the jar with the re-constituted seeds in a warm, rather dark place. Rinse the seeds 2 – 3 times a day, always running water into the jar through the mesh cover and out again. Watch for signs of sprouting. Depending on conditions, sprouts are ready in a few days to a week. When fully emerged, place sprouts in a sunny spot until the leaves turn green. Please refer to links below.
Styria, a mountainous state in Austria, has given us a unique, naked-seeded pumpkin that flourishes in our locale. The seeds are hulless; they are distinctly without the hard white covering typical of other varieties of the squash and pumpkin family of plants, the cucurbitaceae. Although other cucurbit seeds are good to eat, they require extraction from their hulls. Styrian pumpkin (Cucurbit pepo) seeds are pulled out of the pumpkin ready to eat. A delicious snack food, the seeds are widely known for their nutritional and medicinal value*. Pumpkin seed oil is also a popular product of Styria.
Styrian pumpkin flesh is lighter in texture and flavor than the sweet potato-like kabocha and hubbard squashes. In our kitchen, we bake and eat the flesh like mashed potatoes and make it into soup and pies – although I do prefer more robust varieties as a staple. Some growers like them exclusively for autumn decoration and their edible seeds. Although it seems odd, the naked seeds are planted and germinate just like varieties with hulls.
Pumpkin and squash seed varieties, uses and nutritional information: