For the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with yogurt-making. Oddly, I found that I couldn’t get the yogurt to “take” when I went back to my hometown, even though I made it the same way as I do in Maine – – or so I thought. I finally realized that a growing yogurt culture’s worst enemy is air conditioning. Thanks to a/c, the room temperature in my hometown’s house was simply too cold to get the yogurt to develop, and I was left with a thinner texture like kefir in the best of cases, and sour milk when it really went wonky. I don’t have air conditioning in my house in Maine; it’s hard to justify the expense and electricity usage of a/c for the 8 total days a year when it’s really hot. Some days it doesn’t get even hot enough for the yogurt to set on our screen porch. That’s when I park my car in the sun and put the yogurt in the back of our Subaru for 8 hours. That really does the trick, and the yogurt comes out perfectly – – silky smooth, creamy, rich, and barely tart.
Now that I’ve “mastered” yogurt, I’ve decided to move on to sprouts. Sprouts have all sorts of wonderful properties. Since they are grown indoors, without soil, they are not weather-dependent and they aren’t messy. You don’t have to worry about insect infestation, since they are grown in a mason jar (the lid is capped with either screen material or cheesecloth). You can make small batches at a time (1 – 2 tablespoons of alfalfa or radish seeds goes a long way). Nutritionally speaking, a cup of alfalfa sprouts has only 25 calories and contains 3 grams of protein, 11% daily requirement of Vitamin C and 4% daily requirement of iron. Radish sprouts have 57 calories per cup but nearly 25% the RDA of Vitamin C. And the organic seeds are cheap. They taste great in wraps or sandwiches.
I simply typed in “how to grow sprouts” on both Google and YouTube and came up with several good instructional webpages and videos.
So why aren’t more people clamoring for grow-your-own sprouts? Unfortunately, some seeds carry bacteria, and in warm, humid conditions, e.coli, Listeria, and salmonella can grow quickly on infected seeds. According to studies the risk of contamination, though small, is not related to whether the sprouts are home-grown or store-bought. (The CDC recommends boiling the sprouts to kill bacteria, but in doing so you would not only kill all nutritional value of the sprouts, you would be left with a big inedible mush.)
Unfortunately I had not read about the threat of sprout food poisoning until well after I had tasted my radish and alfalfa sprouts. Thankfully I didn’t die. I didn’t even get sick. And they were quite tasty! Did I just get lucky? Any epidemiologists out there who might want to weigh in on the advisability of growing and consuming one’s own sprouts?
P.S. More than 13 years ago, I once really did almost kill my four children and my brand-new son-in-law with salmonella poisoning (not from sprouts), but that’s another story for another day.