Beating Food Challenges: Sprouting and Foraging

We’ve been talking about ways to provide food for your family if the going gets tough.

Two more ways to add nutritious foods to your meals and snacks are sprouting and foraging.

Both are fairly easy to learn, requiring little in the way of equipment.

Sprouting seeds and legumes

This is a great way to grow some nutrient-dense fresh food right in your own kitchen. It can be done all year round, but many people find sprouts especially welcome during the winter when fresh greens are not readily available.

If for any reason fresh produce is hard to come by, sprouting could be a valuable part of your food preparation. Sprouted greens are also nutritious supplements for livestock, especially during the months when there’s little forage available. As an added bonus, eggs will benefit from the extra vitamins when hens gobble down a snack of sprouts.

Why sprout?

The sprouting process increases the nutritional value of the seed itself. So a radish sprout has more vitamins than a radish seed. A bean or lentil sprout adds extra nutrients not provided by unsprouted legumes.

We have found that sprouted wheat, when ground, even boosts the leavening of whole grain bread. Be forewarned though, that sprouts used in baked goods can shrivel up to give the appearance of unappetizing little hairs in your food. We recommend grinding sprouts before putting them into a batter or dough.

What to sprout

Most untreated legumes, seeds, or whole grains you buy for cooking will sprout well.

Alfalfa, radish, mung bean, and other seeds for sprouting can be purchased in grocery store bulk food aisles, health food stores and nutrition centers. They’re also available from AmazonWheat Grass Kits, and of course The Sprout People.

Sprouting equipment

Sprouting is fairly simple and requires little in the way of equipment. While manufactured sprouters are available, many people use colanders or glass canning jars.

Anything will work as long as it allows for the basic process of repeated rinsing and draining while the seeds are sprouting.

  • Containers such as colanders that drain through the bottom can be set in a pan or sink.
  • Canning jar tops may be covered with cheesecloth or circles cut from plastic needlepoint canvas, secured by a canning jar ring.
  • Manufactured caps are available for wide mouth canning jars.
  • Upended jars may need a rack of some kind to hold them in place over a dish or tray that will collect the drained water.

Sprouting process

Seeds, grains, or legumes are rinsed and soaked in water, then drained and placed in the sprouting container. The seeds and sprouts should be rinsed and drained twice a day till they reach the size you’d like. The time will vary depending on the type of seed and the temperature of your kitchen, but most sprouts take 2-4 days to grow. For the last 1-2 days, the sprouts will green up if the container is exposed to some light.

More details

A complete guide to sprouting is found at the website of The Sprout People. This great site also has a variety of sprouting setups and lots of supplies.

Sprouting Edible Seeds is a basic primer written by Amy at Homestead Revival.

And here’s a helpful Soaking and Sprouting Chart from Prepper Chicks.

Foraging in your own backyard

Many families routinely forage on their own property or in other areas to add to their food supply. You may have fond memories of berry picking or gathering mushrooms in years gone by.

With an investment of time, you could potentially come home with gallons of produce to preserve.

If your backyard consists of a well-groomed lawn and immaculate flower beds, there may not be much to eat there.

But you might be surprised to learn how many edible plants grow in naturalized areas. Even the common dandelion and its neighbor purslane are enjoyed by many.

In addition to what you may find growing wild, some farm and orchard owners are happy to have people come in and glean, gathering up what is left after the harvest.

Beware of foraging in areas that have been treated with pesticides or on roadsides fanned by the exhaust of passing vehicles.

Other than that, edible native growth should be safe to eat.

But not all vegetation is edible. It’s important to learn which plants are toxic so you can steer clear of them.

That’s where a great book with color photos comes in very handy as you learn to identify edibles around your environs.

A few recommended books

The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson (It’s too bad they didn’t write an edition for the western side of the continent, but a number of the plants in this book also grow elsewhere.)

Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong (Includes recipes too!)

More info online

Wildman Steve Brill has quite a website of foraging info. Many think of him as the guru of foraging, and he’s happy to share what he knows on his site. He goes far beyond the backyard in his explorations for edibles!

Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading shares a lot of foraging info and describes a different plant each week at the Weekly Weeder.

Lamb’s Quarters, a plant many of us have seen growing wild, is featured in When Life Gives You Weeds, Eat Em’ by Jill at The Prairie Homestead.

The 3 Foragers is a blog dedicated to foraging and wild edibles. Blogger Karen says, “Nutrition, organics, self-reliance, preparedness, education and respect are all closely tied together with wild food foraging.”

And we’ll end with Edible Weeds: Weed Them and Eat! by Ellen Sandbeck at Mother Earth News.

Now tell us about your experiences with sprouting and foraging!

Previous posts in our Beating Food Challenges series:

Ten Realistic Ways to Overcome a Food Crisis

More About Beating Food Shortages and High Prices

Beating Food Challenges: Growing Veggies, Herbs, and Fruit

Beating Food Challenges: Raising Meat, Eggs, and Dairy 

Beating Food Challenges: Finding Local Products

Beating Food Challenges: Storing and Preserving Foods

In this series, we’re listing some great resources for each of our ten topics: growing vegetables, herbs, and fruit; raising meat, eggs, and dairy; local food sources and buying freezer meat; food storage; food preservation; sprouting; foraging; bartering; and learning more and more to help along the way.

To get these upcoming posts delivered straight to your email inbox, subscribe in the Rural Living Insider box below or at the upper right corner of this page.


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