Edible Plants: 2
A couple of weeks ago I told you all we are now sprouting our own seeds. The first batch was successful, and they are SO good. Just like getting fresh lettuce out of the garden and not the store, these sprouts definitely taste better.
Alfalfa is a crop native to Iran (it is also known as lucerne). Generally it is used as a “green manure” or a feed crop for cattle or other farm animals. Alfalfa made its way to Europe around 491 BCE, showing up in Greece after the Persians invaded there. In the second century BCE, they showed up in China. There alfafa was also typically used in these places also as livestock feed, but people would eat it in times of famine or shortage out of desperation. It was notably consumed for this reason durin Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
A perennial crop (meaning you can plant it and it will grow again the next year by reseeding itself), it grows well in either warm temperate, or cool subtropical settings. It has deep roots, and is able to grow even in very dry places. It is a member of the clover family that grows 3 leaves that have a serrated tip upon short stalks. Alfalfa flowers are blue or purple and small. It is a legume, which means it fixes nitrogen in the soil – a very important process that actually improves soil conditions (unlike corn which tends to leach nutrients without replacing anything at all). It is a fantastic crop to grow as part of responsible farming within a crop rotation cycle in between crops of less soil-friendly plants.
The sprouts are easy to make by soaking them overnight in a thin layer that is covered, then leaving them in a warm place to sprout. They must be drained twice a day, and will sprout within a few days! The sprouts are mild (unlike other more intense varieties, such as sprouted onion, broccoli, etc.). They have a nutty, mild flavor that is versatile in its uses on salads, sandwiches, or garnish. The mature alfalfa plant has a pungent, earthy flavor and its young leaves are eaten as a vegetable in China.
The sprouts are extremely nutritions, containing high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin K, and minerals introduced by the soil they are grown in. They have been used throughout the world in traditional medicine – both Chinese, Ayurvedic, and now modern alternative medicine as a solution to urinary tract infections, digestive ailments, ulcers, arthritis, and fluid retention. Important to note, though, is that all legume sprouts contain toxins, so eating them in moderation or cooking them is important to take into consideration.
I have been putting the sprouts on green leaf salads mainly, but I made this panzanella salad for my mom to take with her to work for her class to eat. We had this loaf of day old black bean salsa bread, some stale chips, and so I made a quick migas/panzanella dish.
Spicy Bean & Salsa Panzanella Migas Fusion
- 2-3 cups cubed bread, toasted until dried out
- 1 cup stale chips, crumbled up
- 1/2 cup onion, finely minced
- 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup store bought salsa, or diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- juice of a lemon or lime & zest
- salt & pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- chili powder to taste
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 cup hard cheese (I used asiago because that’s what we had)
- 1-2 cups spinach or arugula
- Chop up your bread, and spread it out on a jelly roll pan. Place it in the oven and turn it on to 350. Check on it periodically and once it is dry, you can take it out.
- Drain your can of beans in a colander, and rinse.
- Heat up 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan, and begin to saute your onions and mushrooms until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and you can add in some of the spices mentioned in the list to flavor the vegetables if you like. Mix in the beans at this point.
- In a large bowl, mix the rest of the olive oil through cheese with a whisk, add in the bread, and toss. Add in the sauteed vegetables and continue to toss. If the mixture is dry, you can add more oil or citrus.
- Mix in the arugula, and place in a serving dish. Top with sprouts!