The other day I shrank back in horror and shock as I paid 3.50$ for two little tiny tomatoes here in the lush forest of British Columbia. This inspired me to get serious about growing micro greens and sprouts indoors. The horror and shock I felt about my tomatos is nothing compared to what people in the north have to deal with every day to buy fruits and vegetables. I saw this first hand years ago when I traveled through the Northwest Passage on an ice breaker. Now the story is even more drastic. People are sending food to northern neighbors who lack basic food security due to the extremely short growing season and high cost of transport. Celebrity Singer Susan Aglukark sent 1000 pounds of food to her community for Christmas. With the drought in California making fruit and vegetables ever more expensive and having to be imported from ever further destinations, it makes a person seriously think about growing your own micro greens.
My sources of knowing about the high cost of food prices in the north, along with personal knowledge of family members who resided there and struggled to be able to afford a healthy diet can be seen here HP high price of food in Nunavut. The article is about Nunavut. My family members who have experienced this lived in the Northwest Territories. It cost me 70$ to order a cake last winter to contribute towards a family event that I was unable to attend because of the exorbitant price of getting to the Northwest Territories from where I live.
Think of the cost of transporting a small package of seeds as compared to hauling rapidly aging produce in a refrigerated compartment from Mexico to Alaska, Nunavut or NWT. Think of the environmental impact as well, and you see where it may be more practical for people there to be growing sprouts and micro greens indoors for a steady supply of vegetables, at least in the north and in any circumstance where the food must be transported by air, such as the job I do at isolated locations along the west coast.
I learned how to do this in preparation for provisioning for ocean voyages I was going to take when I lived on my sailboat. Where it ended up being particularly useful is when I went for months on end with no money, and had no shortage of fresh salad greens thanks to old stores of beans, grains, spices and snack foods that were still intact enough to sprout given the right conditions.
Also when I have to pack a months worth of food supplies, and everything else I may need, into 300 pounds or less, it allows a person to have somewhat greater food security to pack foods that can be eaten either as is, or sprouted into fresh greens for a source of salad after all other salad choices have gone rotten.
I set up a shelf in my living room for growing foods I don’t want to buy imported at great expense anymore. I bought 3 full spectrum florescent grow lights to illuminate the shelves. I put them on a timer to provide artificial sunlight for so many hours a day. I use some seed starting soil and potting soil. Basically I have houseplants that feed me.
And so could you. I read about this first in the book Sailing the Farm. (here’s a link to my review of it.) I have benefited from this knowledge mostly in my isolated work environments and during months of poverty. Even when it is not necessary in those circumstances, I am continuing to do it anyway for the purpose of reducing the environmental impact of my own healthy diet. And also for taste, and for being able to have a variety of micro greens that are not readily available in the grocery stores where I live.
Some of my favorites are Fenugreek, mustard greens, arugula, parsley, cilantro, radish, peas, sunflower seeds, wheat, rye and all varieties of lentil and bean. Most dried beans sold as food supplies will sprout. Most grains will sprout as well. Sunflower seeds will sprout if they are raw, not if they are roasted.
I also grow sweet potatoes indoors in pots. The sweet potato does not need as much light and the greens from it are edible, not poisonous. Bail also grows in pots indoors at my house, and a chili pepper has survived the winter, flowered a second time and produced enough little chilies to make a bottle of fermented hot sauce.
One small ice cream bucket can contain enough seeds to keep a family in fresh salad greens for several months. Also, the nutritional value of grains, nuts and beans increases astronomically when they are sprouted, as well as the volume of food that they produce.
I am not saying this is the answer to the food security issues in the north that people are facing because of high food prices, but suggesting this technique of growing food in jars and old pie plates might be able to help a little bit in that situation.
When I worked on the icebreaker going through the Northwest Passage, part of my job was helping out in the galley. Our provisions for a crew ranging from 20-40 people were stored in coolers and store rooms. Part of my job in the middle of the trip was to separate leaves of fresh lettuce and spinach that was months old, going rotten and slimy from the inner centers of each bunch that was still OK. I couldn’t help but think of how much better it would be if we just brought seeds and dirt and grew baby greens on board the ship in containers to eat fresh. All those store rooms had florecent lights. We were running 110 power constantly for refrigeration. Why not for grow lights?
We were searching for the remains of the Franklin expedition who starved and died in the Arctic because of relying too heavily on imported food which became tainted. During my work of sorting out the increasingly rotten produce from our refrigerated store rooms, I could see a similarity that made me feel kind of uneasy. Seeds and a mesh bag became part of my traveling provision supplies from that point on, for any trip longer than 1 week, and part of my diet at home in any season when the garden is not feeding me a steady supply of its produce. This winter I took it a step further and set up the plant shelf in my living room, to grow both mirco greens and sprouts indoors.