When we plant a seed, we are leaning into the future. Now that it’s winter, there are not a lot of seeds being planted. There is not a lot of green. The light that has that soft light green-yellow glow as it comes through leaves is not to be seen. This is why a lot of people and birds head south. They are looking for more light and more life.
This is around the time of year when we start planting seeds indoors in our home. We know that fig trees will grow new leaves when the days start getting longer, and we plant some narcissus bulbs to see life begin again. But what I look forward to is planting seeds that will grow into winter greens that we can eat. I am looking for that nourishment, that plant light, that rare ability of a life form to transform sunlight into energy!
I need this energy for my being. So I take two plastic trays. One with no holes goes on the bottom of another same-sized tray that has drainage slits. I have saved indoors some fluffy, garden earth mixed with a little peat and compost, and I spread it out in the tray. I water it and wait for a day or two, in great anticipation. I take out the sunflower black oil seeds and broadcast them on top of the earth in this tray, so they are almost touching each other. I water again and often cover them lightly with a piece of plastic, but not all the way. These seeds need to breathe to sprout.
A few days or a week later, in the dark or almost anywhere, I see a little poke-up of green light. Then another and another. There is a whole field of sunflower sprouts in my tray! First I dance around the room singing. Then, I water them again, so they are slightly moist but not wet. In a few more days they are taller and have their first leaves. I show my friends my “field of dreams,” and then I take a scissor and cut a few off and taste them. Ah, sunflower lettuce! They are packed with vitamins and nutrients, as they have been in a sunny window since a few days after sprouting and have been changing sunlight into leaves and nutrients.
Now I start another tray. This time I broadcast buckwheat seed throughout the tray. These will have a softer, milder flavor and are great in soups and in a salad. The sunflower greens are spicier and crispier and an excellent topping in a sandwich. A couple of weeks later, after all the greens have been clipped and eaten, the whole mat of roots can be added to the garden bed or compost pile to become the springboard for other seeds to grow when it finally is spring again.
David Fried runs Elmore Roots Fruit Tree and Berry Nursery in northern Vermont.