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Many of us began our horticultural education by growing mustard and cress on damp blotting paper in a saucer. After about a week the seedlings were cut and used in salads and sandwiches- a proud moment for the budding gardener. Often our involvement in sprouting seeds for kitchen use usually ended there, despite a large number of modern research which has shown that the sprouts of seeds are surprisingly rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and polyunsaturated oils.

Even if you are not interested in nutritional values, there must still be something appealing about vegetables which can be raised indoors at any time of the year and which can be eaten raw or cooked to provide flavours ranging from bland to peppery. Bean sprouts are popular in every Chinese restaurant, but there are many other seeds which can be sprouted for the table. It is best not to experiment, however. Some sprouts are tasteless, some are bitter, and a few (e.g. tomato) are positively harmful- so choose one from this list:
1. Adzuki bean
2. Mung bean
3. Fenugreek
4. Alfalfa
5. Mustard and cress
6. Radish
You could buy a special propagator but there is really no need to do so- all you require is either a shallow tray or a jar and a few days' patience. Growing seed sprouts is a simple task and an ideal one for children, but it is not quite as foolproof as the books sometimes suggest. The crops will fail if you allow the seeds to dry out and the seedlings will go mouldy if you keep them too wet. These rules may be straightforward but they must be followed to ensure success.

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