Grass is Sabz! Sabzeh is Green! Or: How to Grow Sabzeh (for NoRooz)
Sabzeh, symbolizing birth and growth, is an integral part of the Persian New Year’s Haft Seen spread.
It’s such an optimistic gesture: coddling a seed and coaxing sprouts out of it! Don’t you think?
Growing sabzeh is a cheap thrill and the effort involved is minimal. Seeds really want to sprout. You’d have to try quite hard to disappoint them.
You don’t have to observe Easter or Norooz to grow sprouts either – it does a soul good to grow some green just for the plain pleasure of it. It makes for an engaging kid-friendly activity as well. And of course, it’d be perfect for Earth Day.
How does it work? Easy. First, grab a rake and shovel.
Just kidding! No shovels required! A little Persian humor here.
For real now, here’s Fig & Quince’s fool-proof DIY sabzeh-growing directions.
- 1/4-1/2 cup red wheat or lentils (Unsure which to pick? Wheat grows straight-haired, while lentils will sport a poetic curlicue do.)
- Some type of container: i.e. a jar, plate, shallow bowl. (The plate-with-a-ribbon-around-it is kind of boring. Don’t you think? Get creative and have fun! Just keep in mind that your container-of-choice does have to allow the seedlings to receive light and it has to withstand frequent watering, i.e. don’t use a cardboard box. Any and all types of shallow ramekin would work wonderfully.)
- Several paper towel sheets
- Strainer (helpful tool but not essential)
- Scissors (may come in handy)
- Water and sunlight!
Important note: Over-watering is a kiss of death for sabzeh and a rookie mistake. Whenever following directions re watering, keep in mind that the operative verb here is “to sprinkle” not “to drench.” Moral of the story: you want the seeds to be moist and well-hydrated but never soggy. If you accidentally over-water, tip container over to drain excess water.
Soak seeds in water for 24 to 48 hours. Change the water 1-3 times a day.
(Sweet-talking to the seeds is optional but scientifically proven to brighten their outlook on life. It’s up to you. You do want to give them a good head-start. Don’t you?)
Drain seeds, then spread them on a paper towel. (You may detect that the seeds are now sporting the barest hints of white sprouts. Rejoice!)
Once you tire of fondly gazing at the seeds, bundle them up in that same paper towel.
The bundle should be moist to the touch. If not, sprinkle with water.
Place bundle in a plate (or bowl, or whatever) and let it sit (in an area exposed to direct sunlight to expedite growth of sprouts) for another 24-48 hours and sprinkle it a few times a day – as necessary- to maintain it well-hydrated. (A good technique is to douse it liberally with water, then holding hand against the bundle, tip the container to drain the excess water.)
On day 5 it’s time to unwrap the bundle. By this time, you will notice that your seeds are sprouting in earnest. (Oh joy!) The lentils in particular will most certainly be growing long white tendrils. It’s now time to coddle the seeds, which is done in 3 steps:
1) Line the bottom of your jar (or whatever is your container of choice) with a paper towel cut to fit it. (The paper towel provides a surface for the roots to grab a hold of and acts as a soil of sorts.)
2) Layer the sprouting seeds inside the jar (or bowl, or plate, or whatever is your container of choice) on top of the paper towel. Spread seeds evenly, so as to avoid bald spots! Thickness of the layer depends on the depth of your container. You don’t want a thin bed of seeds but also avoid piling it on too thick as it will suffocate the seeds. A 1/2 -3/4 inch spread is a good bet in general.
3) Cover seeds with a moist paper towel.
Coddle seeds in this condition for two days, during which time you should water them at least 3 times a day to keep them well-hydrated.
By day 7 your seeds should have officially sprouted. Totally adorable! It’s time for the seedlings to come out from their cover and face the brave new world. Discard the paper towel cover and place your jar to bask openly in the sun. Water as needed. (A good watering in the morning and at night should suffice.)
You did it! Now just sit back and watch it grow. And grow. And grow! Where it stops … nobody knows.
Well actually, in the Iranian culture, on Sizdah Beh’dar (the 13th day of Norooz) sabzeh will meet its eventual even-if-untimely demise in a ceremonial manner. But ssshhh, let’s not upset the seedlings and mention that yet.
(And yes, I borrowed a good bit of copy from last year’s post. Don’t judge! I am just being green. Recycling is good for the environment and it is also good for the preservation of blogger sanity. What remains of it. The pictures are all spanking brand new though. So there.)