Winter Gardening

The pitcher plant and Venus fly trap can also be grown in bowls of pebbles and water. (See Chapter 12.)

Then there is that possum of the plant world, the resurrec­tion fern. This looks dead as a doornail when dry, but when put in water it quickly and miraculously returns to life and greenness.

Bean sprouts are a truly edible crop requiring noth­ing but water. This is the quickest crop of all. In 3 to 5 days you can produce delicious sprouts, for making into chop suey or chow mein, adding to stews, or tossing in salads.

You will need an eight- or ten-inch flowerpot, some dried Mung beans (available from some seedhouses or in Chinese shops), a little chlorinated lime from the drugstore, a wire rack and a piece of cheesecloth. The chlorinated lime may be omitted to make the process simpler. It is only a safeguard against possible damping-off. Soy beans may be substituted for Mung if you have trouble finding the latter.

For the youngest children this may have to be a "watch-me" affair, but the rules are quite simple:

1. Make up a batch of chlorinated water by blending one-third of a teaspoon of chlorinated lime with a little water, and then mixing this into one gallon of water. Bottle and keep on hand.
2.Sterilize flowerpot. Put a piece of cheesecloth in the bottom.
3.Wash and pick over one-third cup of beans. Soak them overnight in lukewarm chlorinated water. Drain and put beans in pot and set pot on a wire rack. Keep at a temperature of about 70°.
4.Every four hours, except at night, hold pot under the faucet and let clear water run through it. Then cover top with damp cardboard to shut out light and dry air. 5.At night pour chlorinated water over beans and drain well.
6.Repeat steps 4 and 5 daily until pot is filled with sprouts two or three inches long.
7.Rinse sprouts thoroughly in warm water to flush away skins-and there you have Chinese bean sprouts, ready to use.

If this venture proves amusing enough the youngster can grow his own supply of Mung beans next year. They are easy, given the same culture as bush limas, and can be stored for several years.

This is a more limited category, but an amusing collection whether by itself or combined with the water-only assemblage.

The colchicum is perhaps the best known of the blossoms which need no help from either soil or water. Just placed on a windowsill, when its blooming time arrives it blooms. All it wants is a little warmth and light.