Sprout it Out
What are Sprouts?
Bean sprouts are the tender edible shoots of germinated beans. Most people think of mung bean sprouts when bean sprouts are mentioned, but a wide assortment of seeds, nuts, grains, and beans can be sprouted. The slightly crunchy texture and sweet flavor of bean sprouts makes them a popular addition to an assortment of dishes. Because bean sprouts have become a common ingredient, many grocery stores carry them, and they can also be prepared at home.
How are they made?
To make bean sprouts, beans are soaked in water and then placed in a warm dark place to stimulate germination. The sprouts are regularly rinsed as they grow, and within a few days, small edible shoots have begun to appear. Always wash before use, and enjoy while they are still short. Longer sprouts tend to get more woody and bitter.
What can be sprouted?
Many things can be sprouted. Alfalfa seeds, radishes, adzuki beans, lentils, peas, garbanzos, grains, sunflower seeds, quinoa, and an assortment of other seeds and grains are all sprouted for a variety of uses. Each type of sprout has a slightly different flavor. Sprouts are high in vitamins and low in calories. Depending on the plant, the sprouts may have additional nutritional benefits.
Why eat sprouts?
Scientists have studied sprouts for centuries to better understand their high levels of phytochemicals prevent and treat chronic diseases. National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society and Johns Hopkins University have reinforced the benefits of sprouts with ongoing studies that validate health claims.
Sprouts have long been famed as "health food" but recent research shows that they also have important therapeutic ability. Sprouts like alfalfa, radish, broccoli, clover and soybean contain concentrated amounts of phytochemicals that can protect against disease. An abundance of highly active antioxidants found in sprouts may prevent DNA destruction and protect us from the ongoing effects of aging.
Use the bean sprouts within five days, and make sure to rinse them before use. Sprouts are a common source of bacterial contamination, so get into the habit of rinsing any type of sprouts before eating them.
Sprout it yourself:
To make bean sprouts at home, start by soaking mung beans in lukewarm water overnight. In the morning, drain the seeds and rinse them. Place them in a wide mouthed jar covered in cheesecloth, and allow them to rest in a cool dark place, rinsing in the morning and evening. When the bean sprouts have developed short shoots, they are ready to eat.
The same procedure can be followed for sprouting other foods, but make sure to use food-grade beans, seeds, and nuts for sprouting. Seeds for the garden are often treated with harmful substances such as fungicide. There also great books on sprouting at home if you are interested.