Bean sprouts are tasty and nutritious and are popular in restaurant salad bars, so why not grow your own sprouts at home? With high concentrations of essential vitamins, protein and starches, bean sprouts are useful in preparing your favorite soups, breads, and stir-fry. Bean sprouts can easily be grown, stored and prepared using a variety of methods.
The most commonly used beans and seeds for growing sprouts are alfalfa, flax, lentil, sunflower, soy, and mung beans.
• Begin with a Good Soaking
First, select only whole and clean seeds. Wash the seeds in lukewarm water if they are soiled. Next, with your choice seeds in hand, it's time to prepare them by soaking them for 24 to 48 hours in warm water. You can expect the bean seeds to swell up quite a bit during the soaking process. After soaking overnight, drain and rinse the seeds thoroughly. You won't need too many seeds to make a meal; typically a quarter cup of seeds will make 4 average sized servings. 2- to 3- tablespoons of seeds may be plenty for personal sized meals.
One way to keep the water warm while soaking the seeds is to use a wide-mouth thermos. After they have been soaking up the water and swelling a bit, the seeds are easier to remove from a wide-mouth thermos. Never use cold water, especially tap water, as it will chill the seed and they will not grow as quickly as you would like.
• Growing in the Dark
After a good soaking, there are several easy ways to grow your sprouts. One easy way is to place the soaked seeds in an old coffee strainer or basket from an old style percolator, although these may be hard to find these days. Place the percolator and the seeds in a dark and humid place. The seeds should be rinsed three or more times daily by pouring warm water (not hot or cold!) over the beans and then pouring out the excess. The seeds should be kept moist, but not wet. After three to five days, sprouts will appear. Once you are satisfied with their length, you should remove, rinse, drain and refrigerate them in a covered container. Don't leave them to long, however, as rootlets will appear, which affects the flavor.
Another way to grow sprouts is to stretch cheesecloth or nylon mesh over the mouth of a glass jar and either tie in it place, place a rubber band around it, or simply attach a canning jar lid. Place the jar on its side and simply follow the previous steps. Normally, beans won't sprout unless the room temperature is at least 68 degrees or higher. One way around this is to place your jar near a 75-watt light bulb.
An interesting way to grow sprouts is to place the cleaned and rinsed seeds on several layers of damped paper towels, flannel, or muslin into a colander or a perforated plastic tray. Darkness and humidity can be created by placing the colander inside a dark colored plastic bag. Be sure to leave one end of the bag loose for ventilation.
A clay flowerpot can also be used. Soak the flower pot overnight and place a piece of cheese cloth, flannel or muslin over the hole in the bottom. Then cover the entire pot with the seeds inside with muslin secured in place. Rinse and drain as above.
• Storing and Preparing Tips
Sprouts can be frozen, but they will not be as crisp as you may like them for a salad. For the best nutritional value, they should be eaten without cooking them. If you're going to cook them, however, it won't make any difference. Frozen sprouts are a good addition to soups and breads. If you find that larger sprouts are less tender than you may care for, simply blanch them in steam or boiling water for a minute or two.
Sprouts can also be dried in a very temperature oven. After drying, they can be ground in a blender or food processor for use as a thickener when needed for soups and gravies. Ground sprouts can also be used to top off casseroles and added to bread dough for extra nutrition.
There are many popular ways to serve bean sprouts that you have grown in your own kitchen. They can be tossed into fresh salads, sprinkled over omelets, or stirred into a delicious chicken chow mein stir-fry. Prepared with these instructions, you can easily grow, serve and enjoy your very own sprouts with your next healthy meal!