"I'm convinced," says Gay Courter, "that sprouts do contain a varied and powerful battery of nutrients, rivaling citrus fruits in vitamin C and beef in protein, and surpassing almost any other known food source in completeness."
And if that isn't enough to convince you to try raising and eating your own homegrown shoots, Gay Courter (author of The Beansprout Book) adds that the squiggly little vegetables are delicious, quite economical, and an ideal food for weight watchers (one fully packed cup of mung, alfalfa, or radish shoots, for instance, contains only about 16 calories).
Perhaps most important of all, sprouting is fun — and easy for hikers, students, farmers, salesmen, truckers...or anyone who wants to enjoy fresh and natural food all year round. "If you can reach a supply of water twice daily, and if the temperature is within the range of comfort for human habitation," Gay says, "there's no place too small or remote for sprouting!"
Experts contend that virtually 99 percent of all vegetation is edible in the sprout stage, but you shouldn't try to cultivate either potato or tomato sprouts, which are said to be poisonous if eaten in quantity.
The most common beans, seeds, and grains for sprouting are alfalfa, lentil, mung, rye, soy (yellow), wheat.
There's no reason not to experiment. Test seeds planned for your vegetable or flower garden. The only problem is finding seeds that will sprout consistently and sprouts that taste good. When trying a new or esoteric sprout, begin by sprouting only one tablespoon of dried seeds as a test.
"Seed-quality" beans are generally recommended for sprouters, as compared to "food quality." Seed quality means that the seeds are meant to be grown and therefore will sprout. Food quality means the seeds were meant for cooking in their dry, unsprouted state, are of a lesser grade, and have a lower germination rate.
Luckily it is becoming easier to purchase seeds, beans, and grains specifically grown for sprouting. These can be found in health-food stores and specialty shops, and are available from many excellent mail-order houses.
You can spend between $5 and $25 to purchase sprouting apparatus that will successfully sprout most beans, but there are probably a dozen containers in your kitchen that will work equally well, as I found when testing seeds and beans for sproutability.
My basic sprouting system requires any receptacle large enough to hold the finished sprouts, but this container must not be transparent, wooden, or metallic. If you wish to sprout in glared pottery, it must be high-fired stoneware and never low-fired earthenware, which may contain toxic lead sulfate in its glaze.
Containers of plastic, china, enamel, and unglazed pottery are excellent choices. Since the sprouting container must be kept covered, anything that comes with its own lid is a good choice, including bean pots, crocks, canisters, coffeepots, fondue pots, cookie jars, chafing dishes, large plastic storage containers (Tupperware, Rubbermaid), and plastic ice-cream boxes.
A container with a wide diameter is best when sprouting larger quantities of sprouts. Try to have your sprouts in as few layers as possible, for even circulation of moisture and air.
Once you have selected your container, you will need only a few other pieces of equipment:
When dried seeds or beans become moist, they wake from their dormant state and begin their irreversible growth process. During this process of germination, chemical changes begin to take place; carbon dioxide, other gases, and heat are released. These gases and residues create wastes that will accumulate if not permitted to dissipate. One of the most important steps in the sprouting process is to keep removing these wastes by rinsing the sprouts with fresh water to prevent the crop from souring and spoiling. Cool water ventilates the sprouts and prevents their overheating and destruction.
While sprouts demand a constant supply of moisture to grow, they cannot be allowed to sit in water or they will rot. It's not difficult to sprout if you make certain that the sprouts are always moist, but never left standing in even the smallest puddle of water.
Sprouts grow fastest in warm temperatures, free from drafts and away from direct heat. In cold weather, soaking times may be increased a few hours and the sprouts can be rinsed in slightly warmer water. Between 75-and-85 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal sprouting temperature.
Air must be allowed to circulate in the sprouting container. There should always be about one-third of the sprouter left empty for air circulation. Remember that sprouts expand, and provide plenty of growing room for them.
Select the seed or bean you wish to sprout. I highly recommend that neophytes try the mung bean first, for both its reliability and universal taste appeal. A few dried beans go a long, long way. I usually sprout 1/4 cup dried beans at a time. Depending on the variety, this will yield approximately 2 cups at maturity, or about 4 servings.
An easy way to figure the yield is: 1 ounce of dried seed will equal 1 cup mature sprouts. Thus, 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, will equal about 4 cups sprouts.
A good timetable is to start soaking beans after dinner one night. Place them in the sprouter the next morning. Rinse every evening and every morning. Most sprouts will be ready to eat the evening of the third, fourth, or fifth day. Step-by-step, here is the procedure:
The beans will have at least doubled in bulk during the over night soaking process. You may notice some small gas bubbles at the surface of the soak water, indicating that the sprouts are already releasing energy and heat in the early germination process.
Already you will notice considerable growth in your sprouts. The outer shell or husk will be falling off.
Days 4, 5 and 6
Repeat the procedure for Day 3, if sprouts are not finished.
This procedure may sound tedious. But as soon as you have learned the steps, you will find that you spend less than five minutes' total time each day tending your sprout garden.
Here are some other methods that are commonly used for sprouting.
When are they ready to eat? There are no hard-and-fast rules about when to harvest a sprout. Each variety tastes best at a different length, and three "experts" will give you three different perfect harvesting lengths, sometimes varying by several inches in their recommendations. The flavor varies at each point along the way in many sprouts, so settle the controversy by pleasing your own palate. As you sprout, keep tasting until you find the optimum day.
You have hovered over your sprout garden for almost a week. You have faithfully soaked, drained, and harvested the sprouts. Now, what in the world do you do with those funny squiggly vegetables?
Before eating sprouts raw or cooking them, a final rinsing, cleaning, and culling is in order. Place the sprouts in your strainer a handful at a time and rinse with a light spray of water to avoid breaking the tender shoots. Drain completely to avoid adding any excess water to your recipes.
It is important to check over the sprouts once more, carefully removing those that show no signs of having sprouted. These are often found at the bottom of the container and are generally hard as a stone and not something you would want to chew. Also remove any mushy or broken beans. Now is the time to hull the sprouts if you decide to spend the time and effort, if you find them hard to digest, or if you are using a heavy-hulled seed.
The sprouted bean has a refrigerator life of 7-to-70 days, depending on the variety. For the first 7 days the sprouts show a steady increase in the amount of vitamin C, even after refrigeration. From that time on, they begin to lose their potency.
Refrigerate the sprouts immediately when they reach their peak for harvesting. First rinse them quickly in cold water, drain thoroughly, and wrap them loosely in a single layer of damp paper toweling. Place the sprouts in a plastic bag and seal tightly. If you aren't using them up quickly and they begin to wilt or dry out, they may be rinsed again in cold water, rewrapped, and refrigerated.
Sprouts may be dried very successfully. Spread them on a cookie sheet and leave in a warm room or place in a slightly heated oven until they are dry. Grind the dried sprouts in a blender and store in a tightly covered jar. This nutty, delicious sprout powder can be used as an additive to beverages, baked goods, baby foods, desserts, nut butters, spreads, etc. It is a nutritious food concentrate, with more food value than the original dry seed, and will keep for a long time. Wheat, rye, soy, sesame, and alfalfa are all excellent candidates for drying.
Measure out the amount of sprouts you wish to use in a recipe and store the remainder in the refrigerator immediately. Sprouts are measured by placing them in a measuring cup and lightly pressing until the cup is filled to the desired amount. Don't push so hard that they crush or break, but don't fill the cup too loosely, leaving too much air space between the sprouts. If you have measured properly, the sprouts will pop back up after they are pressed in for a moment. A half-cup of mung beans, loosely packed, will measure 3/4 cup, but they can easily be pressed to the 1/2 cup mark without bruising the sprouts.
When a recipe calls for one particular type of sprout, you may experiment by substituting a sprout from the same family group which will behave in a similar manner in a cooked recipe. In salads, soups, and sandwiches it rarely matters what substitution is made. But since no two sprouts taste alike, the flavor will differ in the finished recipe.
Remember that sprouts contain large amounts of water which must be taken into account when experimenting and adding sprouts to your own recipes. This is especially important in baking breads.
When grinding raw sprouts, choose immature ones (usually 2 days old) which haven't absorbed too much water yet. But when using, sprouts raw in salads and sandwiches, the older, plumper sprouts add more crispness and flavor.
This is the basic and most common way to use sprouts as a vegetable. When using soy, garbanzo, pea, and some of the tougher beansprouts, you will want to steam them for 10 minutes first.
1. Heat oil and saute garlic or onion or other seasoning until tender.
2. Add sprouts and stir-fry quickly 3 minutes.
3. Moisten with broth, gravy, or juice.
4. Season and serve. Good seasonings include soy sauce, salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, herbs of your choosing.
This recipe is hard to believe in, so don't tell anyone that they are eating a vegetable for dessert. It is super nutritious and delicious, with a crunchy nut texture and a flavor similar to that of pumpkin pie.
1. Combine sugar, 1/3 of the milk, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
2. Put sprouts through meat grinder. Pack down firmly to measure.
3. Stir sugar mixture, sprouts, and eggs together very well, slowly adding rest of the milk.
4. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit about 45 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Yield: one 9 inch pie
Sprouted Wheat Bread
Use sprouts that are young; the shoot must not be longer than the grain itself.
1. Pour 1 cup lukewarm water into large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons yeast and dissolve.
2. Add the remaining 2 cups of water, the salt, honey, and oil.
3. Stir in white flour. Beat well. Cover and let sponge double in warm place (80 degrees Fahrenheit).
4. Add ground and whole sprouts to sponge. Work in about 2 cups whole wheat flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in clean oiled bowl, cover, and let rise again in warm place until doubled.
5. Knead again, adding more flour if necessary. Form into 2 loaves
and place in greased pans. Bake at 350 degrees 1 for 1 1/4 hours.
6. Remove from pans. Cool on wire rack.
Yield: 2 loaves.
Meat Loaf with Sprouts
This, makes an extra-nutritious meat loaf. The texture is light, the meat stays very juicy. An excellent cold dish, it slices well for sandwiches.
1. Put sprouts and onion through grinder.
2. Mix with ground meat and all other ingredients.
3. Form into loaf and place in lightly greased loaf pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour.
5. Serve with tomato or cheese sauce.
Yield: 4-to-6 servings.
This is a nutritious, delicious snack that keeps well for weeks. Carry it in the car, to school, to work. Serve in small bowls in place of nuts.
METHOD I: This makes the sprouts taste like fresh-roasted peanuts.
1. Put oil in deep saucepan to the depth of 1 inch. Heat to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Rinse and drain sprouts thoroughly. Pat dry between layers of absorbent towels.
3. Deep-fry sprouts, a few at a time. Caution: fat will bubble up.
4. Remove when they are golden brown and drain on paper towels.
5. Salt to taste.
METHOD II: Good if you are avoiding fats in your diet.
1. Place sprouts in single layer in a baking pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1/2 hour, until sprouts are golden brown.
3. Salt to taste.
Here is a way to carry your sprouts wherever you go, by sprouting in a lightweight, flexible plastic bag. You need only rinse them with water morning and evening to have fresh vegetables for your meals away from home.
You will need the following materials:
Directions for Knapsack Sprouting
From The Beansprout Book by Gay Courter (illustrations by Lorraine Badger). Copyright 1973 by the author. Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York.
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