Sprouts~the world’s youngest, squiggliest greens~are forever linked to hippies and crunchy health food. Not that healthy food~or hippies~are anything other than good, but Sprouts deserve a much wider audience and broader culinary use. There isn’t a green that’s fresher tasting, more local, cheaper, faster or easier to grow. When most our gardens are still hibernating during this winter's deep freeze, Alfalfa Sprouts put a fresh, green crunch into salads and sandwiches. Mung Bean Sprouts an Asian pantry staple for thousands of years, are essential in all kinds of astounding recipes, from stir-fries and spring rolls to soups and side dishes.
Speaking of health food, we must say that Sprouts do deserve their reputation as teensy nutritional powerhouses. They’re packed with vitamins A, C and E, iron, potassium and amino acids. We grow Sprouts to enjoy all of these healthful benefits and to have our own supply of ultra-local off-season greens. Just a couple tablespoons of seeds per week will produce as many Sprouts as you can possibly eat.
It makes sense that gardeners crave greens more than “regular” people. Crunchy, more hefty Mung Beans are far and away the most popular Sprout on Earth. They’re the best Sprouts for cooking since they hold their own when combined with other vegetables, herbs and spices. The flavor of delicate, wispy thread-like Alfalfa Sprouts is milder with a slightly nutty flavor, yet a nice crisp texture. Unlike Mung Bean Sprouts, which taste best when they have been sprouted in low light, Alfalfa Sprouts finish their sprouting cycle in the sun, so they’re both colorful and rich in chlorophyll.
But please don't stop with Mung Bean Sprouts and Alfalfa Sprouts. Keep on sprouting with ever-more attitude. Try Broccoli, Radish and Fenugreek, too. Grown slightly differently, also try Curled Cress, Sunflower Sprouts and Pea Shoots. Although they are not included in our Sprout section, you will also be delighted with the sprouts of more zesty seeds like Arugula, Black Turtle Beans and Onions. These flavorful, tangy Sprouts are an amazing addition to baby leaf salads and as an haute cuisine garnish strewn atop special main dishes. You can get ever so creative with them~a secret ingredient to mystify and fascinate your dinner guests.
Do Try This at Home Kids
Keeping the family in Sprouts is a great job for the kids. Soak the seeds each Sunday and you’ll have a fresh week’s worth of Sprouts by Friday. Kids or not, the process of seed sprouting is easy. And it goes like this: Rinse. Soak. Drain. Rinse. Drain. Rinse. Drain. Rinse. Drain. Rinse. Drain. Eat. Repeat. It really is that easy, but to ensure your success, here are some detailed instructions.
Mung Bean Sprout Basics
Mung Bean seeds are dried in the sun after harvest and they sometimes arrive mixed with tiny clumps of soil or even small pebbles. Measure out the amount of seeds you’ll be sprouting and then rinse them very thoroughly in cool water. Transfer the seeds to a small container and cover them with at least three times as much cool water. Stir the seeds around a bit and let them soak for 12 hours. Skim off any floating seeds or debris, then drain off the soaking water and rinse the seeds well with cool water. Drain again. Put the soaked, drained seeds into a sprouter or a clean quart jar with a ventilated top (cheesecloth and a rubber band work fine). Keep the Sprouts on your countertop, in a low-light spot, but where there’s good air circulation and, most importantly, where you’ll notice them. Rinse and drain the seeds two to three times each day. When rinsing, do it very gently so the mass of seeds doesn’t break apart. Small Bean Sprouts (with ½ inch roots) may be eaten after just three days. For larger Sprouts (with 1 to 3 inch roots), soak the root mass after day three for about 15 minutes. Rinse carefully and very thoroughly, then continue with the regular rinse/drain cycle for another couple days. When the Sprouts are at the stage you want them, rinse, then let them air dry for several hours before you put them into a plastic bag or plastic container and store them in the refrigerator.
Alfalfa, Broccoli, Radish & Fenugreek Sprout Basics
Follow the same sprouting instructions as above, using no more than 2 tablespoons of seed for a quart-size sprouting container. Rinse the seeds thoroughly and then soak them in cool water for 8 to 12 hours. Rinse again with cool water and drain. Put the seeds into a sprouter or clean quart jar with a ventilated top and keep them on the countertop away from direct light. Rinse and drain two to three times every day. On day four, move the Sprouts to a place where they’ll get indirect sunlight so they can start to green up. Continue with the same rinsing and draining routine until about day six when the Sprouts should be ready to eat. If you want to remove the brown hulls (for aesthetic reasons), loosen the mass of Sprouts and gently agitate them in a large bowl of cool water. The hulls will rise to the surface and can be skimmed off. Let the Sprouts air dry for several hours before storing them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container.
Recipe Ideas for Sprouts
When you have your own bountiful supply of Mung Bean Sprouts, you may want to try serving them as a simple side dish. Just toss them for a minute or two in a hot wok with a little vegetable oil. Sprinkle with soy sauce, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, two pinches of sugar and salt to taste. Bean Sprouts are essential in pad Thai and a must for topping pho. Vietnamese pho soup is one of our sprouty favorites~a lovingly choreographed bowl of presoaked rice noodles and paper thin sirloin shavings over which piping hot, fragrant citrus-ginger beef broth is ladled to just cook the beef and warm the noodles. This bowl of goodness is topped off with crunchy Mung Bean sprouts and a choice of finely shorn fresh Basil or Mint leaves, minced Jalapeno Chile Peppers, Cilantro and fresh lime juice, and hoisin, fish and/or hot pepper sauce. Customized comfort in every savory spoonful. Once you have it, you want it always. Carve a snowy day out of your busy schedule and make Castle Hill Inn & Resort Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Cambra's Egg Rolls of Maine Shrimp with Thai Peanut Sauce. Absolutely delicious. Our Refreshing Cucumber Salad is an obsession of ours: lightly warm rice wine vinegar to dissolve a bit of sugar to taste. Add a couple drops of toasted sesame oil. Chill. Pour it over Mung Bean Sprouts, finely sliced, almost shaved Red Onion and thinly sliced seedless Cucumbers. Let it macerate in the fridge for no more than a half hour. It's such a unique, refreshing and delicious little salad~perfect with our Mixed Grill Sate of shrimp and pork served over Asian noodles with peanut sauce and crispy kroepoek, a Dutch-Indonesian fried cracker.
We love adding all kinds of Sprouts to colorful winter salads made with shredded raw Carrots, Beets and Celeriac. Alfalfa Sprouts get stuffed into every kind of sandwich and wrap. They’re a good companion for peanut butter, hummus, roast beef and tuna. Baby boomers looking for a trip down memory lane, might want to make the justly famous avocado and Alfalfa Sprout sandwich on gutsy whole wheat bread. It’s still every bit as delicious as we remember!