Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sprouting pulses and seeds

Sprouted seeds and pulses are a nutritious, cost-effective way of livening up your daily fare: in fact they are a superfood. You can sprout mung beans, aduki beans, chickpeas, alfalfa, radish, mustard-and-cress, broccoli, wheat, sunflower seeds...the list is nearly endless! (Do not sprout red kidney beans however; as these are toxic raw.) Even if you buy one of the mixed sprout seed packets from the health food shop (see photo), they still work out as good value in terms of the volume you get from them. Each type of sprout takes a slightly different average time to grow, they all have great nutritional qualities (rich in aminoacids, and also vitamins and minerals) and there are a variety of flavours, colours and even textures. It's amazing how much you can get from a large tablespoon of beans/ seeds, and a handful of alfalfa or sunflower sprouts have saved many a salad when my fridge has been bereft of lettuce!
Historically, sprouted mung beans are mentioned in "Sri Caitanya Caritamrita", a sacred 16th-century Vaisanava text, as  having been served with salt and ginger. In some traditional Indian dishes, mung beans sprouted overnight are used cooked.
Here are some of the sprouts I grow regularly:
  • Alfalfa: Takes about 4-7 days to grow in England; they seem to speed up in warmer weather. Nothing can beat these feathery, mild-tasting sprouts combined with hummus or a bean pate in sandwiches or on crackers, and they bring new life to your standard lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad.
  • Mung: Homegrown mung sprouts never seem to get as long and fat as the ones you get in the supermarket, but they have more flavour. Make sure you buy the larger-sized mung beans because the smaller ones have a high proportion of beans that won't germinate, leaving you with horrible, tooth-breaking, bullets hiding amongst the sprouts.
  • Sunflower: My current favourite! This is because of their instantly revitalising properties and also because you can grow them into attractive little seedlings with proper leaves and they still taste great. They grow fast, too.
  • Chickpeas: They don't get green leaves on them, are quite crunchy, and are probably best mixed with other sprouts. I have yet to succeed in making a decent raw hummus with them.
How to grow sprouts: Most books tell you to soak the seeds/ beans for a few hours first, but I don't bother any more and still get good results. You can use a wide-necked jar with muslin held in place over the opening by an elastic band, or a purpose-made sprouter. (These come with several trays so you can grow different sprouts at the same time.) The most important thing to remember to do is rinse them regularly in fresh water, or they begin to decay.and are then oinly fit to be thrown away/ composted. With most sprouts you can get away with rinsing twice a day, but I find sunflower seeds need at least 3 rinses, especially in warm weather..
What dishes do you like to use sprouts in?

5 comments:

  1. I love sprouts! And the picture on top looks really good.
    My most common sprout is mung (which I use in salads). I also sprout chickpeas and black chana (a smaller, darker variant of chickpeas). As these tend to be very crunchy, I prefer to steam them slightly (to take some of the crunch off, but not till they are mushy). Take one spoon oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, turmeric, chilli powder or chopped green chilli, add the sprouts, salt and garam masala powder. Saute for a couple of minutes stirring to mix everything. And enjoy! (I think this dish is originally from the northwest region of India)

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  2. Thanks for the recipe; I shall sprout some kala channa and try it!

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  3. Hi there,
    Just wondering where you get your mung beans from? I'm very new to sprouting and got mine from a garden centre but they seemed quite costly for the size of the packet. Mind you, I don't want them to be dirt cheap if they're going to be of low quality.
    Thanks,
    Michelle

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  4. Hi Michelle,
    If you are in the UK you can get mung beans in quite large packets (500g, 1kg)from supermarkets like Waitrose or some Tescos (maybe also Sainsburys?)where they have a wholefoods section or Asian foods section. Sometimes you can buy organic ones, which are the best, having been grown without pesticides. Or of course you will get them in a wholefood/ health food shop. In Holland and Barrett you can buy a box of mixed beans and seeds for sprouting and this includes mung beans. It still works out as dearer than buying a bag of beans meant for cooking. I am lucky enough to live in an area with a large Asian population, and I usually get my mung beans from an Asian supermarket with brands like East End and Natco. If you do this, be careful not to buy the smaller type of mung bean, as I have found they don't have a good rate of germination and you end up with lots of hard beans among your sprouts. hope this helps- happy sprouting! :)

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  5. I am indeed in the UK. I live in Herts but go to London for work so I imagine I'll be able to find an Asian supermarket somewhere. It didn't occur to me to look in the supermarket but that'll probably be where I'll get my first chance to buy some.

    I don't think I'll get the mixed beans as I'm doing a batch of alfalfa at the moment in my homemade sprouter (cloth and plastic tub with rubber band), am not so keen on the tiddly little sprouts. That being said, I might like them so maybe when my Easy Sprouter arrives in the post I'll give it a go.

    Thank you for all the helpful information, it's much appreciated.

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