Sprouting beans turns the dry bean into a fresh vegetable with more vitamins and a brighter flavor. It’s the perfect thing for late winter, when you are running out of fresh vegetable from the garden or any time you want an extra punch of nutrition in your menu. Added bonus: if you typically have trouble with gas, you may find that you have less gas when you use sprouted beans in your recipes.
Sprouting turns a dry grain or legume into a powerhouse of taste and nutrition.
You can sprout just about any seed or legume. Here we have red, brown and green lentils.
Sprouting is a great way to increase the nutritional value of beans as well as the flavor. Any seed will make a sprout: beans, wheat, nuts, alfalfa, radish and cabbage seeds. Basically, to sprout beans, they need to absorb water and then have a place to start growing a root.
To start, put the beans you want to sprout into a jar, cover the jar with water and allow to sit and soak. Small beans (like lentils) should soak 2-3 hours; medium beans and french lentils should soak 4-8 hours; larger beans (like garbanzos and dry peas) need to soak overnight—10-12 hours.
After they’ve soaked, drain them and let them sit in a covered shallow dish. OR you can turn the jar they soaked in on its side. The point is, the beans have to have room to grow and air circulation to prevent
them from spoiling before they grow. They can’t sprout well if they are all sitting on top of each other and there’s no room to grow. They sprout best when there are only two to four layers of beans.
You can buy sprouting trays (I like these that are stackable. I start a new every day or two ensure I have a steady supply of sprouts.) They help ensure that your bean or grains are not too cramped and get good drainage when you rinse. Or you can buy mesh lids to fit canning jars. These also help make it easy to rinse and drain your sprouts. But you can use any jar you have on hand and just strain through a sieve. Secure a piece of nylon or fine mesh tulle with a rubber band–that will also fit any jar.
Keep your beans hydrated
Sprouted beans are a living food, so you need to keep them hydrated. Rinse and drain the beans every day. This keeps them from spoiling or getting moldy and makes sure they have enough moisture to continue to grow. Just cover them with water, gently swish around, then drain them and put them back to bed—their shallow dish or the jar on its side.
When the roots get to the desired length, rinse them one more time, pat them dry with paper towels and store them in a covered dish or plastic baggie in the fridge. Add a paper towel to the baggie or storage container to absorb excess moisture. They will stay good in the fridge for 5-7 days.
That’s it. See how easy that was?
Mung bean sprouts are a staple in Chinese dishes, like chop suey or other stir-fry. If you want the thick sprouts like you see in the store, you have to make the roots work hard. Put a weight on the beans as they are sprouting. As the roots emerge, they have to push against this weight and that’s what makes them thicker.
Just spread the rinsed beans in a shallow dish, like a glass pie plate. Put a plate on top that is just a little smaller in diameter than the pie plate so that the plate will sit directly on the beans. Weight it with a brick or a couple soup cans.
The sprouts you buy in the store usually have the skins removed. You can rinse the skins off the beans, but this will also remove a lot of the insoluble fiber found in beans and make your dish less colorful. Removing the skins is a matter of taste.
Removing the skins
Most of the skins will wash off in the daily rinsing process. But if there are still too many skins attached for your taste, you can try removing them with baking soda and vinegar. Cover beans with water, add a couple tablespoons of baking soda and swish beans around to loosen the skins. Add ¼ cup of vinegar and most of the skins will float to the top.
Pour off the skins that float to the top, add a little more vinegar, swish around and pour off. Repeat until you’ve removed as much of the skins as you’d like. Rinse beans well to remove all the vinegar before storing the sprouts.
1/4 Cup of mung beans will yield about 1 quart of mung bean sprouts after 3–4 days of sprouting.
How long will it take?
The time it takes to get nice bean sprouts depends on the size of the bean and how warm your house is. Smaller beans, like lentils, will be ready in just a day or two, three at the most. Larger beans, like garbanzo, may take as long as a week. Just check their growth when you rinse every day and stop when they have reached what looks like a good length. If you sprout for too long, the bean will start to produce leaves. You’ll see the tiny starts of green leaves emerging from the crack in the bean. That’s OK. You can still use it, but now you know it’s time to stop.
Don’t stop with beans
You can sprout just about anything: wheat, barley, corn, seeds of any kind. The general rule of thumb is the smaller the seed, the less time you soak it and the less time it takes to give you sprouts. For most of these (except for maybe corn) you want to eat them after they have leaves. Chia, mustard seed, cabbage seed and the like are great on salads once they’ve started putting out little leaves. Wheat and barley grass are packed with nutrients and make a tasty green smoothy.
When I’m sprouting seeds or small grains, I find that I get better sprouts when I use a sprouting tray. The
leaves tend to get tangled and torn if I rinse them in a jar. The sprouting tray also helps keep mold at bay since the sprouts “breath” easier in a flat tray than they do in a jar. These trays are a nice way to store the sprouts in the refrigerator.
You can use sprouts in any recipe that calls for beans, lentils, barley or other grains. Add a few grains of sprouted wheat to your homemade bread for a tasty crunch. The Using Food Storage Basics section of the Recipes page has about a half dozen recipes using sprouts. Be sure to check my two favorites: Curry Lentil Salad and Sprouts in Garlic Sauce.