Discover the Value of Sprouts
WOULD you like to have fresh vegetables or their equivalent the year around at a fraction of the cost you would have to pay for them at the grocery store? Would you like to make sure that you always get the needed vitamins, trace elements, enzymes and protein in your food? Would you like to add new flavor and texture to many of your dishes? And would you like to give your children, as young as the five-year-old, an absorbing task, one that is both useful and educational? Then by all means explore the potentialities of sprouted beans and other seeds.
There is no question as to the nutritional value of sprouts. Imagine, researchers tell us that various sprouted seeds contain from 50 to 1,350 percent more of certain vitamins, trace elements and enzymes than do the same seeds in their dried state. Sprouts have even been found to be superior to lemon juice in treating scurvy. Or are you interested in watching your calories?
Well, sprouted seeds contain less of carbohydrates, and, hence, fewer calories, and more protein than do unsprouted seeds. Sprouts are even said to be a “complete” food, in that they contain essential amino acids missing in seeds in their dried state. In Utah a family of seven lived on nothing but sprouts for six months and remained healthy and strong. Not to be overlooked is the fact that when you grow your own sprouts you need not worry about chemical additives and preservatives.
Sprouts also have much in their favor because of being so economical. The various kinds of beans and other seeds usually cost anywhere from fifteen cents to some two dollars a pound, as in the case of alfalfa. The most popular sprouting seeds are the Chinese mung beans, and these can be obtained for about a dollar a pound. How much in the way of sprouts will a pound of such beans produce? Eight pounds! At four servings a pound, each serving of mung sprouts comes to about three cents. For seeds that you can buy for fifteen cents a pound, each serving would come to half a cent. It cost that Utah family of seven that lived solely on sprouts only $52.50 for the six months!
If you are a housewife that likes variety in your meals, sprouts are just the thing; they add something exotic, as it were, to your dishes. In New York city each day four to five tons of bean sprouts are harvested in Chinatown for the some 2,000 Chinese restaurants in Greater New York. Sprouts also add pleasure to eating by their tenderness and crunchiness. Thus the Chinese egg roll would be heavy indeed if it did not abound in bean sprouts.
Sprouting Your Own Seeds
Of course, those who are just interested in adding sprouts to their meals without growing them, might be able to buy them at a grocery store, if they are available in the area. But that is a big IF.
This matter of sprouting seeds calls to mind what God said to the first human pair in the garden of Eden: “I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth . . . To you let it serve as food.” (Gen. 1:29) It is the force of life in seeds that accounts for all the value of sprouts, but it is dormant until certain conditions are met. One of these conditions is a certain amount of moisture. Another is the right temperature, between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Another requirement is air, and still another is darkness; the latter being necessary for the sprouts to be tasty and tender.
What do you need to sprout seeds? A minimum would be a large (1- or 2-quart) jar with a very wide mouth, a piece of cheesecloth to cover the top of it, a rubber band and a dish such as a pie plate.
Among the seeds that you can use to get sprouts are alfalfa (which, while more expensive, gives you correspondingly more sprouts per pound because the seeds are so small), the various kinds of beans, navy, mung, soy and suchlike, garbanzos or chick-peas, lentils, millet, red clover, rye, sweet corn and wheat. Some of these you may be able to get at the corner grocery, but for others you may need to go to a health-food store or a regular seed store. If you get them at the latter, make sure that the seeds have not been treated with a chemical to deter insects.
Being a beginner, you might do best to experiment with the Chinese mung bean (if obtainable). The first step is to soak them overnight in warm water (in Chinatown they soak them in hot water). Start off with a quarter cup of beans in a pint of water.
By morning this water will have minerals in it that you might want to utilize in cooking or in watering your plants. After pouring off the water, rinse the beans with fresh water and then put them in the jar, covering the top with cheesecloth, fastened with a rubber band. Place the jar tilted on a dish so that none of the seeds are lying in water (also see that the seeds are spread out, none lying on top of another). Then place them in a dark place or cover over with a cloth to keep out the light. At midday run water through the cheesecloth and then pour it off; do the same in the evening and repeat this three times a day until the sprouts are some two or more inches in length. The rinsing is necessary to get rid of the toxic chemicals forming as the seeds grow. Taking care of this task while watching the sprouts grow is something that almost any child would find very interesting.
The jar method is by far the simplest. To have a variety of sprouts growing at one time and yet to save space, some build tiny wooden trays, 6 by 2-1⁄2 by 1-1⁄2 inches, with holes on the bottom, and stack these one on top of the other, with the bottom tray slightly raised in a glass or metal tray. By watering the top tray all the others below get watered—four times a day. Other people build a frame, 16 by 12 by 9 inches, and set it 3 inches deep in the garden. Seeds are spread in it, covered with light soil; the frame has a lid that keeps out light but allows air to enter. Add a bottom to the frame and you can grow sprouts with soil in your city apartment. This method requires no further attention except to harvest the sprouts, which are said to have more nutrients than those raised with just water. A few hours of sunshine after sprouts are ready to be eaten will add chlorophyll to them.
As to how to serve them: the simplest and most nourishing way is to serve them raw by themselves or with greens or onions and with some kind of dressing. The next simplest way is to sauté them with onions. And, of course, you can add them to any vegetable, egg, meat or fish dish for flavor, variety and nourishment.
Yes, bean sprouts, long a Chinese delicacy, are being appreciated more and more and have much to recommend them for their food value, economy and taste.