Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Bean Sprouts

I used to hate beansprouts as a kid. As far as I was concerned, they ruined a perfectly good mushroom chow mein, and had to be picked out. The tough, crunchy texture against the slippery soft noodles really bothered me. Then I was persuaded to have a go at making my own.

Turns out I love bean sprouts, I just don't like Chinese mung bean sprouts (also known as nga choi or silver sprouts) where mung beans are tightly packed together & sprouted in darkness, which is how they get their crunchy texture. Bean sprouts grown on a sunny windowsill are sweeter & more tender, only take a couple of days & are an absolute doddle to make!
Bean sprouts are whole beans, nuts or seeds that have been soaked, drained & rinsed until they germinate (sprouted barley grains is an essential part of beer making. The grains are soaked & sprouted to activate the enzymes that will turn the starches into fermentable sugars & kiln dried. Then they get made into beer. Delicious beer.). They are rich in easily digestible vitamins, minerals & protein and are a great addition to salads, sandwiches, stews, stir-fries, bakes, breads... almost anything really!

There are a few different ways of growing beansprouts. If you're a big fan of eating them, it might be worth getting yourself a 3 tiered sprouter like the one pictured above (a Being Fare 3 shelf sprouter. I have this out on my windowsill all the time!). You can buy sprouting jars, but they are really easy to make yourself. All you need is a large, wide-necked clear glass jar (an old pickle jar will do), an elastic band & a square of muslin large enough to comfortably cover the top of the jar.
So now you need something to sprout. There are lots of different seeds & beans that sprout really well, and in future posts I'll go into more detail about them.
You'll also need to bear in mind what quantity of sprouts you'll have. Too many seeds & they will be too tightly packed in the jar, it wont drain properly, and then there will be mould. dreadful, awful mould. So here's a guideline for what will fit comfortably in your jar or sprouter:
Seeds: 2-3tbs (30-45ml)
Beans: 1/4-1/2 cup (I use a little Chinese teacup to measure out my seeds.)
Before you go bedways one evening, measure out your seeds/pulses into your jar or sprouter. Check for broken seeds or bits of grit, give them a quick rinse to wash off any dust & put them & then cover with water (plenty of water, they will swell to double their size overnight).
Next morning drain off the water (it's full of nutrients, so I use it to water my plants. You could use it for making your breakfast smoothies too though). Rinse the seeds thoroughly & drain, and really make sure that the seeds are properly drained. You can even tilt your jar over a bowl or by the sink & leave it for a few minutes to make sure it's all drained. Poorly drained seeds means the dreaded mould (though that doesn't happen often, and its mostly when dealing with small seeds). Place on a sunny windowsill & leave. In the evening, give it another rinsing & draining.
After a few days, you'll have sprouts! Different seeds & pulses take differing amounts of time to sprout (a good source of sprouting information can be found here). But seeds like alfalfa will take a couple of days (they're ready to eat when the sprouts are around 1" long), beans will take a day or two longer. Generally speaking, if you start sprouting on a sunday, you'll be eating them by midweek. Yum!

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