Friday, August 31, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Grow your own ... bean sprouts

When I was a kid, I didn't realize bean sprouts existed in any other form except canned. Mom used them in what she called "chop suey" but that was the only time they were ever used. They seemed exotic, in a canned-exotic sort of way.

Years later, when I found out how easy it was to grow bean sprouts at home, I was stunned. Bean sprouts weren't an exotic ingredient that had to be imported from exotic lands. They could be grown at home with no special ingredients or equipment.

It tales a little time, so you have to plan ahead. But it's not that long.

I like to grow my sprouts in a quart jar. I use a canning jar, but you could use any clean jar about that size.  piece of cheesecloth over the top fastened with a rubber band is all you for a lid.

Here's what you do.

Put about 2 tablespoons of mung bean seeds in a quart jar - if it's a canning jar, that's enough to cover the bottom of the jar in a single layer. Pour some water in the jar, swish it around, and pour out the extra water. You want the seeds wet, but not swimming in water.

Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and fasten it with a rubber band.

Put the jar in a dark place - in a cabinet will do. A dark corner of your kitchen is fine, but the darker the better.

After one day, the beans will have swelled a bit and you'll see a few little sprouts showing.

Rinse the beans again and dump out the water as before. The idea is to give the beans enough moisture to encourage them to start growing, but you don't want them sitting in a puddle of water.

On the next day, there will be more sprouts.

Again rinse and dump out the excess water. You'll be doing this every day. If you live in a really dry area, you can leave a little more water in the jar. If you live in an extremely humid area, you can leave the beans more dry.

Here are the bean sprouts on the next day.

Yours might grow a little slower or faster. That's okay. Rinse and drain again. Some of the green seed covers may have separated from the seeds, and they might float to the top of the jar if you fill it with water. You can scoop them off and get rid of them.

One more day, and this is what they look like.

Now you can see some thick sprouts and most of the green seed covers are detached. The jar is getting more full as the sprouts grow. Again, rinse and drain. You can get rid of whatever green seed bits if it's convenient.

One more day later, and this is what we've got.

The sprouts are longer and you can see some yellowish leaves. This is when they're ready. Now's the time to get rid of the rest of those green seed covers that are all loose. Also, when you buy bean sprouts, the roots are always removed. If the roots are small and thin it's probably no big deal, but if you've got big branchy roots, you might was well trim them off.

Easy, right?

You can grow these in much larger quantities, of course. Once they're done growing and you've removed the roots, you can store them in the refrigerator. They're sort of delicate - they won't stay fresh for more than a couple days.

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