Sprout your way to good health.

There is a tradition in our family for the breakfast on January first. We all have to talk about our new-year resolutions. This year one of my new-year decisions was to include more sprouts in my day to day cooking.

Sprouts are considered as wonder foods and powerhouse of nutritional goodness and life energy. It has been a part of the diet of many ancient races for thousands of years. Sprouts is the only vegetable that will grow in any climate, rival meat in nutritional value, matures in 3 to 5 days, requires neither soil or sunshine, and can be eaten raw. During sprouting, the beans lose their objectionable gas producing quality. Sprouts contain a lot of fiber and water, thus very helpful in overcoming constipation. In the process of sprouting, the proteins, vitamins and minerals increase dramatically but with a corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrates. The protein in sprouts is easily digestible.

All edible grains, seeds and legumes can be sprouted. My favorite sprouts are from Mung beans or Moong, peanuts, brown lentil and chickpeas. The most important step in sprouting is to buy beans or seeds from a store where they are fresh, unsprayed and packaged as food. (Seeds that are packaged for planting purposes may contain mercury compound or other toxic chemicals.) Always buy beans from stores that have good turnover, as old beans do not sprout.

Art of sprouting

The main factors behind sprouting are water, air, heat and darkness. The beans should be washed thoroughly and soaked overnight in water.

For one cup of bean, add 5 cups of warm water. The next day, drain off all the water and place the soaked beans in a colander. Place the colander in a big bowl and place a lid over it. This ensures airflow in the soaked beans and prevents the chance of rotting. Rinse the soaked beans with water a twice a day for the next two days. The seeds will germinate and sprout in 2-3 days depending on the temperature and humidity.

Here are some helpful hints for sprouting successfully every time.

  • Rinsing: Water is the key ingredient in sprouts. Use it liberally.
  • Draining: It is essential that sprouts be drained thoroughly after rinsing.
    (sitting in a puddle of water is the most common cause of failure)
  • Air Circulation: If your sprouts can’t breathe while growing - they can die. (Don’t put them in a closed cabinet.)
  • Storage: Fresh sprouts will keep for up to 6 weeks in your refrigerator in a zipock bag.

This may seem to be time consuming and tricky but trust me - once you understand the mechanism of sprouting; it is a snap. I prefer to sprout the beans in large quantities and then freeze the sprouts in small sandwich bags. Thus the sprouts are ready when I have the urge of cooking sprouts. Frozen sprouts can be added for stews, soups or stirfry recipes, but Frozen sprouts do not work well in in salads.

Here are two of my favorite recipes that are well seasoned and very easy to prepare.

Usal ( Sweet and Sour Sprouts )

This is a signature dish from Maharashtra, a western state of India. I remember eating this sweet and sour usal as after-school snack:

1 cup moong beans
1/4 cup raw peanuts
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (or as per taste)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut (optional)

Sprout the beans and peanuts. Rinse and keep aside. In a pan heat oil and add the chopped onion. Cook the onions for a minute. Add turmeric powder, chili powder and the sprouts mix. Mix well. Next add the water, salt, lime juice and sugar. Cover the lid and cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes. Finally add chopped cilantro and coconut and remove from heat.

Serve piping hot with crusty bread

Hema’s Hints:

You can substitute the sprouts in this recipe with a pack of bean sprouts mix available in the vegetable section

Masoor Khichadi ( Sprouted Lentil Rice Pilaf)

My friend Rashida, make a delicious rice dish with lentils and rice. I decided to add sprouted lentils for better nutrition.

1/2 cup brown lentils
1 cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon oil
4 one inch cinnamon stick
2 tomatoes diced
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
3/4 teaspoon salt (or as per taste)
4 cup hot water
Cilantro for garnish ( optional)

Sprout the lentils. Wash and rinse the rice. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add cinnamon sticks. Wait till it puffs up and releases aroma. Add chopped tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste. Stir fry for 3 minutes. Add lentils and rice and mix well. Finally add water and salt. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Cover with a tight fitting lid and lower the heat and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat but keep the lid on for five more minutes. The steam finishes the process of cooking. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Hema’s Hints:

1. This is a great dish to take for office parties.

2. For variety, replace sprouted lentils with the assorted bean sprout mix from the grocery stores

3. You may garnish with chopped almonds and cashew