I really lucked out last week by finding sprouted beans at the farmer's market for my blog on The Enlightenment Bowl. It made me realize that not everyone has access to sprouted pulses (beans and lentils). Most grocery stores don't carry them and unless you have a large farmer's market, most likely you will not find them there either. So I did a little googling and found out that sprouting is so simple!
You might be wondering why you should even bother adding sprouted lentils or beans to your dishes when you can easily pop open a can beans. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that sprouting your dried pulses is one of the smartest things you can do for your digestive and nutritional health.
- Sprouting is really the birth of a plant from it's seed. Once this process happens, it creates an increase in nutrients as the new sprouted plant grows. At the same time, the calories and carbohydrates once found in this lentil or bean pod decreases as the new growth breaks these elements down. More nutrients, less calories and carbs. Sounds like magic, but it's really just nature at work.
- Sprouting also breaks down the outside coating on pulses, which lock in the nutrients. If your digestive system isn't able to break through this outside coating, you simply don't get as much of the nutrients from eating them as you should. Think about it—you are eating lentils and beans to be healthy and to reap the benefits of the protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A and the myriad of B vitamins they contain—and because you are not sprouting them first, you are missing out on the whole purpose of eating them. You will absolutely still get a lot of these nutrients if you don't sprout your pulses first, but it doesn't compare to what you could get in nutritional value from sprouting.
- Beans contain large amounts of complex sugars, which can't be absorbed in our intestines and so they produce equally large amounts of...gas. Yeah, I know gas and bloating are probably the number one reasons you avoid eating beans. Sprouting breaks down these complex sugars, which helps in digestion and will make you a much more pleasant person to be around. Keep in mind, you don't have to soak the beans to the point of complete sprouting in order to receive at least some reduction in the amount of gas these unabsorbed complex sugars create, which is why you are always instructed to "soak" your dried beans the night before.
There is some concern with food safety when it comes to sprouting, however my theory is that I would rather be in control of it by sprouting myself then trusting how long something has been on the shelf at the store or market.
The key to safety in sprouting is to keep everything clean and out of direct sunlight during the sprouting process. When you have finished sprouting, keep your sprouts fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days in a sealed bag or container.
When in doubt, smell them. They aren't shy. They will let you know when they are ready for the compost. Sprouts that are still good really don't have much of a smell. They just smell clean and fresh. Sprouted pulses that are past their desired life smell sour. You will know. And if they have been in the refrigerator more than 5 days just assume they are bad and throw them in the compost bin. So the key is to only sprout what you want to use that week.
To cook or not to cook? You will see a lot of controversy over this. The safest thing to do it to not eat them raw. That being said, I eat them raw for the most part. Like I said above, clean containers, clean hands, keeping them out of the sun, refrigerating after sprouted, and only keeping for 3-5 days after will make a perfectly safe sprout to eat raw. Make your own choice based on your comfort level.
How to Sprout:
They actually make sprouting containers you can buy, however a glass mason jar works just fine. Make sure it is super clean though. Wash and strain your pulse of choice. Then place the dried beans or lentils in the jar and fill with enough water to cover at least 2 inches above the top of the dried pulse. In my three jars, I did half a cup dried lentils, 1/4 cup of dried small french lentils, and 1/4 cup dried mung beans for this blog. Place cheesecloth or a paper towel over the top of the jar to protect it from the elements through the whole process. Soak in the water overnight or for 8 hours.
Take your nice clean hands and place them over the top opening of your jar to drain the water. Fill with fresh cold water, swirl around and then drain again. You aren't trying to remove the beans or lentils from the jar with this process, but simply to get the soaking water out, rinse, and then drain again to remove all water from the jar, leaving just the damp lentils or beans by themselves.
Rinse, swirl, and drain twice a day for 4 - 5 days until your pulse if fully sprouted. This twice a day procedure is important to keep them clean and fresh as they sprout. Otherwise you will not get edible sprouts at the end, but will have moldy ones to compost instead.
By day two you will notice them starting to sprout.
Now don't over-complicate this rinsing, swirling, and draining process. Like I said, use your clean hands and do it over the sink. If a few lentils escape through your fingers, let them go and be free. Fill the jar with cool water, put your hand over the top opening of the jar and swirl everything around to loosen up the beans or lentils, then turn the jar upside down and let the water escape through the crevices of your hand. It really is that easy.
Before you know it, you will have a jar full of wonderful sprouted pulses.
Once you have finished sprouting your pulse, they need to be prepped for storage. I lay out paper towels onto the counter and spread the sprouted bean or lentil out to air dry a few hours. A clean cloth towel will work just as well.
Once they are dry I wrap them in fresh paper towels and store them in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.
Now that you have successfully sprouted your own pulses, what are you going to do with them?! I love them raw on salads and sandwiches. But you can also cook them as you would their unsprouted counterparts and serve as normal. They would be lovely cooked and added to a rice bowl or used in soups. They were perfect on last week's blog recipe, The Enlightenment Bowl.
I hope you have enjoyed learning how to sprout pulses. They say 2016 is the "year of the pulse". Sprouted pulses take this to a elevated nutritional level. Let the germination begin.