While many beans
and vegetables can produce edible seedling-sprouts just after seed germination, the term “sprouts” most commonly refers to the elongated silver-white sprouts of the mung bean. They are also known as green gram, golden gram and nga choy. These crunchy white sprouts have long since been a staple in many Asian countries and have recently become very popular in the U.S.
Though American have only tuned in to the virtues of bean sprouts in recent decades, they have been used in Chinese recipes and medicines for at least 3,000 years.
Some varieties of bean sprouts became heroes to eighteenth century scurvy-plague sailors in Europe. Because of their high vitamin C
content, sprouts were rationed out alongside citrus
fruits such as lemons
, helping to prevent the deaths of scores of sailors.
While we here primarily discuss mung bean sprouts, the sprouts of a handful of other beans and vegetables also deserve a mention. Each sprout variety is tasty and nutritious and suited to individual roles in recipes, both fresh and cooked, and each offers an individual assortment of beneficial nutrients.
Commonly-available sprouts include alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts, broccoli sprouts, buckwheat sprouts, lentil sprouts, mustard sprouts, radish sprouts, fenugreek sprouts, onion sprouts, snow pea shoots, soybean sprouts and sunflower sprouts.
Seek sprouts that look crisp, plump, bright white and nearly dry. Avoid sprouts that are stringy, discolored, or sold in discolored (yellowish or milky-colored) water.
Your best bet is always to purchase bean sprouts right before using them to ensure optimal crunchiness and fresh taste.
If you need to store your sprouts for a few days, moisten them with a small bit of water in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.
If you know you’ll be storing the sprouts for more than two days, place them in a container and cover them with water, changing the water every other day. Sprouts can usually last refrigerated this way for a week.
If you plan to use your sprouts in cooked dishes, they can also be frozen.
Bean sprouts are a deliciously crispy-cool addition to many Asian dishes, including stir-fries
. Stir-frying is an excellent method of bean sprout preparation because it allows the sprouts to release a protein that raw bean sprouts don’t provide. But take care not to fry away their sweet crunch; the heat is too much for bean sprouts to handle for longer than thirty seconds.
Don’t get confused by a recipe that calls for “silver sprouts,” as these are simply bean sprouts whose ends have been removed. While this can give your dish a sleeker aesthetic, it makes little if any taste difference and the tedious end-removal should be undertaken only if you are particularly concerned with your presentation.
Mung bean sprouts are a good source of protein