Learning to feed yourself can be one of the most terrifying things. Am I about to give myself food poisoning? If I eat this too often will I end up with scurvy? How can I get the most nutritional bang for my buck? Why does this still taste like ass?
With Ode to My Pantry, learn to navigate a grocery store without having a meltdown in aisle three. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a queer to cook and stave off malnutrition for another semester.
I’m growing my own sprouts. This is a Big Deal for me. See, I have what I like to call The Black Thumb of Death. I am just not gosh darn talented at keeping plants alive. Wilty the Basil Plant? Dead. Deceasey the Succulent? Gone. My Herb-B-Q full of thyme and Thai basil? Dead once my roomie left. Dragon trees? Money trees? Jade plants? All were put out with the garbage last week. Just to let you know how terrible I am, I’m currently enamoured by these crocheted cacti because there’s a 90% chance I can keep them alive. But sometimes in the face of known adversity, my tummy rumbles are louder than reason.
I get crunch cravings. Sometimes these textural cravings are fulfilled with kettle chips or popcorn, but more often it’s the snap of fresh veggies that I’ll actually heed. Throughout the wintry months I’ll eat kale, beets and carrots dutifully, but I just want something juicier. Is that weird? Probably, but I’m not one to argue with my stomach. My friend showed off her green thumb with her winter Zombie Veggie Garden and while inspiring, it still requires you to plant them in a pot. Sprouts are a different story.
While I am still sceptical about sprouts as an enzyme-filled magical bean wonder food, I’ll agree that they are tasty. Compared to their hibernation state, they contain more vitamin C (but still not that much), fewer carbohydrates and a comparable amount of protein. If you were planning on using your sprouts as a protein source, keep in mind you will have to eat a lot more by volume to make up for the added water content. Do they contain a life force or magical enzymes that will help you through your day? Only time will tell. The one thing research shows is that sprouts are generally more digestible than beans. Since they have to use up their stores of oligosaccharides to grow, your gut bacteria will have less problematic carbs to nosh on. So if you consider not farting your girlfriend awake a superpower, think of sprouts as your radioactive spider.
When it comes to making your own sprouts, you could go the sprouting jar route or rustle through your pantry and make it yourself. I start this helpfully snarky Instructable yesterday and didn’t double over in fear! Maybe it’s because it seems more “DIY” than “Gardening Makes Me Cry.”
Start by gathering and washing your beans. Be sure to remove any rocks, twigs, broken beans and other non-sproutable/edible
object. Fill a mason jar a quarter-full of beans and the remaining space with clean water. Cover it with a piece of cheese cloth, a pierced lid, mesh screen or sprouting lid and move to a cool, dry place overnight. Within one day you should have bloated beans. Drain, give them a rinse and drain again. Store them inverted so air can circulate and the sprouts can stay moist without soaking in their own juices. Keep up this rinse, wash, rinse, drain dance. If you want them to become green (like alfalfa), move them into the sun to produce chlorophyll. Otherwise, keep ‘em hidden to preserve the whiteness. If all goes well you (and I) will have a jar o’ sprouts within 2-5 days. Throw them into a bowl of water so the seed coats can float away and you’re ready to go. I don’t even think I can fuck this up.
(As a future note, if I ever show a gardening project you should immediately assume that someone else did it for me. Unless of course I did grow it myself, then I’ll be as surprised as you.)
If you’re going the Black Thumb of Death route (ie. Purchasing them from the store), just make sure you are buying the best babies you can. Look for mung or soybean sprouts that are bright white, thick and turgid. Starting to look rusty? Give it a pass. Water pooling in the bottom of the container? Nope. Translucent scarring? Nope. Do they feel slimy? Hell no!
One way or another, you have a shitton of sprouts. How should you store them? There are two belief systems when it comes to sprout storage: keep ‘em super dry or keep ‘em super wet. If you’re going for dry, give your sprouts a thorough rinse and dry with a colander or a salad spinner. Berry clamshells works well as containment units since the slits allow for air flow and moisture drainage. Just be sure to line the top and the bottom with paper towel. If you want to try wet, fill a container with frigid water and plunk your sprouts inside, making sure they stay immersed. Just like your barely-alive sea monkeys, you will have to change the water frequently. You could also freeze your sprouts if you were planning on eating them cooked.
In their fresh form, sprouts lend a juicy bite to sandwiches and salads. My favourite salad to make started off as an offshoot on vegetarian Banh Mi when I wasn’t coordinated enough to buy baguettes. Julienne carrots, daikon, jalapenos and red bell peppers and combine with washed mung bean sprouts. Toss peanuts and firm tofu cubes in a pan until lightly toasted. Combine everything with nuoc cham. Top with fried shallots and shredded cilantro (if you roll that way) and dinner’s ready! You can also add some rice noodles for a more substantial meal.
When my sprouts are reaching the end of their lifespan and starting to wilt, it’s time to think about your cooked options. Having a stirfy? Throw them in. Making hotpot? That’ll work too. My favourite way to kill sprouts is kongnamul muchim, a soybean sprout side dish combining blanched sprouts, sesame oil, garlic, chili and salt. Depending on which type of sprout is meeting its demise in my fridge, I’ll substitute mung bean sprouts for soy bean sprouts. My friend assures me that there is no such thing as nokdu namul muchim, but that won’t stop me from making it anyways.
But as with any food that’s fun to eat, there’s gotta be a controversy. Are your sprouts toxic? Are they indigestible? Are you going to end up with food poisoning? When it comes to sprouts, I will trust alfalfa, mung bean, soy bean and the other offerings readily available on store shelves. When it comes to more “exotic” beans, I rely on the power of the Google and then listen to my gut. And by that, I mean if I end up horrendously ill, I’ll take it as a sign I shouldn’t eat them. Keep in mind that since bean sprouts are tiny edible sponges, they’re commonly tied to food poisoning outbreaks. Make sure you grow and store your sprouts in clean water. This doesn’t mean you should abstain from them completely, just pay attention to any outbreak news in your area. And wash ‘em well for gosh sakes.
Time will only tell if I managed to fuck up these sprouts. Until then, I’ll eat the store I have in my fridge. Have you successfully sprouted your own seeds or beans?