When you buy bean sprouts at the supermarket, they are probably sprouted from mung beans. Oriental cooking has used these sprouts for centuries as a fresh vegetable. In most Asian countries, you can find them in market stalls. The same is true in Central America and East Africa. It's only in recent years that they've become popular in other countries. Nowadays, you can find them in the produce sections of many grocery stores and supermarkets.
These are small beans shaped like cylinders and they have a bright green skin. The beans themselves are used whole for cooking although they are sometimes split and hulled. The split and hulled ones are small and yellow. They don't need to be soaked.
One of Many
While the mung bean is the one most likely to be sprouted, seeds of other legumes are becoming popular in some areas. For example, in Japan, blackgram is preferred because its sprouts are whiter and stay fresh longer than mung bean sprouts. In mainland China, small-seeded soybean sprouts are popular. In the United States, alfalfa has become available in many supermarkets and specialty stores.
Mung bean sprouts are often eaten fresh in salads. When 100 g of mature, raw mung beans are sprouted, they go from 384 calories to 313; the carbohydrates are reduced from 67.5 to 58.8; Protein goes from 27.1 to 33.8; lipids go from 1.46 to 1.77; and minerals increase dramatically.
Chinese Farmers Grow Mung Beans Mostly by Hand
They dry them on gravel roads, and they are pretty dusty when they come to us. It's wise to rinse them thoroughly and cull through them before moving on to the soaking phase. Be on the lookout for small bean-look-alike pebbles. Even on high-quality seeds, it's wise to go through these steps before soaking them. Once in a while, you may get some mung beans that will remain hard after soaking. Be sure to look through your soaked beans to find those hard ones and throw them out. They are smaller and darker, so you shouldn't have any trouble seeing them. The will “clink” when they hit the pan whereas those that have soaked up a lot of water will not make a noise.
It's wise to soak mung beans for twelve hours. Be sure that your water is at about 70c ½F. You can decide whether you want to grow small, sweet mung sprouts or big mungs. The small ones will be ready when the roots have grown to ¼ to ½ inches. The big mungs will have 1 to 3-inch roots. In either case, remember to rinse and drain every 8 ½ hours.
Supermarket & Chinese Restaurant Mung Bean Sprouts
The mung bean sprouts you see in a supermarket or a Chinese restaurant will most likely have big stems and thick roots. These are grown with chemicals and gasses in 500-gallon machines. Your home-grown sprouts are not going to look like that. However, you can get some thick roots by using a sprouter that drains from the bottom. Also, you’ll need to be careful about disturbing the seeds and sprouts when you rinse. The beans need to remain stationary. You want them to form a mass that can't be moved. Also, you will want to rinse longer and with lower water pressure. If you’re rinsing in the sink, you might try the sprayer during the first two to three days until the roots have formed a firm mass.
Your sprouts will be ready for harvesting from 8 to 24 hours after the final rinse. Drain them thoroughly. Put your sprouts in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. You can expect a 2 to 1 yield for short and sweet mungs; however, the yield for big and thick mungs may be as high as 3.5 to 1.
Mungs are the most consumed sprout in the world. As we noted above, Asian cuisine uses them extensively. Also, they’re the best sprout for adding to your raw dishes or in your favorite green smoothie recipe.
By TTS Cofounder Botanical Chef Omid Jaffari