Recently, I have been on a ‘sprouting’ spree!! Why all this interest in sprouting suddenly? Remember my post on Moong Dal that proved sprouting reduces gas-forming and other anti-nutrients? That and the post on Iron absorption that proved sprouting makes it easier for you to assimilate Iron in your body? I mean, I knew sprouting was good for you; but I did not have any evidence until now as to why it was good for you. And once I saw the evidence, it made so much sense.
Anyhow, so I decided to sprout any available legume in my house – small and large and see what happens. This post details what I did and what I learnt from the process:
Soak the legumes (smaller legumes for 4-6 hours, larger legumes overnight)
Once soaked, drain the water completely from the legumes
Leave it to sprout in a dark place for next 12 hours.
Rinse and drain twice a day
Leave it to sprout again until you are satisfied with the growth.
(In the image above, the toor dal has not sprouted, and you will see why down below…)
Store sprouts in the refrigerator
What I learnt from the process
1) You don’t need fancy equipment to start sprouting
Now, everybody know about the cheese cloth or the thin Indian towel technique to sprout their legumes. Frankly, I don’t have any cheese cloth lying around. And the damp towel technique is scary. Where will the towel hang? Why does the concept of touching a prolonged wet towel bother me? So many questions…
Anyway, I have a totally easy solution for you. Do you have a bunch of take-out containers or any plastic dabba (Yogurt containers, idli batter dabbas) tucked away in some top shelf? Do you wield a screwdriver? Or even a metal rod made hot? Just use them to drill holes in the top of the take out container and ta-da!! you have build yourself a sprouting equipment!!
Another simple idea: convert your metal steamer or idli/dokla plate (if you have one) into a sprouter + steamer. Soak them in water in the bottom section. Let sprouts drain in the top colander. Rinse, repeat and boom: 1-2 days later steam those tiny-sprout lings directly!!
This idea only works if you plan to not use your steamer for 1-2 days for other activities.
2) Don’t give up if one batch does not sprout
Sometimes sprouting may not happen – You may have gotten a bad batch. Maybe you did not soak it long enough, or maybe you did not drain the water enough (water logged) etc. But please don’t give up. It is a straightforward process, and just like many aspects of cooking – once you get the hang of it – you will be thinking “This is what I was so worried about?”
Here’s a batch of toor dal that did not sprout. I forgot and soaked it only for a few hours like the smaller legumes. By day 2, I realized this is not going to sprout. Day 3 and 4 confirmed my theory.
So, I tried a new batch – this time by soaking overnight. This batch sprouted well.
3) Small sprouts are better than large sprouts
Here’s what I found: sprouts retain a bit of crunch even if you cook them for a long time. Arguably, the crunch is what people love about sprouts. But that becomes its downfall, when dealing with large legume sprouts.
You see, our Indian sauces for large legumes (black eye peas, vaal ki dal, whole toor, etc) need that starchy softness when cooked that gives it a creamy mouthfeel when you scoop it up with chapathi or roti. When you cook large sprouts 2 things happen
1) It takes a long time pressure cooking it to breakdown the sprouts into a soft mush (which basically eliminates the cooking time advantage that I always felt sprouts had)
Same issue with Vaal Dal (Lima Beans).
Note: I have made these 2 recipes multiple times (the non-sprouted version) and the legumes mash easily at 12 minutes. The sprouted version may have gotten cooked, but did not get squishy soft unless I pressure cooked it more.
Compare that to small legumes that even when sprouted gets cooked and soft enough at less time – eg moth beans cooked at 3 minutes.
2) Second problem with large sprouted legumes – The outer coating starts to loosen from the inner part as the sprout grow. Because of this, the sauce will have 2 distinct parts floating in it – the fibrous skin layer and the creamy insides – which then affects the mouthfeel.
Another problem – and this one is psychological. We can accept eating crunchy small legumes in its raw or steamed versions. If they are large legumes, then we start equating the crunch to ‘uncooked’ beans? And worry whether we will get gas because of the ‘uncooked’ sprouts. It might be just my problem, but this is my viewpoint.
Above Image: Sprouted toor dal cooked at 25 min, seemed to be cooked on the inside, still hard in texture.
4) Small sprouts are basically a vegetable
Sprouting, in my opinion, is a magical process that converts the small legume into a vegetable. Have no fresh vegetables in your pantry and want to make a quick poriyal? No worries, just steam and stir fry small legume sprouts (horsegram, moong beans, moth beans, green lentils, whole masoor etc).
A mix of small lentils (not pictured) makes a super tasty stir-fry as well.
Just a perfect, quick accompaniment to sambar rice!! No chopping necessary (except onions, of course)!!
5) What legumes can you sprout?
As long as they have their seed coats on and they are not split; you can try sprouting those legumes. For example, you can sprout whole toor, whole moong, whole urad and whole kala chana in the figure below. But not their split, hulled versions.
I hope you found this post on ‘My experiments with sprouting legumes’ useful. There was a time when I would rather go hungry than eat raw sprouts.
But, hey I feel cooking sprouts opened up a new world of taste, texture and nutrition to me. I have been so happy to stack dabbas (boxes) of sprouts in my refrigerator for a daily dish. The small legumes/lentils (mung, moth, urad, horsegram, lentils, etc…) are especially excellent vehicles for sprouting. I hope I inspired you to do the same.
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