Sprouts are little plant vegetables that form when seeds are exposed to the right temperature and moisture. In general, every vegetable turns into a sprout at some point from seed to bloom. However, only some seeds that form into sprouts are edible.
Sprouts are native to India and Southeast Asia, and they have been in existence since the ancient times. They are valued in the East for their high levels of micronutrients, rapid growth period, easy preparation, adaptability in adverse climate conditions, and ability to be grown all year round. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that they started to gain popularity in the West.
Since sprouts are cheap and very easy to grow, most of them are just grown at home for personal use. For commercial use, on the other note, a local small market called “sprouters” and large-scale distributing sprouting facilities takes the lead. However, the FDA considered sprouts to be high-risk foods. This is due to the hazards of microbial contamination during sprout production and distribution.
Binomial Name: Varied
- Sprouts are natural antihistamines. They contain a natural enzyme called diamine oxidase, which absorbs histamine and decreases its level inside the body.
- For centuries now, Chinese people have been consuming sprouts for healing and rejuvenation.
- Beans were often brought on long sea expeditions back in the days. The beans were sprouted and consumed while at sea to prevent the voyagers from getting scurvy disease.
- Bean sprouts were especially recommended during WWII. Meat was limited during this time and consuming bean sprouts is one of the best ways to get protein.
Sprouts Buying Guide
You can find commercially available sprouts in the refrigerated produce section of the store. In general, when shopping for store-bought sprouts, look for lively sprouts that don’t show any signs of black or moldy spots. Though they should naturally smell grassy, earthy, or like good dirt, they should have a clean aroma with no foul odors. Thus, avoid the ones that have a musty smell or slimy appearance.
Categories of Sprouts:
There are many edible and palatable sprouts out there in the market and while it could be overwhelming to know each one, they can easily be categorized into three groups:
- Plant or Vegetable Sprouts – These include broccoli, alfalfa, beet, radish, mustard green, pumpkin, clover, cress, sesame, cress, and sunflower sprouts.
- Grain Sprouts – These include buckwheat, brown rice, oat, amaranth, quinoa, and Kamut sprouts.
- Bean and Pea Sprouts – These include mung bean, black bean, kidney bean, soybean, lentil, garbanzo, snow pea, and green pea sprouts. They are juicier than other sprouts and they can withstand the heat of stir-frying and other light cooking. When buying one, look for young or smaller ones because they tend to be tougher as they mature.
To further go into detail, we’ve gathered some of the most popular sprouts in the United States. Here are as follows:
Kinds of Sprouts:
- Alfalfa Sprouts – These are sprouts that are germinated from the tiny brown seeds of the alfalfa plant. They have thin and tangly white stalks, along with deep green leaves. They are the most common kind and widely consumed sprouts in the United States. In fact, roughly 80 million pounds of alfalfa seeds are produced annually here, and 85% of the production comes from California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. Although not all of the seeds are used for sprouts, they aren’t really handled differently. Nevertheless, Alfalfa sprouts are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. They are typically eaten raw and they provide a crisp yet tender texture along with a subtle grassy flavor that goes well on foods from salads to sandwiches like avocado toast.
- Mung Bean Sprouts – These are sprouts that are germinated from the common mung beans of the legume Vigna radiata. They are usually between 2 and 4 inches long, with tapered yellow tips that form from their thick white stalks. If alfalfa sprouts are the most common kind and widely consumed sprouts in the U.S., mung bean sprouts are the most common kind and widely consumed sprouts in the world. Thus, 75% of the mung beans in America are imported from either China or Japan; the rest are domestically grown in Oklahoma. Nonetheless, they can be bought fresh or canned. And just like the alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts are also considered to be excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
- Red Clover Sprouts – These are sprouts that are germinated from the seeds of the red clover plant. They are very similar to alfalfa sprouts in terms of appearance and taste, except that red clover sprouts produce a purple flower when fully-matured. Likewise, they are traditionally eaten raw, as an addition to foods from salads to sandwiches, due to their fragility that doesn’t hold when exposed to heat. Nevertheless, they are also considered to be excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, protein, calcium, and iron.
- Radish Sprouts – These are sprouts that are germinated from the seeds of the radish root vegetable. They offer a good amount of heat and crunch that goes perfectly on salads, fish, and sushi. And although they’re commonly eaten raw, these sprouts can be cooked slightly. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of vitamin B, vitamin C, folate, and manganese.
- Broccoli Sprouts – These are sprouts that are germinated from the broccoli plant. They’re the most popular sprout in the United States. And just like most sprouts, they also have thin, white stalks, along with many, light green leaves that provide a subtle flavor and a little crunch. Thus, they also do not maintain their forms when exposed to heat, making them perfect to enjoy raw. Nevertheless, they are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin K, folic acid, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Wheatgrass – These are sprouts that are germinated from the common wheat plant. Although it is not often expected to be in the same family as the other sprouts, it is, in fact, a sprout. The only difference in terms of growing wheatgrass is that they’re sprouted in a shallow bed of soil rather than in warm water. Nevertheless, these sprouts are considered to be a superfood. They claim to provide cancer-fighting agents and immune-boosting enzymes, along with high levels of vitamins A, C, and E, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, iron, and amino acids.
- Watercress – These are sprouts that are germinated from the watercress or yellowcress flowering plant. They’re also sprouted in a bed of soil similar to wheatgrass. But, just like the other sprouts, they are also full of nutrition. They provide a fresh, peppery flavor, along with a nice crunch that goes well on sandwiches, salads, and spreads.
Sprouts Production & Farming in Texas
Indeed, growing sprouts are not just inexpensive, but it’s more convenient and easy to grow. They are almost foolproof and they’re ready to eat in just a few days. Not to mention that they’re healthier than most of the other vegetables. It’s as simple as putting 1 to 2 tablespoons of your chosen sprouting seeds in a mason jar, filling it with cool filtered water just enough to cover the seeds, securing it with a mesh or sprouting lid, and soaking them for 8-12 hours in a dark, slightly warm spot, away from direct sunlight, with a temperature that ranges between 65 and 75ºF. Keep the jar upside down, slightly angled, so that any remaining water can drain. The next day, or as fast as 8 hours, rinse and replace with fresh, filtered water. Do this last procedure twice a day for the next 3-4 days, or until your sprouts are ready, and dry them off using a paper towel to absorb moisture. Store accordingly and if you want a constant supply of sprouts, start the process every 2-3 days.
Due to the high risk of contamination and intensification of bacterial growth during the process of sprouting, the FDA recommends the seeds of commercially grown sprouts to be soaked and sterilized with 20,000 parts per million of calcium hypochlorite, a chemical compound, before sprouting. However, most sprouters avoid these decontamination steps because it can lower down the germination rates and yield.
Nevertheless, though sprouts are highly susceptible to bacteria, they are not prone to pests, but of course, that still depends on the variety. Broccoli is even included in the EWG’s Clean Fifteen List. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Clean Fifteen list, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the lowest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA. For other sprouts such as alfalfa, the amounts of pesticides used are insignificant as well. These pesticides include Temik, Bravo, Lorsban, Monitor, and Comite.
Sprouts are grown in warm and moist conditions; most of the seeds will germinate in warm water while some need to be in warm and moist soil. Thus, they can be grown in most parts of the world. India remains to be the largest producer of mung beans, accounting for roughly 60% of the global production. However, not all of their production is meant for sprouts. Still, it was followed by China and Thailand. Meanwhile, the United States is the leading producer of alfalfa sprouts, and 85% of the production comes from California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. It was then followed by Canada.
Sprouts are commonly packaged in plastic containers or bags. They can be sold by the bunch, package, or by weight, either by the ounce or pound.
Sprouts are traditionally eaten raw or lightly cooked. They provide an outstanding amount of nutrients; however, they can also cause food poisoning, even though they’re slightly cooked. This is due to the fact that bacteria thrive in warm and humid environments, and this is where sprouts grow. As a matter of fact, many outbreaks of foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella have occurred in recent years. That’s the reason why it is not advisable for high-risk people, such as children, pregnant, elderly, and those with weak immune systems to consume raw sprouts. If sprouts cannot be avoided, it is highly recommended to consume them thoroughly cooked.
Nevertheless, sprouts are commonly eaten as a garnish on sandwiches, salads, sushi, and meats. They add a nice crunch and mild flavor that goes well on almost anything.
While the storage and shelf life of sprouts largely depend on their variety, most of them are rather delicate and have a short shelf life. In general, alfalfa sprouts can only last up to 3 days while bean sprouts last 4 to 5 days, and broccoli sprouts last up to 14 days in the fridge. Nevertheless, all of them should be placed in a plastic container or zip lock bag lined with paper towels, and they should be kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator where the temperature is at 40ºF or below.
Although cooking sprouts destroys the good enzymes, it is much safer to consume them cooked. You can easily add them to rice dishes, stir-fries, soups, stews, burger patties, spring rolls, noodles, or even omelets. Sprouts cook very fast so you can add them towards the end of cooking. In addition, you can also blend the sprouts and create a paste; this makes a good addition to pancake batters, spreads, or dips.
Sprouts are continuously gaining their popularity as additive-free and low-processed foods. They are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, and B-complex, protein, calcium, fiber, iron, omega-3, omega-6, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are also naturally low in calories with close to no fat. In fact, one serving of sprouts usually has between 10 and 25 calories, and roughly 2 grams of protein, depending on the variety.
Meanwhile, even though numerous culinary enthusiasts claim that sprouts are beneficial for preventing, treating, or curing diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autism, and others, it is illegal to advertise sprouts with such claims. The FDA ascertains that sprouts are not recognized as safe and effective for these purposes. Thus, the only valid claims about sprouts are their nutritional value rather than their medicinal uses.
When Are Sprouts – General in Season in Texas?
To find out when Sprouts – General are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.