Beyond alfalfa

Your guide to freshly sprouted beans, greens and grasses.

A sprout's nutritious goodness starts with a seed. One of the most nutritionally complete foods around, seeds are a top source of protein, and they contain vast stores of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and essential fatty acids. When a seed germinates into a sprout, this nutrient powerhouse shifts into overdrive, producing large amounts of the disease-fighting antioxidants C and E, the immune-system boosting B-complex vitamins and the enzymes that energize the body's cells and break proteins down into the amino acids that enhance digestion. While most fruits and vegetables begin to lose their vitamins once they are picked or cut from their plant source, sprouts retain their nutritive value because they're never cut--they keep growing until you eat them.

Beyond the highly popular alfalfa, you can experiment with numerous sprout varieties, each of which can spice up a dish with its own unique flavors. Lauri Roberts, owner of the Indoor Garden, an organic sprout grower in Chicago, credits local farmers' markets with introducing consumers to such exotic species as sunflower, snow pea and onion sprouts.

When purchasing sprouts, look for those that are crisp with buds attached; avoid any that are musty smelling or dark in color. Sprouts should be kept in their original packaging in the refrigerator. Use mung bean sprouts within three days; more delicate sprouts, such as alfalfa, should be used within two days.
Spicy Southwestern Sprout Wraps



Look for packages of fresh sprouts at specialty produce markets or large supermarkets. If the only sprouts available are alfalfa and mung, use a combination in the following recipes.

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas or flavored flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups liquid egg substitute or 6 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh or bottled minced garlic
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil
2/3 cup bottled salsa, preferably guajillo, chipotle or
4 oz. adzuki, garbanzo or lentil sprouts (or a combination)
4 oz. sunflower sprouts, snow pea sprouts or red clover sprouts
(or a combination)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

PREHEAT OVEN to 350 degrees. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in oven until warmed through, 10 to 12 minutes. Or, wrap in damp paper towels; set aside to warm after filling is cooked. To warm, heat in microwave oven on HIGH power until warmed, 40 seconds to 1 minute.

In medium bowl, combine egg substitute or eggs, cilantro, cumin, garlic, coriander and salt; mix well. In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add egg mixture and stir-fry until eggs are softly set, 2 to 3 minutes. Add salsa and stir-fry 1 minute. Add sprouts and stir-fry until sprouts are just heated through, 1 minute. To serve, spoon mixture down center of warm tortillas; top with cheese. Fold edges over filling and roll up.

Asian Noodle Supper



Udon are Japanese wheat noodles that are nearly as wide as spaghetti. They are sold in Asian markets and natural food stores. If not available, spaghetti makes a good substitute.

8 oz. udon noodles or spaghetti
1 Tbs. cornstarch
3 Tbs. cold water
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbs. dark roasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. mirin or seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp. minced fresh gingerroot
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
10 1/2-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu
4 oz. mung, lentil or adzuki sprouts (or a combination)
4 oz. snow pea sprouts, onion or red clover sprouts
(or a combination)

BRING LARGE POT of water to boil. When water boils add salt and noodles, stirring to prevent sticking. Cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine cornstarch and water, mixing until smooth. Stir in tamari, sesame oil, mirin, ginger, garlic, sugar and pepper flakes; mix well.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tamari mixture and tofu; stir-fry until tofu is hot and sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sprouts; stirfry just until sprouts are heated through, about 1 minute.

Drain noodles and transfer to serving bowl. Add tofu mixture and toss to mix. PER SERVING: 352 CAL.; 21G PROT.; 8G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 506 CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 1,880MG SOD.; 3G FIBER.


By Karen A. Levin

Karen A. Levin is the author of Meatless Dishes In Twenty Minutes (NTC/Contemporary Books, 1993).


As if you needed one more reason to eat your broccoli, a preliminary study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has found that broccoli sprouts are chock-full of a natural cancer fighter known as sulforaphane, which helps the body's cells neutralize carcinogens.

Research study leader, Paul Talalay, M.D., determined that, ounce for ounce, three-day-old broccoli sprouts (cousins to Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage) have 20 to 50 times more sulforaphane than the average mature broccoli plant.

Until more studies are done, however, the FDA won't permit any health claims to be made for broccoli sprouts. Meanwhile, if you're trying to hedge your health bets, you may find it difficult to get your hands on these tasty sprouts. But it probably won't be too long before broccoli sprouts become a staple in the produce aisle.


Alfalfa: Thin, green sprouts with a fluffy, crisp texture. Serve in salads, sandwiches or wraps.

Red Clover: These sprouts are larger and crispier than alfalfa with a slightly stronger flavor. Mix with salsa for an omelet filling.

Radish: Similar in size to red clover sprouts, but with a very distinct spicy hot radish flavor. This zesty flavor makes them a wonderful addition to spring rolls and other Asian dishes.

Onion: Delicate, thin, green and white sprouts with small, dark seeds and a distinct onion flavor. Add to foods at the end of cooking or fold into sandwich fillings to conveniently replace chopped onion.

Sunflower: Long, bright green sprouts with a nutty flavor. They add beautiful color and texture to salads. Because sunflower seeds are high in fat, these greens contain more fat than others.

Snow Pea: Long, bright green sprouts with the sweet flavor of snow peas. Adds flavor and texture to Asian dishes.
Sprouted Beans

Adzuki (or azuki): These have a crunchy texture with a sweet, nutty flavor. Add them raw to soups, stews, stir-fries or hash browns just before serving.

Alaskan Pea: Tastes like sweet garden peas when eaten raw. Delicious in soups or Indian-style curries.

Garbanzo: Their crunchy texture makes a perfect snack or salad addition. Make them into hummus by pureeing in a food processor with tahini paste, garlic and lemon juice.

Lentil: These have a somewhat peppery flavor that's perfect for quick-cooking soups and stews. Make a low-fat pesto by blending raw or cooked lentil sprouts with herbs.

Mung: One of the most common sprouts, often called Chinese bean sprouts. They have a creamy white color and crisp texture. Add to stir-fries and sandwiches.

Wheat Berry: A pleasantly chewy texture and somewhat sweet flavor characterize these sprouts. Stir into yogurt or add to peanut butter for a healthy spread. Stir them into pancake and waffle batter for added texture and flavor.

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