Spring's secret weapons 

Sprouts take foodies through the season

click to enlarge Sperm doing yoga, or sprouts?
  • Sperm doing yoga, or sprouts?

Me eating imported greens is like a starving rabbi eating a pork chop. I do it, but with guilt, and with a grumble. And I eat them with a promise: to freeze more greens next summer.

Thankfully, I have discovered some new secret weapons. They wait in the bulk bins of my local grocery store. Mung beans, alfalfa seeds, mustard seeds, garbanzo beans, wheat berries, lentils, dry-hulled sunflower seeds and dried peas all of them living seeds that could grow into plants. These seeds contain not only the mystery of life; they also hold a solution to the dearth of springtime greens.

You can sprout the seeds, and in a few days they become a fresh, living food that many people consider among the most nutrient-dense on the planet. Packed with enzymes, amino acids and vitamins, sprouts are a gift to your body.

Some of you are getting a little nervous, wondering, perhaps, what your friends would think if they discovered you growing your own sprouts.

Sprouts can be eaten, raw or cooked, in zillions of ways. American dishes, like burgers, do well with sprouts, as do other "normal" foods like salads, soups, burritos ...

But sprouts somehow seem their best when eaten with chopsticks, as in the amazing Japanese recipe for miso-marinated black cod served on a bed of sunflower sprouts I found on epicurious.com.

Here are some do-it-yourself sprouting tips from Laurel's Kitchen, a vegetarian cookbook from the 1970s.

"Soak 1 tablespoon seeds or 1/3 cup beans in 1 quart of tepid water overnight. This is the only time sprouts should actually soak, for if they are not completely drained hereafter, they will ferment unpleasantly.

"The next day, rinse the seeds thoroughly in tepid water and drain. Place in a quart jar covered with a dampened washcloth. Fasten with a rubber band and store in a dark cupboard.

"Rinse the seeds or beans twice each day. Make sure excess moisture is drained off each time."

Wheat berries, which make good bread, are ready in two days; mung beans and lentils in three days. Alfalfa sprouts take five.

As the little sprout tails curl around the swollen seeds, they look like sperm doing yoga. Put them in the sun for a few hours, and they'll turn green as they synthesize chlorophyll. Then store them in the fridge.

You can taste the life-power of the sprouts' biological activity. It's similar to the living flavor of a leafy salad, but seeds have a lot more going on than leaves. Sprouts are the vegetal equivalent of a living oyster sliding down your throat.

I've got some mung beans, fresh from a steamy jar that's been basking in the springtime sun. They sit in a little bowl on my desk, drizzled with soy sauce, garnished with a pickled pepper and a dollop of taramasalata, a Greek-style spread of whipped oil and carp eggs that I refer to as caviar mayonnaise. It tastes so rich and vital and potent, I can honestly say I wouldn't trade it for an oyster with cocktail sauce.

Ari LeVaux


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