Legumes and Sprouting
You may have been surprised during the recent panic buying spree about the complete absence of canned beans and lentils on the shelf at supermarkets. That got us to thinking about firstly what everyone was planning to do with them but also how useful it would be to know how to cook them from scratch. Buying them in their raw and unprocessed form and learning how to soak and cook them is another way to avoid your reliance on tinned goods and reduce waste.
You might wonder what legumes actually are - legumes is the collective name for beans (e.g kidney beans, mung beans, chickpeas) and lentils (e.g. green, brown and red). Dried beans and lentils are packed full of protein, fibre and nutrients. Soaking them aids digestion and reduces cooking times. Look up books or search online for specific soaking times but a general rule of thumb is overnight. Cooking them simply involves placing the rinsed legumes in a large pot of fresh water, bringing it to the boil, then simmering until the legumes are soft (but not mushy).
A further step you can take with legumes to increase their nutritional properties is to sprout them. A sprout is the initial phase of a seed germination and as this process begins, enzymes get activated and many of the nutritional properties of the legume/seed get unlocked, turning them into "nutritional powerhouses".
You may be familiar with the small plastic trays of sprouts you can buy, typically containing alfalfa and mungbeans, but beyond this, they are not readily available commercially. You can sprout most legumes and seeds. Here we will show you the method for chickpeas, but other legumes and seeds are very similar and there is lots of information available online.
What are the benefits of sprouting?
- it makes nutrients more bioavailable - unsprouted legumes retain a lot of their goodness inside which is not available to us when we eat them
- it increases the availability of vitamins and minerals
- it makes them easier to digest because the process unlocks digestive enzymes that help us assimilate food
- sprouting decreases the gas producing substances in legumes which can cause intestinal discomfort in some people
What equipment do I need?
- a large glass jar or bowl
- a colander. -the large ones that expand to fit over a sink work really well as you can rinse and drain in one place
- raw and unprocessed legumes (i.e not from a tin! - these are already cooked and will not sprout)
- RINSE the chickpeas under cold running water in a colander to remove any dust or dirt and place in a clean bowl or large glass jar. Remove any that are cracked or discoloured.
- SOAK them overnight - they will absorb 2-3 times their volume so start with a large bowl and cover with plenty of water.
- Tip them into a colander and DRAIN to remove as much water as possible.
- RINSE well in cold water
- Keeping them in the colander, RINSE 2-3 times per day (when you are walking past them!) and ensure they are draining well each time.
- The chickpeas will start to grow little 'tails' - when the tail is about the same length as the chickpea they are ready to be used or stored in the fridge. This process generally takes around 3-4 days.
- Sprouted chickpeas will last for about 5-7 days in the fridge or you can freeze them for later use.
- USE them - enjoy in salads and sandwiches, bake into breads, add to curries, or turn them into delicious creamy hummus.
Tips for organising your pantry
Legumes don't just come in a tin! Whilst tins are always great to have on hand when you are in a hurry, consider that they may also contain additives and the tin may have a BPA lining.
Buy legumes from bulk food stores in their raw state and because they are dried, they have an extremely long shelf life. Remember that they do require soaking and cooking before using, however you can soak them, sprout them if you wish and then store in the freezer for quick use later.