FOOD : The Good Seeds : There’s a Lot More to Sprouts Than Mere Mung Beans and Alfalfa

<i> Joan Drake is a Times staff writer. </i>

Health-food stores still stock the widest variety, but sprouts are definitely moving into the mainstream. Alfalfa sprouts have become a standard item in supermarket produce sections, and specialty grocery stores now carry ever-increasing selections of sprouted seeds and beans.

Six years ago when Leslie Labowitz-Starus established Sproutime, sprouts meant Chinese bean and alfalfa sprouts. Then came mixed sprouts, followed by azuki, pea and lentil. Her volume has now increased 10 times, “really taking off in the last two years.” Today the company produces 12 varieties of sprouts. Most sprouts are used raw, as a crunchy addition to salads, sandwiches or as a topping for baked potatoes. Bean sprouts are one notable exception, since they are commonly used as an ingredient in Asian stir-fry and other recipes requiring cooking. Another is the sprouted garbanzo, excellent for making hummus, or roasted to taste like nuts. Black-eyed pea sprouts also cook well, and pea sprouts make excellent soup.

The following descriptions, developed with the assistance of Labowitz-Starus, should encourage the uninitiated to try these fresh, low-calorie vegetables.


Azuki bean--small red bean, with a mild flavor and crunchy texture

Alfalfa--small green leaves, with a pale, threadlike tail, sweet flavor and crisp texture; considered the “king” of sprouts

Bean--also called Chinese bean sprouts; long, slender, creamy white in color with a mild flavor and tender-crisp texture; grown in water and darkness from mung beans

Black-eyed pea--cream-colored bean with a black spot or eye; mild, slightly sweet, starchy flavor; watery taste and soft texture

Buckwheat lettuce--a sprouted green with medium size bright green leaves and long stalks, which may be pink in color; mild flavor similar to lettuce and crisp texture

Clover--small, bright green leaves; less delicate, more pungent in flavor than alfalfa sprouts but with the same crisp texture

Fenugreek--an herb rather than bean or seed and not always available; tiny ocher-colored seeds with very small white tails and a piquant flavor


Garbanzo bean--similar in looks to the unsprouted canned variety, but with sweet taste and crunchy texture

Lentil--small, round, flat-shaped pink disc with tiny tail; subtle flavor with a bit of pepper

Mung bean--Green bean with a little tail; stronger flavor than bean sprouts and a sweet-tangy taste. Grown in light, unlike bean sprouts listed above

Pea--small, round, soft green or yellow in color with the flavor of fresh peas

Radish--small, heart-shaped green leaves with long, pale stalks and hot, spicy flavor

Sesame seed--light brown seed with taste similar to the unsprouted variety; should only be barely sprouted or taste will turn bitter

Sunflower--a sprouted green, with larger, rounded deep green leaves and a nutty flavor, similar to watercress

Sunflower seed--pale beige seeds with tiny tails, a tangy taste and chewy texture

Wheat--small, red brown seeds with a sweet flavor and chewy texture

The sandwich featured is adapted from one enjoyed at the Highlands Inn in Carmel, created by chef Don Ferch. Our version of Focaccia owes its easy preparation to frozen bread dough. Freshly prepared mayonnaise is recommended, but when time is of the essence, bottled may be substituted.


Mixed bean sprouts are featured in a marinated pasta salad. The make-ahead convenience, bright colors and contrasting textures and flavors make this an excellent addition to a summer buffet.


8 slices bacon

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons minced cilantro

2 teaspoons minced parsley

2 8-inch square Focaccia

10 slices turkey breast

1 tomato, sliced

1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced

2 cups alfalfa sprouts

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Combine mayonnaise with cilantro and parsley.

Cut each Focaccia in half, forming 4 8x4-inch rectangles. Spread half mayonnaise mixture onto top surface of 2 Focaccia. Layer half turkey, tomato, bacon, avocado and alfalfa sprouts onto each.

Spread bottom surface of remaining Focaccia with mayonnaise and place over sandwich fillings. Cut into halves or thirds. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: Commercially produced mayonnaise may be substituted. Focaccia (round or square), purchased at Italian delicatessens, may be used. Mayonnaise

2 eggs

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 drops hot pepper sauce

1 1/2 cups oil

Salt, optional

Combine eggs, lemon juice, mustard and hot pepper sauce in food processor bowl fitted with metal or plastic blade. Process 5 to 10 seconds. Turn processor on and add oil in very slow steam through feed tube. Process until smooth, scraping sides occasionally for even blending. Season to taste with salt. Makes about 2 cups.


Note: Electric blender may also be used to prepare recipe. Focaccia

1 1-pound loaf frozen bread dough

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Allow bread dough to thaw 2 to 4 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Cut dough in half. Roll each to 8-inch square. If dough shrinks back, let rest 15 to 30 seconds and stretch again.

Place dough in 2 greased 8-inch square baking pans. Using fork, thoroughly pierce dough at 1-inch intervals.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add Italian seasoning and brush mixture over dough squares. Let rise 10 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Makes 2 8-inch square Focaccia.


2 cups rotelle pasta

1 cup small cauliflower florets

1 cup small broccoli florets

2 cups mixed bean sprouts

1/2 cup coarsely chopped sweet red pepper

cup sliced green onions

pound cooked medium shrimp

10 ears baby corn

1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

Salt, pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Steam or microwave cauliflower and broccoli florets until crisp tender.

Combine pasta, cauliflower, broccoli, bean sprouts, red pepper, green onions, shrimp, baby corn, salad dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Note: If salad is served as entree, increase shrimp to 3/4 pound.


Clover sprouts, left, sunflower sprouts in colander, azuki, and a mixture, right.