One of my latest favorite recipes is Chinese peanut and sesame noodles, made with wholewheat fettuccine and served cold with lots of chopped vegetables. And, in a perfect world, with those crisp pale bean sprouts that are ubiquitous in Chinese food and in supermarkets on the west coast. I’ve lived on the east coast for 20 years but never realized till now just how deficient it is when it comes to sprouts. In California, you can’t get away from alfalfa sprouts, and even in England I had them often. But in Great Barrington, I have a choice between expensive mixed gourmet sprouts, in fancy and excessive packaging at the local Coop, or sad soggy bags of bean sprouts at the supermarket – late and weary arrivals from California, I suppose.
I could easily get them in an Asian food store – the nearest are in Amherst and Albany – but here in small town New England, I’m stuck making my own (which will never be long and pale, a perfect cold crunch under the spicy peanut sauce). I found some directions in my own book, The Armchair Environmentalist, and you can see from the photo that I used a package of lentils (organic) from the supermarket.
From the Gardening chapter of The Armchair Environmentalist:
Skip this section if you’re an experienced gardener who just wants to go green – for you, section 2 is the place to find ideas for going organic in the garden and using less plastic and fossil fuel in the process. (Remember, energy in the garden should come from the sun and your strong arms!) But if you’re totally new to gardening, here are two little projects to show the wonderful vigor of plant life.
1. Cut an extra-thick slice from the top of five or six carrots, a good inch or so of green and orange. Place cut side down in a saucer, on a little gravel or sand if you have some handy, and add half an inch of water. Put the saucer on a windowsill, keep the water topped up, and wait. Soon you’ll see delicate fernlike leaves begin to unfold. I love this because the leaves are pretty (carrots are related to Queen Anne’s lace and other garden flowers) and because it’s such a great demonstration of the life force in even a tired bag of supermarket veg.
2. This project will help you visualize what takes place beneath the soil when you actually get outside. And you’ll end up with a tasty, nutritious salad! You can sprout many different seeds, but I recommend ordinary green lentils. Soak a small teacupful in cool water overnight, drain in a sieve, then keep them in the sieve (you can also buy a special sprouting jar) and rinse them with cool water twice a day. Cover with a cloth or keep them in a dark place, and watch what happens! A tiny pale root tip will appear on the first day. When the roots are as long as lentil is across, rinse again and toss with vinaigrette and chopped onion and celery. Raisins or cubes of cheese are nice, too. Lunch is served!