What to do when there is a month-long sea voyage ahead and a young family to keep healthy and well fed?
The fresh provisions will only last so long into the voyage so other options have to be sought to stretch out the fresh supplies. The easiest and most vitamin-rich way of doing this is with bean sprouts. With the vastly increased vitamin and mineral content compared to dried provisions, bean sprouts are an easy way to keep the crew healthy. Sprouting mung beans, lentils and other pulses take far less water than having to soak the dried pulses before cooking and the rinsing water used in sprouting can be poured off into the rice or stew. Once they are sprouted, the beans require no cooking and can be eaten raw.
The act of sprouting creates Vitamin C, which is missing in dried pulses; increases the all-important B group of Vitamins, Vitamin E and Vitamin A; and the quality and digestibility of the proteins are greatly increased. With the increased energy output in the sprouting process, bean sprouts turn into one of the super foods. A definite plus in a possibly vitamin reduced diet on a long ocean voyage.
The easiest way to sprout the seeds is to put just enough into a large jar to cover the bottom. Plastic containers can be used if glass is banned from the boat. Pour in enough water to just cover the seeds and allow them to soak for a few hours or so. Tie a clean piece of gauze or cloth over the top of the jar and pour off the water, draining thoroughly. The gauze will stop the seeds from escaping down the drain.
Every morning and evening, top up the jar with water to cover the seeds and then pour off again. Leave the jar tipped over for a few minutes to drain properly. This keeps the seeds damp, but not sitting in water, which will rot the seeds. They will begin to sprout very soon and can be eaten at any stage of the sprouting process. Plan on keeping two lots of sprouts on the go and stagger their start times to ensure a constant supply.
For tender, juicy mung bean sprouts, grow them in a dark place, and for even more vitamin and mineral value, leave some of the sprouts to carry on growing until the first leaves start to appear. Put the jar into a bright spot for a day to turn the leaves green and then use the sprouts. Do not put into direct sun as this will dry them out and turn the tender root tips brown and hard.
Any pulse can be sprouted, but some sprout better than others. Large chickpeas should not be left to sprout for too long otherwise they start to go soggy. Use them in a stir-fry or salad as soon as the root shoots appear. The smaller mung beans can be left to sprout quite happily right up until the leaf stage. Make sure that the beans and pulses are meant for consumption as often those that are sold for growing have been treated with pesticides.
Raw sprouts are great as a high-energy snack when the weather is too rough to cook a good, solid meal and can be used to perk up salads, sandwiches, soups and stir-fries too. Try a few whizzed through a fruit smoothie for an extra boost.
Kerry Biddle-Chadwick is a freelance writer who has been writing for Caribbean magazines and online newspapers since 2006.