Lentil sprouts are the sprouted shoots of the lentil bean. Sprouted lentils, like many types of sprouts, are high in nutrients, boasting high levels of iron, folic acid and vitamin C with good amounts of calcium, potassium and dietary fiber. The sprouts are generally eaten raw in salads or are lightly sauteed; they have a sprightly, peppery taste.
A member of the pea, or legume, family, lentils are native to the Near East and have been cultivated as a staple food for thousands of years. Eaten all over the world in soups, stews and with rice, lentil beans contain large amounts of protein but lack certain essential amino acids. Lentil beans are therefore best eaten cooked with cereal grains to provide a well-rounded protein supplement. Lentil sprouts, however, contain the essential amino acids and are edible raw or cooked. The sprouts also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that have shown to decrease the chances of certain forms of cancer.
Sprouted lentils may be available in various grocery stores or specialty health food stores in the produce section where other vegetable sprouts are found. Lentil sprouts are highly perishable, losing nutritional value within a few days of storage. Store-bought, refrigerated lentil sprouts commonly keep for three to five days in a sealed plastic bag. Many consumers find that growing lentil sprouts in a small pot in the kitchen ensures fresh sprouts at the peak of their nutritional value. Lentil sprouts are easily cultivated at home, sprouting in approximately six to seven days when placed in a shallow dish with moistened potting soil. Sprouts are tender, succulent plants and require frequent watering and protection from the hot sun so that the tender plants do not dry out. Wilted sprouts can be perked up with a dousing in ice cold water.
Lentil sprouts are usually eaten raw and added to salads and sandwiches. Before eating the sprouts, cooks wash them thoroughly to remove any soil debris or pathogens from the growing medium. Cooking with lentil spouts is easy and is a suitable method for using older sprouts that are too tough for salads. Lentil sprouts can be sauteed in olive oil and added to a vegetable stir fry, soup or casserole recipe. The sprouts provide a protein punch in vegetable smoothies or health drinks. Cooks also take advantage of the colorful variety of lentils for their recipes, adding red, brown, yellow, green and speckled sprouts to their dishes.