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sprouts

The crisp, tender sprouts of various germinated beans and seeds. Mung bean sprouts, used often in Chinese cooking, are the most popular. However, other seeds and beans—such as alfalfa and radish seeds, lentils, soybeans and wheat berries—may also be sprouted. For optimum crispness, sprouts are best eaten raw. They may also be stir-fried or sautéed, but should only be cooked for 30 seconds or less; longer cooking will wilt the sprouts. Though you may grow your own fresh sprouts (refer to a general cookbook), they're available year-round in most large supermarkets. Choose crisp-looking sprouts with the buds attached; avoid musty-smelling, dark or slimy-looking sprouts. Mung-bean sprouts should be refrigerated in a plastic bag for no more than 3 days. More delicate sprouts—like alfalfa sprouts—should be refrigerated in the ventilated plastic container in which they're usually sold and kept for no more than 2 days. Canned mung-bean sprouts—available in most supermarkets—do not have either the texture or flavor of fresh.