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May 17, 2008

Do sprouts belong in a salad?



Last night our dinner conversation quickly devolved into a discussion of whether sprouts were a low-class vegetable or a high-class vegetable. Did they, in other words, belong in the rather pricey salad I had brought home for dinner?

The general consensus was not.

I myself usually avoid sprouts without thinking about them except in powerhouse sandwiches, where they not only belong but really bring something to the table. But in a salad...

If you dwell on them you realize they are a little like having a hair in your throat.

I know that alfalfa sprouts, which were the ones on our salad, are packed with nutrition:They are low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, protein, vitamin A, thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium and iron.

But they don't have any redeeming virtues, the way -- say -- a mango, which is very healthful, does. A mango is a food of the gods, while sprouts...I defy anyone to make a case for alfalfa sprouts other than that they are good for you. 



Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:19 PM | | Comments (26)


I like the taste of alfalfa sprouts. If I'm at a salad bar, they go on my salad.

But, I don't think I've bought them at the market since my young political vegetarian chemically enhanced days. I do buy mangos (they've been particularly good this year, haven't they? And I think this is the first year that Alphansos from India are allowed in the country, but I haven't found a source yet. I haven't had them in 25 years.)

Sprouts are alive! When I bite them I can hear their tiny screams. Sprouts are murder!

I happen to like the occasional sprout, but I've stopped eating them after reading of some cases of contamination.

Sprouts add bulk to a salad. Which isn't necessarily a desirable thing anyway.

Lissa: If you find a source for Alphonsos, PLEASE share the news.




Re: Alphonso mangoes ... A Washington Post story last year indicated that Patel Bros. in Catonsville carried them. I never investigated myself, however.

For the last month and a half, every time I visited my parents, they sent me off with a bag full of Haitian mangoes. Better than the Mexican ones you can get year-round ... though I'm not sure how they compare to those Alphonsos.

I don't have a car, FH Jim, so I'm a bit limited in where I can look for the Alphonsos. I'll be hitting HMart come Memorial Day weekend, though. Anyone looked at the great Pakistani store by Wavery Market? I haven't made it up there recently.

The first time I had them, I was still jet lagged. My host grandmother handed me a bowl of mangoes and fresh cream. I'd never had either before, and I nearly passed out from the incredible taste.

I even asked for seconds, despite having been raised that one never, ever asked for seconds.

Are we only talking about alfalfa sprouts? I know their are higher end...or at least more expensive sprouts...out there, and I would think something like broccoli sprouts would have a place as a high class vegtable.

There are all sorts of health claims made for broccoli sprouts, but I would think the concern about contamination would hold true no matter what kind of sprout we are talking about.

All raws foods are susceptible to natural fertilizer exposure. Wash your food. And your hands. E.coli is everywhere. Hmm, I was just watching an episode of Monk.

I'm not disputing or questioning the potential health risks of raw foods, but (and this has always seemed ineffectual) how 'clean' can an apple get from a quick rinse under cold water? Should an orange be washed (again the quick rinse in cold water) before squeezing? Same thing for grapes. (I'm not trying for a joke or a smart ass remark, I'm genuinely interested.) Do others use soap and hot water?

I try to wash fruit in a dishpan of hot, soapy water, but greens I don't. It makes no sense, but it's like Russian roulette. I try to lower my odds anyway. EL

Want sprouts without fear? You can buy the seeds to sprout for about 5% of what you pay for sprouted seeds. It's really easy to do. The general method is to soak them in water overnight then drain. Put in a large jar on its side with something mesh over the opening to keep out bugs. Rinse twice a day to keep clean and moist and you get sprouts in a few days. Chia pets are just sprouts. Make your own sprout pet.

First I think everyone should read Jeffrey Steingarten's article "Salad, The Silent Killer." Anthony Bourdain has a similar disdain for salad. I couldn't find the article online but the video below covers it.

This confirms my suspicion that Susie Essman and Jeffrey Steingarten are not people I want to eat with. Watch her pick up her salad with her hand when the fork becomes too laborious.

I think eating raw foods in a restaurant is Russian roulette. You know they don't wash produce with the same care that we would at home. Steingarten's article goes into the many ways plants protect their leaves with toxins. No leaves, dead plant. But plants make their fruit attractive to animals so that we will spread their seeds upon the ground (insert Onan joke).

I would wash all fruit in warm soapy water. I rub apples with a towel because they coat them some kind of petroleum-based stuff sometimes.

There's a natural fruit/vegetable wash that been around for at least ten years at supermarkets:
I have it, but don't really use it.

I think rinsing lettuce or sprouts in clean water will do a very good job of removing contaminants. For romaine lettuce I wash it after pulling it apart, since sand and who knows what hides at the bottom.

If you really must eat a salad in a restaurant, I suggest coating your stomach with wine or a vodka martini. There is evidence that alcohol (except beer) consumed with food will neutralize many micro-organisms.

more on the mangoes: I went out to Patel Bros. this weekend and found no Alphonsos. They did have the Kesar variety --- for $28 a case along with the common Mexican variety.

Ended up buying a can of Kesar pulp at a brand new shop down the way, called Little India, which carries a lot of South Indian specialities.

And I picked up a box of Mexican mangoes from H-Mart for $8.99.

I read a study somewhere that found that a diluted vinegar wash or spray did a better job washing produce than the commercial veggie washes. I keep a bottle of cheap white vinegar next to the sink for this purpose and actually use it occasionally when I remember.

Who washes their bananas before peeling? Who washes lemons before slicing?
We are supposed to wash everything to avoid e-coli, salmonella, you name it.
I just hope and pray instead.

Speaking of contamination, I just found
this story in Yahoo. I knew this, but it always creeps me out to read it.

Rinsing can only do so much. Salt and vingegar kill what they contact, so your basic vinegar-based dressing probably helps too.

Oh curses! I fell victim to salad (restaurant) contamination last night, which made for a mildly uncomfortable night. Hoisted on my own petard!

I try to wash fruit in a dishpan of hot, soapy water, but greens I don't. It makes no sense, but it's like Russian roulette. I try to lower my odds anyway. EL

I've used the special fruit & veggie wash on fruit, but usually relay on warm soapy water. I get most of my greens at the Waverly farmers market and just go on trust from long association.

When they had the big spinach scare and all the grocery stores were removing it from the shelves, I was happily eating local spinach.

How are you all going to build up resistance to germs if you don't let yourself be exposed to them? :-)

I once dropped a hot dog on the ground at a picnic when I was little. He picked it up, brushed it off, and said, "You've got to eat a pound of dirt before you die." The reasoning always escaped me, unless it was some sort of deeper Irish fatalism.

OMG: In all seriousness, things like that were building up your immune system and you didn't even know it.
Many doctors think that the huge uptick in children's serious allergies is due to the parents obsession with cleanliness/germ phobia. Incidents that you relate actually helped us develop our immune system. Another "old wives tale" that holds true.

Susan WNAJ, I am the one person who does wash lemons before slicing them (we had a gross link on this blog months ago that will illustrate why), but I don't bother with washing bananas.

I have read a serious scientific study that said people who drink alcohol with oysters fare better than those who dare to eat oysters sober.

alfalfa is a great source of vitamins & the amino acid L-Canavanine to induce systemic lupus erythematosus turning your immune system against you.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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