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Production Guide for Bean Sprouts

Shijia Yu

Sprouting is the practice of
germinating seeds to be consumed
either raw or cooked. Bean Sprouts
have been harvested for
thousands of years for its
nutritious as well as culinary
benefits. It is both consumed raw
and cooked while being utilized in
many Eastern Asian dishes. It
takes roughly 7-10 days for
sprouts to be fully grown and
ready to harvest. Bean Sprouts
compositionally are much more
nutritious then their fully grown
Bean counterparts. This
combination of qualities makes
Bean Sprouts especially appealing
for consumers as well as
producers. Medicinally, sprouts
have been used by Ancient
Chinese physicians to treat a
variety of ailments dated as long
as 5000 years ago. There are
accounts of sailors back in the
1700s plagued by scurvy which
results from a deficiency in
Vitamin C. The long voyages
sailors have to endured resulted in
many casualties along the way. In
an attempt to alleviate the
problem, Ship captains required
their sailors to consume a variety
of sprouts. The abundant vitamin C
found in young sprouts helped to
solve one of the biggest health
issue associated with long sea
voyages. Western interest didnt
really form until World War II. An
article written by Dr. Clive M.
McKay, Professor of Nutrition at
Cornell University dramatically

stated Wanted! A vegetable that

will grow in any climate, will rival
meat in nutritive value, will mature
in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any
day of the year, will require neither
soil nor sunshine, will rival
tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free
of waste in preparation and can be
cooked with little fuel and as
quickly as achop (Sprout
History). Dr. McKays research with
soybean sprouts netted surprising
results on the nutritional
properties of sprouted soybeans.
They found that the sprouts
retained B-complex vitamins as
well as a huge jump in levels of
Vitamin A and C compared to
unsprouted seeds. Sprout
consumption is still relatively rare
in the everyday of westerners.
However, a growing demand for
nutritional rich super foods as well
innovation in production methods
can place Bean Sprouts in the

Typically, bean sprouts are
produced from either mung beans
or soy beans. Mung beans are part
of Legume family and the genus
Vigna. Other food crops in the
same genus include adzuki beans,
black grams, and cowpeas.
Soybeans are also part of the
Legume family but the genus
Glycine. These two types of
sprouts have important
differences. Typically, soybeans
are a bit
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Production Guide for Bean Sprouts

Soy Bean sprouts

more difficult to sprout than mung

beans. Soybeans can split open,
discoloration, as well as the
development of a bitter, undesirable
taste if not prepared correctly. Mung
bean sprouts are by far the most

common and available type of

sprouts. They can be consumed raw
and cooked with hints of nutty and
sweet flavors. Soybean sprouts are
harder to digest than mung bean
sprouts when raw so are typically
cooked.Both sprouts provide
Mung Bean Sprouts
health benefits associated with all
sprouts which include protein, fiber,
vitamin C, and vitamin A. Soybean
Sprouts also share same protective
properties found in other soy
products like tofu and soy milk.
These properties include the
presence of daidzein and genistein
which is linked to the reduction of
LDL cholesterol and lowering the risk
of heart diseases.

Home Germination

purposes as well small scale for

home consumption. Traditionally, the
seeds of mung beans or soybeans
were placed in buckets and stoned
were added to the top. They were
watered a few times a day to prevent
drying out. The stones acted as a
stress factors for the sprouts
inducing thicker and shorter growth
with much less root development.
This method produced greater edible
yield ratios.
Home production of bean sprouts is
also a viable choice. You have many


Production of bean sprouts can be

done in large scale for commercial
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Production Guide
watering to

when choosing to grow sprouts at

home and have certain control over
the types of growth in the sprouts. To
start off, seeds are typically rinsed to

without proper drainage, the sprouts

will rot and can cause a slew of other
issues. Once the seeds have been
placed in the Sprouter, they can be
placed almost anywhere out of direct
sunlight. Countertops and window
sills make for ideal locations where
they wont be knocked over by
animal critters and pesky kids. There
should be proper air circulation as
well to prevent rotting and helps
maintain proper humidity levels.
Mung beans can also be sprouted in
dark conditions. Mung bean sprouts
grown in the dark tend to be crispier
and whiter than their light grown
counterparts. However, they have
less nutritional value. The sprouts are
rinsed and drained 2-4 times a day
and requires no additional care.
Growing time varies and induces
different properties on the sprouts
which will be discussed later on.
Home growers have the freedom to
experiment with different harvest
time and growing methods to find out
when they are most delicious for

get rid of excess dirt and other

miscellaneous particles. Next, the
seeds need to be soaked in cool
water anywhere from 8-12 hours.
Finally, the seeds to be placed in a
Sprouter and allowed to grow.
Sprouters are commercially made
containers ideal for growing sprouts
at home. They come in all kinds of
Commercial Germination
shapes and materials. Some are
trays made from stainless steel but
Large scale commercial production of
simple mason jars with proper
bean sprouts are often mechanized
drainage works wonders as well. The
and requires very little labor. The first
single most important characteristic
step for producers is proper seed
of Sprouters are that they provide
Variations: Harvest time have an effect on the type of sprouts
produced. Some large production growers use 500 gallon machines in
combination with chemicals and gasses to produce huge sprouts. While
you wont be able to grow the gargantuan sprouts found in restaurants,
you still have some control over the end product.
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Short Sweet Mungs: These typically have roots between 1/8 -1/2
inches. They are rinsed and drained every 8-12 hours and harvested after
3 days.

Big Thick Rooted Mungs: These contain root lengths between 1-3
inches long. They are rinsed and drained every 8-12 hours and are

Production Guide
keeps track
of the
stage of

selection. Health concerns dealing

with bad seeds will be discussed later
but seeds must be properly cleaned
and stored. Long storage of seeds
requires environments of low
humidity and temperature. Even
after selection of properly stored
seeds, they are still sanitize to

each bins.
As certain

growing cycle, the computer adjust
for these changes and cater to the
needs of each individual bins.

Harvest and Storage

ensure pathogens arent missed.
Most effective and common method
of sanitation involves spraying the
seeds with calcium hypochlorite and
rinsing afterwards. This can be done
manually for small production or
automated for large scale production.
Afterwards, the seeds are placed in
large growing bins and placed in a
growing room. These growing rooms
are built to precisely optimize
growing conditions for the sprouts.
Temperature, Humidity, Water
nutrients, Gases, Water flow,
temperature, and interval can all
effect the growth of the sprouts. The
bean sprouts are left in the growing
room for 4 to 6 days. Most of these
processes are controlled by a
centralized computer system that

After the sprouts are fully grown, the

bins are removed from the growing
room with mechanized equipment.
The bean sprouts are separated from
the bins either through manual labor
or bin dumper. The next step of the
production process involves
removing the green seed hull. There
are 2 ways of doing this each with its
advantages and disadvantages. The
first method also the dry method is
typically less expensive and requires
low labor. It involves placing the
sprouts on a vibrating table with a

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Production Guide
in plastic
bags and

ISS Vibrating Huller

perforated top. As the Bean Sprouts
move along the conveyor belt, the
seed hulls fall through the openings
while the root hairs are removed due
to the perforations.
Cyclone Centrifuge
The second method utilizes a water
bath to separate the seed hulls.
Since a water bath
ISS Wash System
is used, it also requires the water to
be removed before packaging so a
dewatering system is needed.
Dewatering system includes a
cyclone centrifuge for small growers
or in-line systems that blows air to
remove the water on the sprouts.
This second method ensures higher
quality as the sprouts are chilled and
sanitized before packaging which
increases shelf life. The initial
investment is high and variable costs
can be high as well depending on
cost of water and labor.
Bean Sprout storage is straight
forward and involves 2 factors.
Keeping the sprouts cool and dry.
Commercially, after the sprouts have
been de-hulled, and dried, they are

The sprouts are kept refrigerated

almost near freezing temperatures.
Distributors need to use refrigerated
vehicles to keep the sprouts fresh for
consumers. Some home solutions
include the addition of lemon slices
in air tight containers to prolong shelf
life. The effectiveness of such
methods are inconclusive. As a
general rule of thumb, bean sprouts
should be consumed within 4-6 days
after purchase.

Health Concerns
The main health concern associated
with bean sprouts deal with bacterial
infection caused by salmonella and
certain forms of Escherichia coli.
Causes of such infections could be
due to unhygienic production
methods or the seeds could be
contaminated themselves. There
have been many pathogen outbreaks
throughout the world causing deaths
of several individuals as well as
thousands to be hospitalized. Some
speculate that the seeds from the
field may come to contact with
animal waste which contain harmful
bacteria. Optimal growing conditions
for sprouts is also a haven for
bacterial growth. In combination with
the insane replication rates of
bacteria, a small initial amount of
bacteria can contaminate the entire
batch in very little time. According to
the FDA, a single surviving bacterium
in a kilogram of seed can be enough
to contaminate a whole batch of
sprouts. There is no fool proof way of
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Production Guide
interfere with

guaranteeing a seed is 100% safe.

Thus, multiple steps need to be taken
to ensure the safety of the
consumers. First, seed selection from
a proper supplier is critical. Suppliers
need to have taken proper steps in
reducing the risk of contamination as
well as storing the seeds in proper
conditions. Storage facilities should
be free from rodents and insects
while the humidity and temperature
level need to be maintain properly to
discourage bacterial presence. For
large producers, seeds are also
sanitized before production. This is
done by dousing the seeds in calcium
hypochlorite and properly rinsed
afterwards. Government policies
have also been put in place to
maintain public health and decrease
the risk of future outbreaks.
Recommendations include proper
handling of seeds and sprouts, seed
disinfection treatments, and
microbial testing. For home growers,
there are publications detailing good
agricultural practices that will help
reduce risks.
Some legumes, including sprouts
also contain certain antinutritional
factors. These natural compounds

compounds. These factors can be

reduced dramatically through
sprouting, and cooking.

In the coming years, I believe there
will be increase in demand for
sprouts. Thus, production of sprouts
will increase as well. Unlike many of
other vegetable production, large
scale sprout production is mainly
done indoors through mechanized
processes. The initial cost of
investment into equipment will be
high. Most methods of Sprout
production is not labor intensive
which reduces long term variable
costs. Herbicides and Pesticides
wont be necessary as the sprouts
are grown in closed control
environments. The variable input
cost for sprout production therefore
are significantly lower than other
types of vegetable production. The
low costs of production in conjunction
with sprouts health benefits will
drastically increase sprout production
and consumption in the coming

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Guide for Bean Sprouts
Works Cited
"Bean Sprout Production: An Overview." Bean Sprout Production: An Overview. N.p., n.d. Web. 26
Apr. 2015.
"Growing Mung Bean Sprouts." Growing Mung Bean Sprouts. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
"Mung Bean Sprouts Health Benefits." Mung Bean Sprout Consumption Improves Cardio Health and
Longevity. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
"Sprout History." ISGA. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

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