Bean seeds have been used as a food source for thousands of years by various civilizations. Bean sprouts are the next growth stage when the plant begins to emerge from the seed. Growing bean sprouts must be done with careful consideration for the type of bean seed and the environment both from which the seed comes from and when the seed is germinated.
Any type bean seed can sprout. The problem is using the right type of bean seed, because some seeds are toxic. Seeds that can be sprouted and used include black beans, blackeye peas, mung, garbanzo, peanuts and lentils. Soybeans must be cooked when the shoots are younger or are inedible otherwise.
Bean seeds must be vibrant in order to sprout. Old or moldy seeds cannot be used for sprouting, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. Be careful when refrigerating seeds, as seeds that were frozen will not germinate properly or at all.
Large elaborate equipment is used by commercial growers to germinate and sprout seeds. Home gardeners can use simple methods to produce bean sprouts on a smaller scale. Tools used for home sprouting include seed trays, jars, bags, paper towels and shallow planters. Seeds are soaked and then placed into a jar of water. The seeds are then rinsed, drained and put through the cycle again. The timing between cycles depends on the room temperature and the humidity level. Keeping the seeds moist is critical to germination. The seeds are set in bags or paper towels and then refrigerated to help start the germination process. Then the seed sprouts are moved to the planters and allowed to grow.
Bean seed sprouting has different lighting, preparation and storage requirements depending on the type of bean seed. Kidney beans must be cooked first to destroy toxin found naturally in them. Mung beans need to sprout under weight to grow the long stalks required of them.
The spread of bacteria and pathogens is of concern when sprouting bean seeds. Use pesticide-free bean seeds that are already tested clean of pathogens. Clean work surfaces and containers are essential to maintaining disease-free environments. Use certified seeds as recommended by the University of California. Heat the seeds in a hydrogen peroxide bath for 5 minutes while sterilizing all surfaces for use with diluted bleach.