Can I eat it? plate of beans edition
November 11, 2018 8:12 PM   Subscribe

What is there to know about beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc., sprouting, and food safety? Ever since I read about how pinto beans contain a toxin that only breaks down if you cook them at high enough temps, I've been wondering if there's more I'm missing and kinda paranoid about beans. In particular, can I eat these chickpeas that sprouted while soaking them, even if I'm pregnant?

I've occasionally googled trying to find out more, and the stuff I've come across has the "natural living" handwavy vagueness that doesn't help. This is either because there's not much to actually know, or because I'm not searching right.

Add to all this that I'm pregnant, so I'm extra cautious about food safety right now. Last night I soaked my chickpeas and they sprouted, and I know you're not supposed to eat raw sprouts while pregnant, but I think cooked sprouts are fine -- so I can eat these chickpeas, right? (I boiled them for about 45 minutes last night, changed the water, stuck them in my fridge and covered them, let them soak about 24 hours, rinsed them and changed the water again, and am now boiling them until they're cooked.) Googling turns up a mix of CDC warnings about sprouts for pregnant people and all this stuff about how sprouting transforms the components of the seed into different components, which -- given my belated recognition that some components of beans are kinda toxic -- didn't completely put my mind to rest.
posted by slidell to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems to me that just buying canned chickpeas while you're pregnant would be a way more cost-effective method of putting your mind to rest.

And that whatever is on the losing side of the lottery, whether it's just a slim chance of spending a day on the toilet or Obvious Worse Outcomes, what you get if you win is: not having to get more chickpeas, which are about as cheap as air.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:40 PM on November 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

Yes, you can eat chickpeas that sprouted while you soaked them.

The rationale for not eating sprouts while pregnant has nothing to do with metabolic processes internal to the sprouting seeds and everything to do with possible bacterial contamination. The fact that some proportion of your chickpeas will always start to sprout during a normal overnight soak (hours) doesn't render them anywhere near as susceptible to bacterial overgrowth as seeds that have been kept warm and damp for long enough to allow most of the seed mass to convert itself into growing plant tissue (days).

You're also cooking the beans thoroughly after soaking them, rather than consuming them (and any bacteria growing on them) raw. That's enough to kill any bacteria that did grow on the beans as you soaked them, as well as to destroy any residual toxins present in the raw beans themselves (which are in any case at most a risk to the comfort of your digestive system, not to your foetus).

If you're even the slightest bit worried about bacterial contamination during soaking, you can use a short hot soak instead of the traditional overnight cold soak. Keep the pot lid on after the initial five-minute boil and there will not be anything left alive in there; no sprouts, no bacteria, just tender perfectly soaked delicious nutritious beans.
posted by flabdablet at 9:23 PM on November 11, 2018 [14 favorites]

I just stuck to tinned everything when I was pregnant, beans wise. It meant that on those slow brain days I could just grab a can and cook them, and that was that. No need to do much planning ahead, either.
posted by Jilder at 9:56 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Toxicity is due to beans being uncooked or under-cooked and I've eaten beans that sprouted from being soaked too long (in the fridge) with no side effects. I've also been poisoned by under cooked kidney beans (not cooked by me but by a clueless family member who had cooked them in a slow-cooker without boiling them for ten minutes first. I only found what she did afterwards and I no longer allow her to cook my beans) and survived with no permanent effects though I felt very sick for a while.

Having said that, you could just buy a good brand of organic beans as suggested above. I would rely on canned myself were they not so expensive given what time-savers they are in the absence of a pressure cooker.

BTW I strongly recommend soaking beans in the fridge, it slows down the sprouting. My beans sprouted because I had to go out suddenly the next day and did not get around to cooking them in time.
posted by whitelotus at 12:05 AM on November 12, 2018

Where I come from (India) sprouted beans (chickpeas, mung beans, and most especially black chickpeas - kala chana) are something pregnant women eat for health. I used to soak little batches of kala chana, about 3 tbsps each, for 24 hours and eat them every day through both pregnancies. They're stupendously good for you, and I trust they aren't dangerous ito toxins because my people have eaten this stuff for centuries as part of our traditional cuisine. Bacteria and beans going bad is only a concern if you leave the beans out for days.
posted by MiraK at 5:55 AM on November 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Thanks, all! Unfortunately, the canned stuff is something I'm trying to minimize due to BPA in canned goods and questions around whether BPA-free alternatives are any better.

Glad to hear that there's not too much here that I actually need to overthink aside from just boiling the beans for at least 10 minutes to break down the chemical in that link above. I think I was so surprised to learn about that after a life of eating beans that I started to wonder what other info I might be missing.
posted by slidell at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2018

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