IN AN ERA where one gets too consicous of time or too impatient to be bothered with home projects requiring lots of tender loving care, indoor sprout farming has been sprouting in popularity. Sprouts costs only a few cents per pound of harvest to grow. In freshness and taste, the mild and delicately sweet flavor of sprouts has captivated many fresh-salad lovers.

Not a few of these followers also strongly believe that sprouts are miracle food -- high in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals. However, research on sprouts and beans has shown that the amount of protein decreases with sprouting and increases again as the bean matures, making the beans a much better source of protein than the sprouts. And some of the protein that is in sprouts has been found to be indigestible.

Although significant amounts of vitamin C have been found in this living food, the vitamin value decreases in the later stages of sprouting. The vitamin A content in sprouts can be improved if the vegetable is grown in light to a deeper green color. But in this case the flavor tends to get bitter and harsh.

The availability of various sprouting implements and kits -- ranging from modestly priced pails of glass jars to more sophisticated ceramic sprouters -- have also fostered the idea of sprouting as a hobby. A three-piece ceramic sprouter developed by Joe Koremutsu met these requirement when tested in the Los Angeles Times kitchen.

Korematsu said his sprouter, which is opaque, can be left on a countertop or in any warm place -- unlike many sprouting, which must be put in a dark place.

A removeable pan in the botton of his sprouter catches the water as it drains off the seeds in the middle section. Both top and bottom are ventilated to provide fresh air to the sprouts.

First the seeds were soaked (a tablespoon of alfalfa seeds produced about 4 cups, other varieties required about 2 tablespoons) in lukewarm water for a few minutes to several hours depending on the size of the seeds. After soaking, they were drained and rinsed. Then a regular folded paper napkin to act as a filter was placed in the seed container (the top bowl), scattered the seeds onto the filter and topped it with another napkin. Next a cup of lukewarm water was poured over the top napkin and covered the container. The water was allowed to drain into the bottom container and then emptied. After watering and draining twice a day, the sprouts achieved the desired growth. This generally takes from three to six days, depending on the seed variety.

To obtain the green tinge on the leaves remove the lid on the last day to expose the plants to light. Sprouts that can be eaten when they form green leaves include alfalfa, chia, garden cress, mustard and radish. Those that you eat before the leaves open or turn green include mung bean, soya bean, adzuki or red mung bean, fenugreek, wheat, rye and lentils. Spicy mixes of radish, alfalfa and other seeds also grow well and these are fantastic on salads.

The Matsu sprouter can be ordered by mail for $24.95. This includes enough seeds for two batches of sprouts and growing instructions for 11 seed varieties. To order or for a free brochure, write to: Matsu of California, 14111 Washington Ave., San Leandro, Calif. 94578. "The Complete Sprouting Cookbook" by Karen Whyte can be ordered from the same company for $3.95 plus $1 freight and handling charge.

Some other commercial sprouting utensils available are screen frames, plastic sprouting trays, sprout pails, screenlidded jars and clay animals. Corning Glass Works has just introduced a new culinary kit for sprouts (about $9.95) which includes a recipe booklet, a Pyrex sprout jar, lid and drainer dish and packets of seeds. The kit will soon be available in gourmet shops and department stores.

The truth is that sprouts can be grown in almost any non-metal or nonwood kitchen container. You can use plates, shallow casseroles or bowls covered with cheesecloth or paper towels. The important thing to remember is to rinse regularly and place the container in a warm, dark place. If mold problems occur, sterilize the growing sprouts by rinsing with a diluted solution of chlorine (1 teaspoon to 1 quart water) and rinse again with water. Harvested sprouts will keep fresh in the refrigerator from a few days to over a week, packed in airtight firm cantainers or sealed plastic bags. Some people even recommend freezing in bags for more than a month. GRANNIE'S SLENDER SALAD FOR TWO (2 servings) 1 cup alfalfa sprouts 1 tart apple, sliced 2 green onions with tops, chopped 6 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced 1/2 green pepper, sliced in thin strips 1 stalk celery, sliced diagonally Few slices red onion Yogurt dressing (recipe below)

Divide alfalfa sprouts in half and spread out on two salad plates. Arrange apple slices, green onions, mushrooms, green pepper, celery and red onion on top of sprouts. Serve with yogurt dressing. YOGURT DRESSING (Makes about 1 cup) 1 cup plain yogurt 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 1/8 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard Salt, pepper

Combine yogurt, vinegar, mustard ans salt and pepper to taste. ADZUKI SPROUT ALMOND COOKIES (Makes about 2 dozen) 1/4 cup shortening 1/2 cup sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons milk 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1 cup flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup adzuki bean sprouts, toasted and finely ground in blender

Cream shortening and sugar in bowl. Beat in egg, milk and almond extract. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to egg mixture along with ground sprouts. Stir well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Flatten with bottom of a glass and press an almond into the center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

Note: To toast sprouts (also applicable to mung bean, soybean and whole wheat), dry sprouts between paper towels. Spread on baking sheet and toast in a 325-degree oven until completely dry and golden-brown, about 15 to 30 minutes depending on variety. GARDEN CRESS AND CREAM CHEESE SANDWICH 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened 1 tablespoon grated onion 1/8 teaspoon white pepper Pumpernickel or whole wheat-cinnamon-raisin bread Tomato slices 1/2 cup garden cress, about Pickle chips Avocado slices dipped in lemon juice

Combine cream cheese with grated onion and pepper. Mix until creamy. Spread on bread slices. Top with tomato slices, garden cress and pickle chips. Serve as open-faced or closed sandwich. Garnish with avocado slices. c CLOVER BRAN MUFFINS (Makes 20 to 24) 1 1/2 cups yogurt or sour cream 2 eggs, beaten 1/4 cup honey 1/4 butter or margarine, melted 1 1/2 cups all-bran cereal 1 cup whole-wheat flour 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/4 teaspoons soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup red clover sprouts

Lightly beat together yogurt, eggs, honey and melted butter. Stir in cereal, let soak about 5 minutes.

Combine flours, soda and salt. Add to bran mixture, mixing just enough to dampen flour. Stir in sprouts. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm with butter and honey. SNAPPY TOMATO-SPROUT COCKTAIL (2 servings) 2 cups tomato juice 2/3 cup spicy mixed sprouts (1/4 cup alfalfa and remainder of cup black radish) 1/4 cup chopped green pepper 1 salk celery, chopped 1/4 cup chopped peeled cucumber 1 tomato chopped 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/2 cup crushed ice

In blender container, combine tomato juice, mix sprouts, green pepper, celery, cucumber, tomato, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Process until liquefied. Add ice, blend thoroughly. Pour into tall glasses. CHINESE CHICKEN AND SOYBEAN SPROUTS (6 servings) 3 whole chicken breasts, boned 3 teaspoons cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon soy sauce 4 tablespoons oil 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 2 slices ginger root, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup soybean sprouts 2 tablespoons sherry 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Slice chicken to shredlike thinness (easy to do if chicken is slightly frozen). Mix chicken shreds with 1 teaspoon cornstarch, pepper, soy sauce and 2 tablespoons oil.

Combine mushrooms with remaining cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Set aside. Heat remaining oil in large skillet or wok. Fry ginger and garlic quickly. Add chicken, stir-fry over high heat until pink color disappears, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add mushroom mixture, cook 2 minutes. Add sprouts and continue cooking until chicken is done. Stir in sherry and sesame oil. Adjust soy sauce to taste. Serve hot with rice if desired. LENTIL LASAGNA (6 to 8 servings) 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste 1/2 cup hot water 1/4 cup olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce 1 stalk celery, diced Salt, pepper and sugar 1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked and rinsed 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese 1 1/2 cups lentil sprouts 1 1/2 cups cubed mozzarella cheese 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese

Blend tomato paste with hot water. Heat olive oil in skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic until golden. Add tomatoes and liquid, tomato sauce, celery and salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 1 hour.

Drain noodles. Pour 1/2 cup tomato sauce into 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Top with a layer of noodles. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, lentil sprouts and mozzarella. Dot with tablespoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Repeat in layers until all ingredients are used, ending with a layer of sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.