A few people have asked me about bean sprouts. They are a handy little crop for the avid gardener in the winter, when the need to grow something, no matter how small, becomes overwhelming.

If you don't suffer from these attacks, consider yourself lucky and don't bother with bean sprouts. I consider them something of a pain, largely because if your house isn't very warm, which mine isn't, they'll take days to sprout and more days to get to a decent size for eating. They're cheap enough to get in a good grocery store or a Chinese specialty grocery, and you don't have to spend time picking out the little green hulls that accompany home-grown sprouts.

But if you want to give it a try, here's what you do: Get young beans, if you can find them. A good health food store that carries fresh vegetables and mung beans in bulk will probably have young ones. Otherwise, order them through a good seed catalogue.

Put a handful of beans in a quart jar that has a fairly wide mouth. An old mayonnaise jar is good. Cut a square of Handi-Wipe or cheesecloth and fit it over the mouth of the jar, and top it with a canning ring or heavy rubber band, making a lid that will let air and water through.

About a quarter cup of beans is a good start; they'll more than triple in bulk when fully sprouted. With the beans in the jar, half-fill it with tepid water and let it sit overnight. The next day, pour off the water, rinse the beans in tepid water, and lay the jar on its side, spreading the beans out, in a place that remains relatively warm -- 60o F. or more. If it's a dark corner, so much the better, but don't put them where you'll forget them. They have to be rinsed about three times a day.

If they stay warm, and are rinsed three times a day, you should have sprouts that are ready to eat in less than a week. First the hulls will split, revealing little white beans, each of which will send out a short white shoot. The shoot will grow, develop two tender little leaves that will finally turn yellow or light green. At this point they'll be about two to four inches long and ready to add to salads, rice and topping for winter soups. They are also excellent cooked lightly in butter and mixed with other vegetables. To get rid of the hulls, put the sprouts in a deep dish of water and skim the green hulls off the top when they float up. If they turn brownish before they're fully sprouted, you'd better throw them out and try again; chances are the room was too cold for them to really work. And remember to use tepid water when rinsing.

You can also sprout alfalfa, clover, wheat and other small beans in the same way. They are remarkably nutritious and do well on sandwiches instead of lettuce, which tends to look a little dismal this time of the year anyway. POINSETTIAS: By now your poinsettia has probably begun to lose some leaves. Keep it misted as much as you can. When it begins to look really shabby, let the soil dry out almost completely and cut the stem down to about six inches. Put the plant where it won't look too bad but where you can still keep an eye on it. Water lightly, keeping the soil only slightly moist, and letting it almost dry out before re-watering. In the spring you can replant it and let it come back, growing green and lush through the summer before you try forcing it to bloom again next winter.