Friday! Friday! Friday!
Thank you so much for the thoughtful responses to my conscious shopping post. What I’m hearing is that most of us aren’t carrying our conscientious food habits into our habits as consumers of clothing, shoes, and accessories. But it’s never too late to start!
Each month, I get countless emails about sprouting. What can I sprout? Why should I sprout it? Do I have to sprout it to get nutritional benefits? How does one sprout something? Is it safe?
I’m delighted to see such a healthy interest in sprouting, though I also have to confess to you that I’m not an expert. Readers often assume that I sprout all of my nuts, seeds, and grains; they’re wrong! I often don’t. Sprouting is a wonderful practice, but I consider it an optional one. If you don’t do it, I assure you that you’ll survive.
What does it mean to sprout something, and why do it? Simply put, sprouting initiates the growth process of a seed, grain, or seed-grain. When a grain is sprouted, some of its complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which are easier for our body to digest that long chains of starch. Some of the grain’s protein, likewise, is broken down into amino acids, which spares our bodies the labor of breaking it down later on. Most significantly, sprouting wicks away a grain, nut, or seed’s enzyme inhibitors and naturally occurring tannins; these are compounds that reside in the skin of the nuts, seeds, and grains, and they’re very slow to digest. The goal of soaking and sprouting is to “de-activate” them, so that our bodies face no barriers when they digest and assimilate the food.
Sprouting, soaking, and germination aren’t the same things. When you soak nuts, seeds, and grains, you break down their enzyme inhibitors. You also reduce phytic acid, a compound that binds with minerals in the grain–such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc–and makes it difficult for our bodies to absorb them. Soaking neutralizes the phytic acid, and “releases” those minerals for our bodies’ use. Soaking initiates germination (growth), and if you then rinse grains and leave them in a warm, damp place, they’ll begin to sprout.
Which grains can be sprouted? The simplest grains to sprout are wheat, kamut, spelt, barley, and rye. The most sproutable “pseudograins” — or “seed-grains,” as some people call them–are millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and wild rice. I’ve experimented with sprouting all of these grains at home, and my favorites are quinoa, millet, and wheatberries (spelt and kamut are runners up!).
How often do I sprout grains? I’ll be frank: I don’t much like the taste of sprouted grains — at least not in comparison to cooked ones. And while I recognize the benefits of soaking and sprouting, I also believe that cooked grains still retain a great deal of their nutrient value; soaking and sprouting are means of optimizing absorption, but choosing not to soak or sprout won’t negate the value of your grains.
There are times, though, when sprouting grains becomes my prep method of choice. Surprisingly, I sprout grains most often when I’m busy. Why? Because once the grains are sprouted, they demand no prep time! If I have a sprouted grain on hand, I can literally throw it into a salad, mix it with veggies for a cold grain salad, or eat it plain; if I come home and want cooked grains, on the other hand, I need to put aside 20 minutes – 1 hour for the cooking process. And when it’s 9 pm after a grueling day of work, watching a simmering pot for half an hour is really the last thing I feel like doing. Having sprouted grains in my fridge means access to a meal component that’s versatile and nutrient dense; I can simply plate the grains and go.
As I battle my summer schedule, sprouted grains are making frequent appearances in the CR kitchen. Last week, I whipped up a batch of one of my very favorite sprouted grains: wheatberries. As a rule, whole wheat is less nutrient rich than some of my other favorite grains (such as millet, quinoa, or even kamut and spelt). Still, it’s a terrific source of fiber (which can help to manage cholesterol, contributes to heart health, and keeps us feeling sated), manganese (which is an enzyme activator and an aid in lipid synthesis), magnesium (which helps to keep bones healthy). In other words, it’s got tons of nutrient benefits. It’s also pretty tasty
Soaking and sprouting grains — whatever grains they may be — is far easier than you’d expect!
Today, I’ll offer a short grain sprouting tutorial:
1) Place one full cup of wheatberries in a large mason jar. Fill it with 2 1/2 cups filtered water. Let it sit, open, at room temperature for one full day.
2) 24 hours later, drain the wheatberries and rinse them well.
3) Return the soaked grains to your mason jar. Take a paper towel or cheesecloth, put it over the mouth of the jar, and secure it there with a rubber band. Turn the jar on its side, and leave it be in a room temperature nook of your kitchen.
4) Let the jar sit for 12-24 hours — I almost always give it a full day. At the end of this time period, you can remove the paper towel or cloth, and you’ll see that the grains have sprouted little “tails,” like so!
At this point, the grains are ready for consumption. You should have about 2 cups of sprouted grains at the ready. It’s. That. Simple.
See? No fuss! Sprouting is a cinch, and once you get used to it, you’ll love the process. Right now, I’ve got a jar or two of different grains sprouting or soaking almost all the time; it’s such a relief to have them at the ready when I need to toss a meal together on the fly. Note that different grains take different amounts of time to sprout; wheatberries take a long time, relatively speaking, but grains like quinoa sprout in a jiffy. As you get used to sprouting, you’ll get a sense of the times that different grains demand.
What to do with you sprouted grains? I’m glad you asked. As you know, I’m a big fan of throwing grains+avocado onto a nutrient dense salad. I also love mixing sprouted grains with banana and nut milk for breakfast. Sometimes, I grind sprouted grains and put them in cracker or bread dough.
Most of all, I love to use my sprouted grains in grain salads. These are, quite simply, big batches of sprouted grains mixed with raw veggies, oil, and a hint of acid in the form of lemon or vinegar. Here, friends, is one of my favorites.
Sprouted Wheatberry Salad (serves 4)
2 cups sprouted wheatberries
1/2 cup dried apples, chopped into small pieces
2 cups shredded dino or curly kale
1 cup chopped or grated carrots
1-2 tsp agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flax oil
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Adjust to suit your tastes — you may want to add more vinegar, salt, or veggies. For a well combined option, simply remove the dried apples!
This is a sweet, tangy, and filling grain salad, and it works equally nicely as a main dish or green salad topper. I’ve enjoyed it on its own:
Topped with avocado:
And mixed into big salads.
In any of these varieties, it’s a nourishing and hearty raw meal.
Hopefully, I’ve just persuaded those of you who fear sprouting that it’s not so scary a process, after all! Now that it’s warm outside, and the need for hot food isn’t quite so great, it’s a wonderful time for you to get sprouting. Have fun with it — and happy weekend!
P.S. One of my fave organizations, the Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary, is hosting its 4th annual June Jamboree on June 12 & June 13th from 11-5pm. It’ll be a fun event, with live music all day both days. There will be kids activities, a pottery and art sale, farm tours and deliciously decadent food prepared by The Regal Vegan– so visitors are advised to come hungry. Check out the deets here!