The more and more I research on the topic of traditional seed (grains, beans, and nuts) preperation, the more I realize that it is an area of nutritional science that still has a lot of missing pieces. Some groups insist that soaking/sprouting/fermenting is the only way that these foods should ever be eaten, and other people say that eating them raw is best.
Currently I’m waiting for science to catch up, and figure out which preperation methods are worth-while. In the meantime, I soak my nuts/seeds because I think they taste better, and I soak my grains because they cook faster. However, the firm stance that I use to have toward the process (when I wrote the following article) has slightly faded.
Nuts and seeds have evolved with a very specific purpose, to protect their delicate nutrient load until it is time to sprout into a new plant. This allows raw nuts and seeds the ability to lay dormant for years, patiently waiting for the right combination of warmth and moisture to signal to them that it is time to “wake up” and start sprouting.
The good news for humans, is that the nutrient loads that these nuts and seeds contain to help them form a new plant, make them extremely nutritious when consumed.
Unfortunately for us, the different natural defenses that help protect the seed’s can also make it difficult for us to digest and properly absorb the nutrients of raw seeds and nuts. It is for this reason that nuts and seeds are often times roasted -also because roasting nuts and seeds makes them delicious. The problem is that quickly roasting raw nuts and seeds isn’t completely effective.
If you want to really increase bio-availability of all the awesomeness that nuts and seeds have to offer, there are several methods that can be used:
- Soaking – “activating”
Simply rinsing and then soaking raw nuts and seeds overnight in salt water is an easy way to make them more digestible and increase nutrient availability. By doing this you are essentially “waking up” the seed making it think it is time to start sprouting. For this reason nuts/seeds that have been soaked are often called “activated”. Another benefit of soaking nuts and seeds is that it brings out their delicious natural flavors.
If you don’t believe me, try it! Compare the flavors side by side of a handful of raw walnuts compared to a handful of soaked walnuts. Your mind will be blown, and you will never go back to your raw nut eating ways…
After they are soaked you can:
- Drain the water and eat them!
- Put them in an airtight container in the fridge where they should be consumed within a couple days.
- Dehydrate the soaked seeds/nuts in a low setting oven (or even an oven with the door cracked open) or in a food dehydrator. The best way to do this is with low temperature over a long period of time. Once they are completely dry you will have nuts and seeds that can be kept in the fridge for weeks and boast all the digestive, flavorful, and nutritional benefits of being soaked.
Sprouting is a step beyond soaking and technically speaking, all raw nuts and seeds should be capable of sprouting, however, many have been heat treated and are incapable of sprouting -such as “raw” almonds and hazelnuts sold in the USA that are pasteurized. An easy seed to try sprouting at home -and the only ones I do on a regular basis- are sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
1. Rinse and soak seeds overnight in water.
Cover to keep bugs out
2. Drain the soaking water and rinse again.
3. Set the seeds in a way that allows for water to drain and air to flow.
The secret here is to have a way for the seeds to not sit in water, and at the same time have moderate airflow. The easiest way to do this is to buy a metal screen lid for a mason jar made for sprouting.
4. Continue to rinse the seeds a couple times a day with fresh water.
Frequently rinsing the seeds prevents mold
5. Wait till sprouted
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are ready after just a couple days when they first start to sprout. Other nuts and seeds take a bit longer, the specific time changes from seed to seed.
Once the sprouts are ready you can:
- Eat them!
- Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days
- Dehydrate them in a low setting oven or food dehydrator
- Roast them in the oven
Some natural foodies would say not to do this as temperature above 105F kills the living enzymes in the seed. But roasting brings out the oils, which increases taste infinitely and is required to make nut butters.
Fermenting nuts and seeds is an additional step past sprouting/soaking and can be used to create deliciously unique patés and nut “cheeses.”
I like to use this method to create “cashew cheese” as well as sunflower seed paté – however any seed/nut could be used.
1. Soak the cashews overnight
You can also sprout the seeds/nuts before moving to the next step
2. Drain and rinse the cashews
3. Blend the cashews in a food processor with:
- Whatever herbs/spices you like
sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno all work well!
- *Pickle juice*
Or juice from any lacto-fermented vegetable- See here
- Water to get desired consistency
If you want a dip use more water, if you want a firmer “cheese” use less
4. Put the nut/seed puree in a jar, close the lid, and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days
The lactic acid bacteria introduced via the pickle juice will go to work fermenting the seeds/nuts
5. Burp it & Stir it!
Unscrew the lid to release pressure and stir the puree a couple times a day
6. Wait till desired taste is achieved
After a few days the puree should start to smell a little funky and be bubbling up. At this point you can:
- Move the jar to the fridge and enjoy the seed/nut “paté”
- Hang the puree in a cheese cloth to allow the liquid to drip out to create a more firm “cheese” texture.
Nut/seed ferments may develop strong flavors and smells, which is perfectly normal, but off putting to many people. Unlike vegetable ferments that can be enjoyed over months, once moved to the fridge these ferments should be enjoyed within a week or so before they start getting too funky.