Thursday, July 22, 2010

Veggie Mights: DIY Sprouted Grains

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Last year, I went on a couple of dates with a delightful guy, H. We quickly discovered We Did Not Want the Same Things but had great conversation while we figured it out.

Our first date culminated in a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant where I confessed to being a vegetarian and prepared for the backlash. He smiled and one-upped me. He was a vegan.

Wow. I’d never even dated a vegetarian before; I was tickled. He continued that he once had been a voracious meat-eater until a healthier-than-thou raw foodist friend annoyed him to the brink of science.

After several weeks testing a raw diet on himself, H claimed to feel lighter, stronger, and more energetic than he’d had in years. To his disgust, his friend was right. Science doesn’t lie.

For me, denial kicked in immediately. I made the incorrect assumption that, since we were in a restaurant (of his choosing), he went back to eating cooked food full-time, but remained a vegan. That was not the case.

On a subsequent outing—to a Thai restaurant—he assured me that he continued to follow a raw food diet: most of his meals consisted of fruit and nuts; the only cooked meals he ate were out with friends. It would never work. I think I actually uttered the dreaded “What do you eat?” I’m so abashed.

The goal of most raw foodists is to consume a 75%–100% raw diet of primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes for maximum health. Beating oneself up for not being strict enough is counter-intuitive to the physical and mental health benefits of the diet. I think a lot of us in the veg community can take that to heart.

Diet was not a deal-breaker with H, but this experience made me think about food in a new way: about how much I love to cook, and about how I use cooking as an expression of love. I take joy in planning and preparing a special meal or a decadent dessert for my dearest friends and family. And the more restrictive their diets, the better. I love a challenge.

So why did raw food give me such pause?

It reminded me of being an omnivore who could never imagine going veg. (That was me almost 20 years ago.) I couldn’t conceive of what H ate. An apple with peanut butter for breakfast AND lunch? Just salad for dinner? Ugh, the boredom…Sounds familiar, eh, veggies?

For No-Cook Month, I did a more little digging into the world of raw food. What I really wanted to know was how raw foodists prepare grains and beans. Some grains, like bulgur wheat, cous cous (technically, a pasta), and sometimes rice can be soaked to edibility. But what about other grains and beans?

A failed attempt to soak a batch of quinoa resulted in a fermented, stinky, and still gritty waste. To the InterWebs!

Grains and beans, it turns out, are very often sprouted. Challenge accepted.

We all know about alfalfa sprouts—the subject of every other vegetarian joke before 1995—and mung bean sprouts, which are popular in Chinese cooking. Turns out you can sprout just about anything: seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts. For fun and games, I tried quinoa and millet.

Sprouting involves soaking and allowing your subject time to expand and literally sprout. Sprouting makes the food more digestible by the body and increases the nutritional value.

Sprouts can be eaten raw, but are also often cooked or milled into flour for baking. How very versatile.

So enough wall-hugging; it’s time to dance.

How to Sprout
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet.

What you’ll need:
something to sprout (I used 4 oz. of quinoa)
canning-type jar, 16 oz or larger (no lid required)
rubber band

What to do:
1) Wash a glass jar well. Pour grain into jar.

2) Place cheesecloth over mouth of jar with rubber band (or ring band if you have canning jars).

3) Fill with water. If you’re sprouting quinoa, give the jar a little shake and pour out the water to rinse the seeds. Quinoa has a bitter coating that should always be rinsed away. Refill the jar with water.

4) Allow to soak over night, up to 12 hours.

5) After a good soak, drain the water, refill the jar with water, and rinse the quinoa seeds, pouring away the water again.

6) Place the jar in a shallow bowl with the mouth end down to allow the remaining water to drain. Try to sift the seeds into an even layer along the side of the jar. This allows the sprouts air, light, and space to grow.

7) Leave in a cool (but not cold) place with indirect life. A countertop or table is fine.

8) Repeat steps 5 through 7 every 6 to 8 hours until you have tiny, cute sprouts. Quinoa can take as little as 24 hours after the initial soak. Some legumes can take up to 5 days.

9) Store sprouts in the refrigerator until you are ready to use, a few days up to a week.

Pop over to one of these helpful sites for more info about grains and legumes to sprout, as well as alternative methods.

I’m not sure if the air conditioning in apartment was a factor, but there was a setback during my first trial. The a/c was off for more than 24 hours over the weekend while I was away. New York’s 95+ degree temperatures and my absence (no rinsing) resulted in two jars of rancid grain.

For take two, I was diligent with the rinsing and used cold water. My quinoa sprouted in less than 2 days. The bounty of my efforts was 8 1/2 oz. of crunchy, fresh-tasting quinoa sprouts. They would be great on a green salad or in a variety of recipes. Millet results are pending.

Any raw food readers out there who would like to school me in their ways? (Please forgive my ignorance and Internet education.) Readers, have you sprouted anything before? Feel free share your experiences/tips in the comments. Stay tuned next week when I will Not Cook with the sprouted quinoa.


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Amy said...

I did a raw food stint for about a month and was always too chicken to sprout grains. I have, however, soaked raw almonds. Supposedly it is supposed to unleash some of the nutrients that are not as accessible in dry, raw almonds.

Just rinse the almonds and let them soak overnight in water. Rinse and then you can eat them or use them to make almond milk or anything else that strike's your fancy.

Thanks for having the guts to do what I didn't! I might give it a try now!

Kristin said...

A link to a method for preventing food poisoning from home-sprouted seeds. Apparently the bacterial contamination comes with the seeds.

Also, blanching sprouted beans (particularly kidney beans) can eliminate danger related to the toxin that they contain.

I prefer my bean sprouts lightly cooked to balance the food safety risk with the nutritional benefits of raw sprouts.

Shana said...

This is fascinating, dahlink. I recently did a quick in-magazine "what ayurvedic type are you" quiz and learned that I should give up meat and dairy. Yeah, right. I might as well become a raw foodist! However, I'm considering giving some of that a go after this baby is born and raised up some. I've got too many health issues and too many genetic factors and too-young kids not to. In this one post you made raw foodism oh-so-less daunting, boring, and scary.

Anonymous said...

Try sprouting wheat. Both my chickens and I love wheat sprouts. They're also really nutritious and high in protein.

Also, Casual Kitchen has a great series about eating raw:

Starving Student Survivor said...

I've sprouted alfalfa lots, and mung beans once or twice. I use the same method you outlined (also learned from the internet). I've never tried sprouting almonds, but I also soak them for 12-24 hours.

How did the sprouted quinoa taste?

Anonymous said...

I often sprout beans for use in Indian cuisine. There are many recipes from Maharashtra and south India which employ sprouted lentils, mung beans, val, etc etc. They are used in making a few kinds of dosas too, which are very tasty. I happen to enjoy the process of sprouting them - it's fun to watch.

As far as raw food diet, it doesn't agree with me. I have digestive issues with it. It may suit many - not arguing with other people's experiences - but me, it doesn't fit well at all. I've tried it for a few days here & there and it has been a failure for me.

Wilsonius said...

I've had good luck with alfalfa sprouts (which are the training wheels of sprouting, IMO). Last week I did a mixed marriage of flax and alfalfa seeds, which worked fine (tho I think I many more unsprouted flax than alfalfa seeds.
Today I've started sprouting quinoa. A few sites I've read suggest soaking them only for 25-30 minutes, not overnight (as I did with the others), so I'm going that route.
And many suggest putting the sprouted grain in sunlight for the last day's sprouting to boost chlorophyll. I did, and no harm came to either party.
Also, I've used cheesecloth (and will on the quinoa). Unfortunately, many seeds stick to the cloth during the rinsing process, making it impossible to reuse that batch of cloth, and reducing sprout yield. Any suggestions to avoid this problem, folks?

Alisha said...

In your instructions step 2 says to cover with cheesecloth and step 3 and following say to fill with water and drain and rinse etc. Is all this really done with the cheesecloth on? I've never used a cheesecloth before. I have no idea where to even purchase one. I haven't sprouted before but I want to start. Too bad it takes so long.

Also, as Anonymous stated, it's true raw foods aren't good if you have digestion issues such as IBS. they are much harder to digest if you don't have good bacteria in your gut or if you intestinal worms or parasites making it more difficult. I have several food allergies because of the parasites I recently found out I had by getting tested at a Naturopathic Doctor's. My allopathic doctor was saying it was nothing --just IBS lol but there's always a cause. Show's how stupid traditional doctors are. I have less bloating and gas ever since I gave up wheat and dairy. Gluten-free and dairy free diet is not all that difficult once you get the hang of it.

FYI - Ayurvedic medicine is also very very accurate. I learned a lot from it. It will tell you to avoid raw foods if they check your pulse and determine from it that you have digestion issues. All based on elements in the body and temperature. Also, traditional naturopathic medicine has borrowed a lot from it. Even traditional chinese medicine has come from Ayurvedic medicine which has been followed by Indians from the beginning of time. Buddha (Siddharth Gautami) who was Indian brought this sacred knowledge/medicine to the East when he travelled there.

Darrell said...

I have been raw for 3 weeks and loving it. I succesfully made 2 batches of lentel sprouts and just ate a cup of quinoa sprouts. Not surre how the quinoa is suposed to taste. Mine were bordering on sour. I did not tip the jar so remaining water could drain so I will try that next time. I love kale and spinich salads with avocado, lemon juice and sprouts. I also do green smoothies. I feel so much better and digestion is getting better daily. I use almonds for snacking as well as various seeds. Good health to you all.

Anonymous said...

Lentils are great to sprout. Quick (2-4 days), delicious and very nutritious.