The term ‘superfood’ has been applied to everything from acai to cacao to quinoa, but few foods deserve the tag more than sprouted grains, nuts and seeds.
Proponents of sprouting hold that activated grains, nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses thanks to their wealth of enzymes.
Raw Food Kitchen’s Amanda Brocket runs raw food workshops teaching people the skills of sprouting and fermenting. She says sprouts are full of beneficial enzymes which enhance digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. “They’re also very alkalising for the body,” she adds.
Likewise Maz Valcorza from Sadhana Kitchen, a raw food emporium that operates from an Enmore yoga studio, calls sprouted grains, nuts and seeds the cheapest and most accessible superfoods you can get.
“You don’t have to import them and you can make them yourself in abundance,” she says.
Along with fermenting and dehydrating, sprouting is an important method of food preparation for followers of a raw food diet, which requires that food is not heated above 42 to 45 degrees Celsius in order to maintain the enzyme content of your food.
“These enzymes can be thought of as catalysts for all the major bodily functions,” says Valcorza. “Most importantly they help digestion. Enzymes ensure that you’re going to assimilate the maximum amount of nutrients from the food that you eat.”
Seeds, grains and nuts are coated with phytic acid, a strong enzyme inhibitor that serves as the plant’s natural defense mechanism.
“Sprouting is the process of removing those enzyme inhibitors, and making the nut, seed or grain alive again,” explains Valcorza. “It’s in its dormant stage when you harvest it and then when you soak it for a certain period of time and then rinse it every day you’ll see it start to germinate.”
To try sprouting at home, Valcorza recommends using a seed like quinoa (not a grain, as popularly thought). “Rinse it really thoroughly, and then you soak it. For quinoa you soak it for 12 hours or overnight, and that initial soaking process is going to remove the phytic acid.”
Rinse it again to remove all the enzyme inhibitors, and then put your seeds into a sprouting container or a sprouting jar, “essentially like a jam jar but the lid is made out of mesh like a flyscreen material,” says Valcorza.
Drain your seeds, and let the jar or container sit on an angle covered by a tea towel, or in a cool, dark place like a cupboard. “Then you rinse it every day, and in about three days the seeds start to sprout little tails.”
It’s important not to over-soak your sprouts, and most are ready in 3 to 5 days. Sprouts left too long can go mouldy and become inedible. “For something like quinoa, you don’t want the tails to be any more than a quarter of an inch because they’ll go rancid,” says Valcorza.
Check one of the many guides found online to see how long your grains, nuts and seeds need to soak to leach out the enzyme inhibitors, how long to rinse them, and how many days it takes for them to sprout.
You can buy a special sprouting jar from most health food stores or you can make your own, as Amanda did. “All you need is a mason jar, and a breathable cotton lid,” she says. “I started sprouting using a clean Chux Cloth cut to the shape of the jar for a lid and a rubber band to secure to jar.”
Amanda suggests making your sprouts into dips and crackers, or add them into pizza bases and salads. Adding sprouts to green smoothies, a raw food diet staple, means “you’re really amping up the nutrient intake for that meal,” says Valcorza.
“One thing we do here at Sadhana which is really cool is we soak and sprout buckwheat, and we put it into a granola. After it has sprouted we put it back in the dehydrator so it goes crunchy again,” she says.