Whenever I purchase seeds and nuts from the local organic stores, like Whole Foods, Community Market or Oliver’s Market, I try to always buy pounds at a time from the bulk bin section to save money. I also like to reuse the bags I pour them into in order to reduce waste; if you decide to reuse yours, make sure you clean them really well first to avoid contamination. Some stores even give you a discounts for reusing bags. One cashier even gave me a discount for each reused bag I put my produce and nuts into, too, in addition to the discounts for bring in my own fabric shopping bags. I saved a lot of money that trip! At Community Market for each fabric shopping bag you use to take your purchases home in, you receive a token to donate towards a charity of your choice; each token represents a either a dime or nickle (I can’t remember which) that the store will donate on your behalf; Whole Foods has a similar program for donating to a charity of your choice in exchange for bringing in your own fabric shopping bags (or you can choose to keep your nickle). Either way, many many people bring in their bags to shop, that’s a significant amount of money donations. Giving back always makes me feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂


Anyway, back to the nuts. (I will talk about seed sprouting in a future post.) Before I start, I always turn to my books by Ani Phyo and Sarma Melngailis, who have fantastic healthy recipes, present readers with nutrition facts and are both very inspiring wome. It is very important to soak your nuts before you eat them if you want them raw, which is healthier for you than eating them straight or cooked due to all of the great amino acids and vitamins within the raw nut “meat”. Some vitamins are also fragile and break down when exposed to high heat that they are therefore no longer available to you after they are cooked. Soaking the nuts is like soaking beans; it helps get rid of bad stuff, including dust, residues and acids. In this case, you want to use salted water to speed up the process of leaching out the tannic and phytic acids, which in turn improves flavor and allows more efficient nutrient absorption and digestion.

Make sure that you shell your nuts or buy pre-shelled nuts before soaking. Always use a covered airtight (to prevent bacterial contamination) glass bowl and other non-reactive tools (plastic or stainless steel fine mesh strainer and wooden or plastic spoon to prevent oxidation) when preparing raw food. You also want to use at least twice as much water than nuts, since they will double in size. Keep an eye on your water level, and add more water to the bowl if necessary.


The amount of time required to soak the nuts is directly related to their hardness. Harder nuts take longer, some 8 to 12 hours, whereas the softer ones, only need 20 minutes to 4 hours. Visit Raw Food Living for a helpful soaking and sprouting chart. The range in soaking times depends on the ambient room temperature, so if you are using a warmer kitchen, your soaking times is lessened. Be careful though; your nuts should not get above about 72 degrees F. I always soak mine at room temperature, but some other people soak theirs in the refrigerator. If you are unsure of your nut’s leaching progress, just rinse one off and taste it. If it’s still acidic, put it back in the water. Any time after the midway point, you can change out the cloudy water for fresh water; just make sure to only use filtered water and more salt. (Filtered is best, but water that has sat out about for 20 to 30 minutes to release chlorine, other gases or even sediment is better than straight from the tap.) If you soak your nuts past the maximum time limit, they can ferment and turn sour. Trust me. If that’s not your intent, fermented nuts are a waste of time, money and food. I probably could have made nut cheese or something, but I didn’t know about that option at the time and threw all of my brand new nuts away, which was very sad and frustrating.


The nuts I eat the most often are cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds. Unfortunately due to several salmonella contamination incidents in 2001 and 2004 at non-organic almond farms, all almonds grown in the US and sold in American stores are either pasteurized with steam (which cooks the nuts) or propylene oxide (a former insecticide and racing fuel and a probable carcinogen) according to federal law since 2007. Hurray. 😦 I was recently very confused and shocked to see Oliver’s “raw” organic almonds now relabeled as steam-pasteurized. Bummer. I’m glad the shoppers are now better informed though. I still soak mine anyway to get rid of the acids to prevent heartburn and to aid digestion; I’m in trouble if I don’t. Thankfully, many farmers who sell almonds at US farmers markets are not required to pasteurize with either method, which may explain why they are always more expensive. Almond growers in Europe are also not required to pasteurize their almonds.


Let’s look at soaking cashews.

Cashews for Snacking (& Adding to Other Recipes)

Ingredients
2 lbs Whole Cashew Nuts, shelled
Filtered Water
1 T Sea Salt, ground

Directions
Sort your cashews, discarding any that are discolored. Try to remove bits of remaining skin from the nuts, otherwise they will cause dark discolorations. Sprinkle the salt into your soaking container. Pour in the nuts. Add twice as much water than nuts to the bowl. Stir them together to dissolve the salt. Cover your bowl with an airtight lid. Soak your cashews for two to four hours. Drain your nuts into a fine mesh colander, so you don’t loose any bits. Rise the cashews with cold water until it turns clear.


Place your flexible sheets or parchment paper onto the dehydrator trays. Transfer your nuts onto the trays.* Set your dehydrator temperature to either 105 or 115 degrees F. Dehydrate your nuts for at least 6 hours or longer, depending on ambient humidity. The nut meat is sufficiently dry when it makes a slight snapping sound as you break a piece in half and the color of the flesh of the nuts is a consistent shade of beige all the way through along the broken edge.

*On sunny days, you can use a solar oven or food dehydrator with a built-in fan and thermometer. You don’t want your food to get too hot. Here is a neat website that shows you how to build your own dehydrator, and this site has even more great design options. As another option for those of you who live in a climate region with dry summers, like my parents do, you can leave your nuts out in a baking sheet or jelly roll pan covered with a few paper towels in a warm place in the kitchen to dry for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. If I tried this where I live the nut’s would ferment or start to mold. Yuck. 😦

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