Here is another nourishing technique that I consider very important to our diet… soaking & dehydrating nuts and seeds. They are great nutritional snacks and ideal for traveling.
I used to not enjoy nuts or seeds because I wasn’t fond of the waxy, slightly bitter taste and it would often bother my stomach, make me slightly tired and give me a light headache if I ate a couple handfuls. I thought it was because I was more of a “carb” person (which, I am) and didn’t enjoy a lot of protein. But when I started soaking and dehydrating them, I found them much more digestible and seriously DELICIOUS! Now, I love them and enjoy them daily with my salads, oatmeal or simply mixing them with raisins for a quick snack.
If I hadn’t learn about the benefits of soaking grains, nuts/seeds and legumes through the research of Sally Fallon and Nourishing Traditions, I probably would’ve developed wheat and nut allergies. My body was telling me that my digestive mechanism was under stress trying to digest the nuts and I loved bread a little too much :o)
Why Soak Nuts?
Nuts are rich sources of natural oils, protein, vitamins and they are very nutritious food if properly prepared. Once again, the habits of traditional societies should be served as a guide. They understood instinctively that nuts are best soaked or partially sprouted before eaten. Why? Because nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a real strain on our digestive mechanism if consume in excess (which is very likely why my body didn’t do well when I ate raw nuts). The enzymes are useful in preventing the nuts and seeds from sprouting prematurely.
Nuts are easier to digest and nutrients more available if they are soaked in warm salt water overnight, then dried in a warm oven or dehydrator. Salt in the soaking water activates enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitor and simulates the production of beneficial enzymes. These enzymes increases the levels of vitamins (especially the important B vitamins), makes the nuts easier to digest and the nutrients are easily absorbed. The Aztecs are a great example of this process… they would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in salty water and sun dry them. They ate pepitas whole or ground into a meal.
Some of you might be wondering why salt is used for the soaking instead of a cultured or acidic medium. Here’s what I found from Sally Fallon:
The salt helps activate enzymes that de-activate the enzyme inhibitors. For grains, we soak in an acidic solution to get rid of phytic acid. Nuts do not contain much phytic acid but do contain high levels of enzyme inhibitors. The method imitates the way the native peoples in Central America treated their nuts and seeds--by soaking them in seawater and then dehydrating them.
If you eat substantial quantities of raw pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts or others, you have a choice of swallowing enzyme capsules with them to neutralize their enzyme inhibitors, germinating them or soak them in salt water and dehydrate. Obviously, germinating or soaking them is more frugal and healthier in the long run.
How to Soak Nuts & Seeds
The basic technique is the same for all nuts and seeds, but there are slight changes for most of them and I will list each of them separately. But before I do, let me explain the basic way of soaking your nuts and seeds:
- Pour your choice of nuts and/or seeds into a big enough bowl.
- Sprinkle sea salt over them.
- Pour lukewarm water over them, using enough to cover completely.
- Stir it around really good.
- Leave in a warm place for the time specified or overnight.
- Then drain, using a colander.
- Spread over your Dehydrator screens and set it no warmer than 150 degrees.
- If using an oven, spread on stainless steel cookie sheet and place in warm oven (no warmer than 150 degrees). Turn occasionally.
- Take out when the nuts and/or seeds are thoroughly dry and crisp (important!).
- Store in airtight jars/containers and enjoy!
It is really important to make sure they are completely dry with no moisture. They could mold and wouldn’t have that delicious, light, crunchy texture. Often times if I soak them for a longer period, then it will take longer to dehydrate them.
I use my dehydrator instead of the oven and LOVE it! It works extremely well and is very handy to have around. The dehydrator uses up less energy, doesn’t heat up my kitchen and is great for many things. Sadly, my dehydrator is getting ready to retire and I will be looking for a new one soon. I was blessed with this used simple dehydrator a few years ago (my friend’s mom found it in a garage sale, yeah!) and have used it weekly since then. Yeah, it got used a lot!!
For those who don’t have a dehydrator I have heard that you can use your oven by leaving the door slightly ajar to keep the temperature lower than 150 degrees. I know this isn’t very energy efficient, but it could work. You can also shop around Craig’s List, ebay, garage sales and resale stores… maybe you just might find a used dehydrator in good condition and at a good price!
Pumpkin or Squash Seeds (Pepitas)
- 4 cups raw, hulled pumpkin seeds
- 2 Tbsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 hours or overnight, until dry and crispSunflower SeedsI've never really enjoyed sunflower seeds until I soaked and dehydrated them. Now, I love them with my salads!
- 4 cups raw, hulled sunflower seeds
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 hours or overnight, until dry and crispPecans or WalnutsThe buttery flavor of the pecans intensifies through the soaking and drying process… So good! I also noticed that the walnuts have a less bitter aftertaste when they are soaked and dried. Special note: Walnuts should be stored in the fridge to preserve the natural omega 3 oils.
- 4 cups raw pecans or walnuts
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 to 24 hoursPeanuts, Pine Nuts & HazelnutsThe peanuts and hazelnuts are best skinless.
- 4 cups raw peanuts, pine nuts or hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 to 24 hours, until completely dry and crisp.Whole Almonds & Slivered AlmondsOur favorite!! NT says it is best to use skinless (easier to digest) and more satisfactory in recipes. But I use almonds with skins and like them just fine :o)
- 4 cups almonds or almond slivers
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 to 24 hours, until completely dry and crisp.CashewsAccording to NT: Care must be taken in preparing cashews. They will become slimy and develop a disagreeable taste if allowed to soak too long or dry out too slowly. Possibly because they come to us no truly raw but having already undergone two separate heatings. You may dry them at 200 to 250 degrees because the enzymes have already been destroyed during the processing.
- 4 cups “raw” cashews
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: No more than 6 hoursDehydrating: at 200 degrees, 12 to 24 hours till dry and crisp.Macadamia NutsI love macadamia nuts, but choose them with great care! If they look oily or old… don’t buy them. Try to find them as fresh as possible with no or little oil residues. Make sure not to soak them too long or they will get slimy.
- 4 cups raw macadamia nuts
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- filtered waterSoaking: At least 7 hours or overnightDehydrating: 12 to 24 hours, until completely dry and crisp.
I have been soaking and dehydrating nuts/seeds for 3 years now and my family loves them. I am thankful that I came across Sally Fallon’s excellent research on this area and for her dedication to bring back traditional, nourishing foods into our modern world.
Do tell me... What you think of all this?