Sprouting wheat is one of the 3 ways traditional societies used to prepare their grains before eating. This careful preparation of wheat and other grains is necessary in order to break down the antinutrients, toxins, and difficult to digest proteins (i.e., gluten) so as to optimize digestibility and to allow maximum absorption of nutrients. Unfortunately, this careful preparation method has been lost with our modern cooking methods which focus on speed and convenience rather than nutrient density and digestibility!
Many healthy home economists are returning to these wise and traditional preparation methods, especially as allergies and intolerances to grains continue to explode in the industrialized world. It is amazing to me how many folks label themselves as “gluten intolerant”. If they only realized how simple cooking techniques will easily break down the gluten and allow them to enjoy wheat again!
Today’s blog will focus on the sprouting of grains, and wheat in particular. Sprouting wheat before grinding into a flour and then cooking/baking breaks down the gluten and increases the nutrition of the grain substantially. For instance, vitamin C is produced by sprouting grain, but it is absent in the unsprouted form. Vitamin B content is increased dramatically by sprouting as are carotenes. Irritating substances in the hull of the wheat are inactivated by sprouting as well. These inhibitors (phytic acid) have the potential to neutralize the enzymes in our digestive tract, so sprouting exponentially increases ease of digestion!
Much media attention has been focused recently on the problem of aflatoxins in grains. Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens in grains and are present in high quantities in highly processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cereals. Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, which is just another reason to follow the wisdom of traditional peoples in grain preparation!
Sprouting takes a bit of time, but it is quite easy and can be done in bulk so that you only have to do it every month or so depending on how much sprouted flour you use. The first item you need to sprout is a quart size or half gallon size glass container with a screen lid. Many health food stores sell sprouting jars, but you can easily make one yourself at home using a glass jar and a clean pair of pantyhose cut to fit the lid of the jar and fastened with a rubber band.
Once you have your jar ready, fill it no more than halfway with the grain you wish to sprout. I use organic spelt or organic soft white wheat that I obtain from my local BreadBeckers co-op.
Rinse the wheat several times with filtered water until the berries are completely wet. Then fill the jar until almost full with water and let the berries soak overnight. The next morning, tip the jar and drain out the water using the screen lid to prevent the berries from spilling out. Rinse the wheat one more time and then invert the jar and let it sit at an angle to facilitate draining and allowing the circulation of air.
I use my grain grinder as a support for the jar so that the draining occurs right over the kitchen sink. Every few hours, rinse the wheat again and reset the jar in the draining position. In anywhere from a few hours to a few days (depending on the time of year and warmth/humidity in your home), small white buds will appear on the ends of the wheat kernals. When this occurs, pour the sprouted wheat kernals into baking pans and place in a dehydrator or a warm oven (150 F) for about 24 hours until fully dried.
After the sprouted wheat berries are dried, you can then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or grind immediately and then freeze the sprouted flour. Use sprouted flour just like you would use regular flour in your favorite baking recipes. Note that baked goods made with sprouted flour are much more digestible/filling. As a result, you will find that you eat much less than the same item made with unsprouted flour!