Nuts and seeds, like many plant foods, contain substances that are specially formulated to keep animals and people from eating them. Phytates, lectins, enzyme-inhibitors of all kinds are basically “anti-nutrients” for us, and at best can be extremely difficult to digest, at worst would make us sick over time if we consumed enough of them, as they can compromise our ability to absorb minerals and other important nutrients, plus can be very rough on our gastrointestinal system. However, it’s very simple to prepare nuts and seeds in a way that makes them much easier for us to digest, etc.
This is what I do:
Take a few cups of raw, organic nuts (we mostly do almonds, walnuts, pecans), place them in a large bowl (you could also use a large Ball jar or whatever). Completely cover them with filtered water, with 2 or 3 inches of water to spare over the top of the nuts (they will absorb water as they soak). Cover the bowl with a plate, then drape a kitchen towel over this (so bugs don’t sneak in). let soak for 6 to 12 hours. Here, there are differing opinions. Some people say that each kind of nut or seed has a specific soaking time it requires. Personally, I’ve found that overnight, for around 8 to 9 hours, works great (cashews [which we don’t use that much anyway] being the exception, as they should only be soaked for a few hours or they get a weird bitter taste and start to break down. They are not actually ever “raw” anyway, as they have to be heated to high temperatures to be extracted from their shells). Then I rinse the nuts/seeds really well. Usually after this soaking I dehydrate them for approximately another 8 to 9 hours, at a low heat (about 116, so as not to kill most of the enzymes), until they are crispy. Sometimes I use them just after soaking, for example when I make a “raw” walnut pate, or my adaptation of Sally Fallon’s sunflower seed brownies,* that unfortunately I can’t post here, as they are both recipes in my book. I will post some good nut and seed recipes on the recipe page soon though… Meanwhile, here’s a link to a basic nut milk recipe:
A related aside:It is difficult to get truly raw almonds in this country, as there was a law passed in 1998 that third parties (ie retailers) can not sell almonds that have not been pasteurized, and that these pasteurized almonds can be sold labeled as “raw.” You can, however, order them online directly from farms.* That said, I’ve noticed lately that a couple of co-ops in my area have either decided to thumb their noses at this law, or have found a way around it (or maybe the law’s been repealed? Anyone know anything about this? We can only hope!), because suddenly I’ve found raw, organic, specifically UNPASTEURIZED almonds a few times in the last couple of months.