Wednesday, 30 April 2008

No time to soak the nuts? How much does it matter?

So, you've found a great recipe in an uncookbook, you've dashed out after work and bought all the ingredients, got them home, and...aargh - it says 'soak the nuts'. Do you a) eat at 2 am the next morning or b) use them dry and hope for the best? Does everyone soak their nuts? Every time? How much does it matter?

What happens when nuts are soaked?

Unsoaked, nuts contain enzyme inhibitors. These are what allow nuts in the ground to stay dormant, ie keep from sprouting, until the conditions are right for growth. When the climate is right, the nut germinates; it sprouts, as the first stage of the process towards becoming a tree.

Soaking the nuts that find their way into our homes makes them think it's a showery April - the enzyme inhibitors are released, the enzymes are activated, and...the nut comes to life! Although we don't usually need them to sprout as such, the changes that do occur with soaking are beneficial.


Enzymes and nutrients increase

The enzymes that are activated reduce the burden on our own digestive system enzymes, thus giving our bodies more energy for other things. Also,when the enzymes are activated, great things happen! Vitamin content increases, proteins break down into amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and starches into sugars, which is all good news for our bodies - saving them the work!

The nuts become softer

Chewing is an essential stage of digestion, but dry nuts can be hard work for the mouth. We tend not to chew for long enough, and hard nuts can feel uncomfortable in our stomachs. Soaking softens them.

Also, it is much easier to blend nuts with water, eg to make almond milk, after they have been soaked and softened, which is good news for the (many) raw fooders who don't own a Vitamix or similar.

Water content increases

The nuts absorb water as they soak. This brings them closer to their natural, fresh state. So soaked nuts will increase the water content of your meal.

Also, as they soak, they increase in volume. So you get more (in a way!).


Soak nuts in about double their volume of water (filtered). In the summer cover the bowl with something to keep insects off, eg netting, or a stocking.

Some say that the nuts that float to the top are rancid. I'm not so sure...most times when I soak walnuts and almonds (bought from a reputable source), significant quantities rise to the top. I don't find they taste rancid, and in fact find no difference in taste between the sinkers and floaters. I think it likely that the floaters are less fresh, but I'd waste a lot if I threw them out each time...I'll leave that one with you!

After soaking, the nuts must be drained, rinsed thoroughly, then drained again. Don't use the soaking water for anything else as it contains the enzyme inhibitors. Once rinsed and drained, either use, or refrigerate; the nuts should keep for 2-3 days.


In general, the harder, denser and thicker-skinned the nut, the longer the soak needed. I've studied various sources, averaging out, and suggest the following soaking periods:

  • Almonds and hazelnuts: 8-10 hours
  • Walnuts and brazils: 3-4 hours
  • Macadamias, cashews and pine 'nuts' (seeds): 1-2 hours

What if the recipe doesn't say 'soak'? Should we not soak in those circumstances?

Check the front of the recipe book to see if the writer has issued a general directive, ie to save themselves writing 'soak' on every recipe. Having said that, occasionally raw food writers will use nuts dry. This can mean either not soaked at all, or soaked and dried.

In these circumstances, I recommend soaking the nuts as usual, but dry them afterwards. This means drying them just on the outside, at a low temperature for a very short time, as we don't want to reverse all the good things that have happened during soaking. Either dry with a cloth and leave at room temperature, or blow a little air on them by using a dehydrator at 95-105 F - I've just dried some soaked almonds, and it took 45 minutes only.

So what if there's no time to soak?

For the reasons above, I believe, and many raw fooders do, that nuts should always be soaked for optimal health. But does everyone soak their nuts, all the time? No. Some raw fooders don't soak their nuts, all the time, or indeed any of the time! Some raw food leaders (although they would appear to be in the minority) don't generally soak their nuts. Many people in the raw food world, including myself, use nuts dry occasionally, but this is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

But first, a crumb of comfort...if you're new to raw food, you might be (as I was in the early months) feeling frustrated at the number of times you come across a recipe you'd like to try, only to find it should have been started yesterday...But, in time, you will gradually change your food preparation routines. Whereas, in the old life, you might have thought, before leaving for work, 'Do I need to get anything out of the freezer?' you will start to think, 'Must put the almonds in soak.' Or, if you've just been shopping and collected all the ingredients for a meal to make later, instead of putting the nuts in the cupboard, you'll put them into soak. It does get easier!

And, secondly, a little soaking is better than nothing. If there's no time to soak properly, try to soak for at least half an hour. And remember that if you are using nuts dry and the recipe says soaked you may have to compensate for the loss of water by increasing any liquid in the recipe, or high-water foods such as tomato.

Ultimately, you'll need to decide, if time is short, whether to use the nuts unsoaked or not, and whether the loss of benefits from soaking is outweighed by other considerations. I'd advise never to use nuts unsoaked if preparing food for others, but if they're just for you...? Three tips for when eating unsoaked nuts: 1) Chew well 2) Eat in moderation (no more than a handful) 3) (from David Wolfe 'Sunfood Diet Success System') Eat 'dormant' nuts with green leaves to help along the digestion, otherwise they may 'sit heavy in the stomach'!

Friday, 18 April 2008

WHEAT Part II: How to make Essene Bread - step by step, with pictures

'Sprouted breads', 'Ezekiel bread'...may or may not be baked at relatively low temperatures (ie as compared with a sliced white), but they're not raw. Raw breads are made at no higher a temperature than 118F, and often lower. There are lots of recipes for tasty raw breads (often made with a flax base) on raw forums and in raw recipe books, but they generally require the use of a dehydrator. Essene bread on the other hand needs only air, light and a little water (for sprouting). So, this article is not about making a multi-ingredient raw bread that looks and tastes a little like cooked bread - the kind that might satisfy non-raw friends and relations. It's for those who would like to try making a small portion of the most elemental raw bread - bread made from wheat only.

One of my inspirations for going raw was The Essene Gospel of Peace. But, to be honest, when I read the words 'do not cook' the first time, they went in one ear and out the other! But it all came together, with other things, a while later...The EGOP contains dietary advice that is pretty much in line with the experiences and practices of raw fooders in recent years, except these words were said to have been spoken thousands of years ago. It describes a process rather like an enema or colonic, advises us to fast, not to eat before midday, and not to mix lots of ingredients together (which of course is a bit of a problem for gourmet raw food...)

Here, Jesus, or the Teacher (depending on who one believes the EGOP is about) tells his followers how to make bread:

'How should we cook our daily bread without fire, Master?' asked some with great astonishment. 'Let the angels of God prepare your bread. Moisten your wheat, that the angel of water may enter it. then set it in the air, that the angel of air also may embrace it. And leave it from morning to evening beneath the sun, that the angel of sunshine may descend upon it. And the blessing of the three angels will soon make the germ of life to sprout in your wheat. Then crush your grain, and make thin wafers, as did your forefathers when they departed out of Egypt, the house of bondage. Put them back again beneath the sun from its appearing, and when it is risen to its highest in the heavens, turn them over on the other side that they be embraced there also by the angel of sunshine, and leave them there until the sun be set. For the angels of water, of air, and of sunshine fed and ripened the wheat in the field, and they, likewise, must prepare also your bread. And the same sun which, with the fire of life, made the wheat to grow and ripen, must cook your bread with the same fire. For the fire of the sun gives life to the wheat, to the bread, and to the body. But the fire of death kills the wheat, the bread, and the body.'

The people listening to the Teacher's instructions were living in Israel. Here is my UK-type-climate version:

Essene Bread
Makes one serving (The whole process, ie draining yesterday's soaked seeds for sprouting, soaking new ones, making the bread, and washing up, takes me no longer than ten minutes each morning, if that.)

Take one quarter cup of hard wheatberries (wheat seeds). I buy mine from The Fresh Network at £5.99 for 5 kilos (about 12 lbs).

Soak the berries for 24 hours. I recommend using a sprouting jar (a large wide-mouthed jar with a mesh lid). If you don't have one, band some netting to a wide-mouthed jar. If you live in a warm climate, soak in the fridge, else the berries will quickly ferment.

Drain, rinse, drain again, making sure all the water has drained out, then sprout for 24 hours (rinse twice in that time, ideally...), tilting the jar - mouth downwards - at a 45 degree angle, propping it in a small bowl.
The berries will sprout more on a bright day than a dull day. But it doesn't matter - just to have sprouted at all is enough. You can just about see here (below).

(Note for those in a warm climate - don't let the wheat get too warm, else it will ferment. Also, your wheat may well sprout enthusiastically in just a few hours and, if so, you will have to adjust the timetable, that is, process a few hours later rather than 24 hours later.)

Next day (morning) process the sprouted berries. I use a mini food processor. Process until you can form a sticky ball of dough. It will be grainy and textured - no need to aim for smooth. I give it 3-4 goes in the processor, around 15 seconds each time, pushing the mixture down to the blade between goes.

Stop when the dough looks like this.

Gather up the dough into a ball, then, using fingers, press out flat,
to around the size and thickness of a small pitta bread.

Leave in a light place, on baking parchment. It doesn't need to be in direct sunlight. On a dull day it will be ready by evening (turn midday). On a warm sunny day it can be left outside and will be ready by lunchtime (turn mid-morning); to keep flies away, cover with a piece of fine netting (or one of those 'tents' that are used to protect dishes at outside buffets).

What does it taste like? Very 'plain', but of course that's how it's meant to be - the whole wheat, and nothing else. For most people, nothing like 'bread-as-they-know-it'. I thought it tasted strange at first, as I wasn't used to the taste of pure wheat. Then I got used to it, and the wheat started to taste sweet to me. Then I grew to love it. I suspect that at the time the instructions were given, the bread was eaten plain. However, I usually spread it with mashed avocado, sliced tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt. Although it's breaking the 'fruit with slower-to-digest food' rule, I do also love it folded with dates mashed inbetween, and don't seem to suffer any ill-effects!

Postscript Dec 08: This article is probably the most frequently-visited of all the RawforLife blog articles, and has been linked to on many raw food forums. Two things I'd like to make clear:

1) I've heard it referred to as 'Debbie Took's Essene Bread'. It most certainly isn't. It is Essene Bread as described in The Essene Gospel of Peace.

2) People have asked if they can add this and that to the recipe. And I've seen recipe books describe multi-ingredient raw breads as Essene breads. The Teacher instructed us not to mix foods together, and was quite clear that the bread should be made of sprouted grain only. Adding other grains and/or salt and/or dried fruit/whatever may make a tasty 'raw/sprouted bread' popular with raw fooders (and I have enjoyed such breads myself), but this would be in direct opposition to the Teacher's instructions. I realise people may want to add ingredients to the basic recipe, but please...don't then call it Essene bread.

I'm also aware that there are manufacturers of cooked breads who are using the name 'Essene Bread' to sell breads which are nothing of the sort.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

WHEAT Part I: Give (RAW, SPROUTED) wheat a chance

Recently I heard a new-to-raw-fooder say 'we all know wheat is bad for us...', and earlier this year a TV journalist declared that raw foodists 'don't eat wheat'. In fact, neither statement is true. Whilst there are some raw fooders who do not eat wheat, and even warn others against doing so, lots of raw fooders do believe wheat (RAW, SPROUTED) has its place in the raw food diet. Flipping through my raw books, I can tell you that the following leading raw fooders all include wheat (RAW, SPROUTED) in their recipes: Alissa Cohen uses wheat in salad, crackers, dessert and main dishes. Juliano uses wheat in his Essene-style bread, 'cheese' burger and 'real toast'. Karen Knowler uses wheat in her raw pizza. And Kate Wood uses wheat in bread, a birthday cake and chocolate cake. (As one reader did misunderstand my point here, let me stress that I am not saying that wheat is a good food because these well-known raw foodists eat it, rather I am using these names to refute the blanket statement that the anti-wheat people love to make, that 'raw foodists don't eat wheat'.)

So why do these raw fooders feel wheat is OK (or even a 'good thing'?), whilst others quite clearly feel wheat should never be invited to the raw food party? Why the divergence of opinion?

One of the things I love to do at RawforLife is to collect conflicting information, try to make sense of it myself, and then save you a little time by putting it into (reasonably) assimilable form and presenting it to you. And, in perusing all the various pronouncements on wheat, one thing did come over quite strongly. It seemed to me that many of the issues connected with wheat are relevant to cooked rather than raw wheat, and that wheat (RAW, SPROUTED), whether or not it should be given an unequivocal 'green light, certainly deserves a better press.

I'll drop the caps now. As, I think I've made my point that there is a difference between raw, sprouted wheat and cooked wheat; and that raw, sprouted wheat will not have the same effect on our bodies as cooked wheat, in the same way that a raw carrot will not have the same effect on us as one boiled or roasted.

Is raw wheat as guilty of the crimes levelled against 'wheat' in general as its cooked counterpart? In dismissing the food that is described in the Essene Gospel of Peace as 'the most perfect among all the seed-bearing herbs' ('herb' in those times meant non-fruit plants) are those raw fooders who reject (all) wheat throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Well, my feeling is that they are. However, I'm not free from bias (as I enjoy raw, sprouted wheat), and I'm neither doctor nor scientist, but simply a raw fooder trying to find a path through a maze.

See what you think about some statements commonly made by (some) raw fooders about wheat, and my comments.

(And, to be clear, when I say raw, sprouted wheat I am talking about raw organic wheatberries (wheat seeds) that have been soaked then sprouted for 24 hours.)

Let's discuss some of the criticisms that have been levelled at 'wheat':

'Wheat has little nutritional value; it's mostly carbs.'

I have heard raw fooders say this. Yes, wheat is a 'complex carbohydrate'. What this means is that it provides a slower and more sustained release of energy than refined, or simple carbohydrates (eg fruit - albeit a significant part of my raw food diet). Wheat is rich in fibre. It contains all eight essential amino-acids, as well as other amino-acids (from which our bodies draw to make protein). Other foods that contain all eight essential amino-acids are hailed as 'superfoods', often marketed heavily and sold at very high prices, but raw organic wheat (£6 for 5 kg) - not trendy...

I wonder if when people dismiss wheat as 'mostly carbs' they are thinking of cooked, processed wheat, rather than raw wheat. Refined wheat products are carbohydrates that are not 'real foods' as they lack many nutrients, eg often the germ and bran are removed, leaving only starch; and the vitamins, minerals and fibre that need to be with the starch to make the wheat a whole food are missing. But this doesn't apply to raw unprocessed wheat.

One of my favourite raw food authors describes wheat as being 'nutritionally deficient' and 'low on Vitamin C.' Well, no, wheat isn't known for its Vitamin C, as that comes more with fruit - which is a bit like criticising a footballer for being weak at embroidery. But wheat does contain the minerals copper, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and selenium, Vitamin E, and is packed full of B vitamins. I accept that cooked, processed wheat is nutritionally deficient, but not raw, sprouted. Raw, sprouted wheat has lots of nutritional value.

'Wheat is acidic.'

For those of you unfamiliar with this topic - in a nutshell, the various processes our bodies go through simply living from day to day produce acid. However, it is important that our internal environment is alkaline. Cooked foods in general - animal foods, alcohol etc all have an acidic effect on our bodies, and acidity can give rise to all sorts of illness, minor and major. Most plant foods are alkaline, therefore helping the body to restore balance.

Consensus is that cooked wheat is acidic. But what about raw, sprouted wheat? I've read that soaked raw wheat is still acidic. What about soaked, then sprouted? I understand that any sprouted seed has an alkalising effect on the body. Certainly, when wheat seeds are fully sprouted and grown into plants, as in wheatgrass, the effect on the body is alkalising. But is this true for wheatberries that have only been sprouted for 24 hours? Any sprouting, for any length of time, renders any seed more alkaline than it was in its dormant state. But can we go so far as to say that a sprouted seed is alkalising per se, or is it simply less acidic?

I haven't been able to find a definitive answer to this one. For me, the jury's out, as to whether raw, soaked and sprouted wheat is acidic, neutral, or alkalising. . If you do have any good data on this, please contact me via the RawforLife website. (Postscript - since writing this article I have found a comprehensive pH chart ( that lists 'sprouted grains' as 7.0 pH, which is 'neutral'.) It would seem that raw, sprouted wheat is not acidic, but probably neutral.

'Wheat is a cultivar.'

After hearing this a few times, I looked up 'cultivar' in the dictionary. It simply means 'a variety produced by cultivation', and 'cultivation' means 'prepare and use soil for crops'.

The vast majority of the plant foods eaten by raw fooders will be 'varieties'. Our apples will be 'varieties', our carrots are hybrids, and our bananas derive from a hybrid mutation, bearing little resemblance to the wild banana. I'm not sure that anything in my raw food diet is quite the same as it was several thousand years ago.

To what extent has wheat been more hybridised than other foods? There are some strains of wheat that have been bred specifically to suit the processing, the 'refining', that goes with cooked flour products. For example, special high-gluten strains have been developed for bread. But, the raw organic wheatberries that raw fooders buy are unlikely to be these 'varieties'. So, wheat's a hybrid. And so is just about everything else we eat.

'Our wheat is genetically modified.'

Not according to my sources. GM wheat does not seem to have been inflicted upon us (yet?), thanks to the efforts of those protesting against it. Wheat certainly has been genetically modified on an experimental basis in the past, and there have been tales of it being fed to animals with resultant ill effects. Companies such as US agri-chemical company Monsanto have developed GM strains, but, as far as I understand it, have not been able to market them as food for us due to consumer resistance, and commercial resistance from farmers. So, no, our wheat is not genetically modified.

'Wheat is not a food we would eat naturally.'

Some raw fooders believe that if we can't pick a food and make a meal of it there and then, then it's not a natural food for us. Now that assumes that human beings are exactly the same as any other animal. It depends whether you believe (as I do) that we have been given a few more abilities than animals, eg the ability to 'work' the land a little and produce things from the raw materials we are given, although where we go wrong of course is stripping those raw materials of good things and/or damaging them in cooking. But,when we simply soak and sprout wheat, what are we doing? We are taking a seed and bringing it to life with water and sunlight, replicating a process that we have observed in nature. Is that unnatural?

Also, as 'prunus' observed (see blog comments), those who believe we should only eat foods that we can make a meal of 'there and then' are happy to include in their diet hard-shell nuts, such as brazil nuts and macadamias. These would be a challenge to get into without the use of special tools...

Furthermore, in a country like the UK, where fresh food does not grow from the ground or trees for many months of the year, we can store grains specifically for those months. We may not be living in our natural (warm) habitat, is again different from animals in that he appears to have been given the skills, know-how and wander-lust that has resulted in his travelling all over the globe and being able to sustain himself from the foods around him.

Even Dr Herbert M Shelton, father of the natural hygiene movement felt wheat had a place in the diet (notwithstanding many natural hygienists will not eat wheat in any form); he felt that those in regions with long cold winters may need to include grains in their diet because 'the supply of these foods (fruit and nuts) in cold climates is not sufficiently abundant throughout the whole of the meet the needs of a large population through the winter months. ('The Paradise Diet'). Now although we are fortunate that in the UK in 2008 we do have a readiful supply of eg fruit through importing, and therefore may not need to eat grains, if this situation ever changed, it would be a pity if we had rejected wheat (raw, sprouted) as a good food without being very sure of our reasons for doing so.

Susan Schenk ('The Live Food Factor') is an author I agree with on many counts, but I can't agree with her on wheat. Susan believes that wheat is not a foodstuff that we would instinctively eat, as 'even if you sprout it, it won't taste that wonderful.' Well, I find raw sprouted wheat tastes pleasant, and sweet. And the interesting thing is that the longer I've been raw, the sweeter it's tasted! (But I'm sure it wouldn't have tasted good to me when I was cooked and my taste buds had been perverted by the cooked grains used in bread and pizza! I would have found the taste of raw, sprouted wheat very 'boring'!).

Susan says 'grains need a lot of processing to become tasty and edible.' me, that's 'cooked-food-speaking'. As mentioned above, our taste buds do become perverted by a lifetime of cooked food to the extent that, sadly, we find the pure food 'lacking in taste'... Susan goes on to say that the wheat of today is so hybridised that it will not produce a 'taste change' among instinctive eaters. Of course, I had to try this! After the sixth mouthful I experienced an unmistakeable taste change - the wheat was no longer sweet and I didn't want to eat any more. Perhaps this is because, as I suggested earlier, the organic wheat I buy is not 'over' hybridised.
So, wheat is a natural food and the sprouting of it to make it palatable is a natural process.

'We would not eat wheat alone; therefore it does not qualify as a food.'

Some people say that if we wouldn't enjoy a plate of a food on its own without any other foods served with it, then it doesn't qualify as a food (it's the strict Natural Hygiene viewpoint). Although I like the taste of sprouted wheat, no, it would not be my first choice for 'mono-eating' - I usually have it with an accompaniment, such as mashed avocado, or dates. Whilst I feel that it we would do well to eat it alone, most of us are not far enough away from our cooked food diets to be happy to mono-eat regularly. But then I don't normally eat a plate of green leaves alone either. Lettuce I would normally eat with other foods, but I (and, interestingly, Natural Hygienists) regard green leaves as an essential part of our diet. And if lettuce qualifies as a food on that measure, then wheat must as well. I can eat wheat alone, and it tastes 'OK', but I prefer it with one or two other foods.

'Wheat contributes to diabetes, hypoglycemia' (etc)

One reason for this is that processing of wheat produces sugars that the liver cannot recognise. Also, the body may have problems in general with sugars stripped from the nutrients that surrounded them in the natural food. But this will not apply with raw wheat. Studies linking the consumption of wheat and various illnesses do seem to be talking about processed wheat, ie wheat as used in flour in bread, biscuits and cakes. The body should recognise the simple sugars in raw, sprouted wheat.

'Some people are intolerant to wheat/gluten.'

Yes, they are. Many people have problems with gluten, and problems may well have arisen because of the use of specially-bred high-gluten varieties of wheat in the processing of cooked wheat products. Again, I would suggest that raw organic wheatberries are unlikely to be high-gluten varieties. Also, when seeds are sprouted, both starch and gluten reduce. Kate Woods ('Raw Living') says that when raw oat groats are sprouted, the gluten content becomes negligible. As I know wheatgrass is gluten-free, I would assume that the gluten in sprouted wheat must be significantly reduced after even 24 hours of sprouting.

This would suggest to me that those who are sensitive to gluten may better tolerate raw, sprouted wheat. Elaine Bruce (UK Centre for Living Foods): 'It is noticeable that people with sensitivities to a whole grain may well be able to use it when sprouted
'Wheat is starchy, so difficult to digest'.
I've always understood that in sprouting starches are converted to simple sugars. Raw, sprouted wheat should present no digestion problems.

'Wheat is addictive.'

Some say that all grains are addictive because they contain opioids - a group of addictive substances causing food cravings. Investigating this, I found that opioids result from the partial digestion of gluten. As described above, gluten will be significantly reduced when wheat is sprouted. Although I enjoy raw, sprouted wheat I certainly don't feel a compulsion to eat it daily, as I used to with cooked bread. I'd suggest that 'addiction' might not be an issue with raw, sprouted wheat.

'Wheat produces mycotoxins.'

Mycotoxins are a health hazard, and are produced by fungi. Commercially- stored grains can ferment in 90 days, during which time mycotoxins are produced. But many foods will grow fungus if they're kept too long and/or in incorrect conditions. The simple answer to this is to buy wheatberries from a reputable supplier and store them at home in a cool place. I store mine in a bucket in a kitchen cupboard, and have seen neither mould nor fermentation in a year of doing so. So there is no reason for these fungi to be produced if wheatberries are stored properly.

if you've never tried raw, sprouted wheat, and would like to do so, here's a little advice from a seasoned raw, sprouted, wheat-eater!

(NOTE - if your reactions to cooked wheat in the past have been life-threatening.....please leave the raw wheat - just in case!)

Eat raw, sprouted wheat with alkalising (raw) plant foods.

As to whether raw, sprouted wheat is acidic, neutral, or alkalising, I'm on the fence with this one! But it's certainly the case that if we eat raw, sprouted wheat with green leaves (which are highly alkalising), or in fact with any alkalising raw plant food (as I described above, I like mine with avocado), the overall effect of the meal should be alkalising.

Don't eat sweet fruit with or within 3-4 hours of raw, sprouted wheat.

Fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach or with very easy-to-digest foods, such as green leaves. It digests quickly, often in 1-2 hours or less. If you eat fruit with or on top of wheat (or in fact with or on top of any longer-to-digest food such as pulses, grains, nuts) the fruit will want to exit, but it won't be able to, as its way will be blocked by the other food. Result: fermentation, gas, bloating...

Do buy organic, from a wholefood/raw food source.

Firstly, because I believe this maximises the chances of the wheatberries not being an over-hybridised strain. Secondly, because, as with all organic produce, as well as being free of pesticides, it will be richer in minerals than non-organic. Bob Smith, a trace minerals lab analyst, in his 1993-5 studies, found, 'Organically-grown wheat had twice the calcium, four times more magnesium, five times more manganese, and thirteeen times more selenium than the commercial wheat.'

To date, I haven't found anything that persuades me that raw, sprouted wheat should not be considered a good food for us.

In fact, the net effect of my investigations has been to reinforce my feeling that, although it may not be essential to eat wheat (or any grain) in our raw food diet, as long as it's raw and sprouted it can hold its head up high along with all the other foods that nourish us.

So many times when I hear someone in the health food field (ie including the raw food world) tell others that they shouldn't eat wheat, I find that their arguments really only apply to cooked wheat.

And, if anyone does know of any research that indicates adverse effects on our bodies from the consumption of RAW, SPROUTED wheat, do let me know via the RawforLife website.

In Wheat Part II, I will be giving step-by-step instructions for making my 'daily bread' - Essene bread - which is bread made from raw, sprouted wheatberries, and...nothing else.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Raw cashews, cheese 'n' chives & tzatziki

The cashew has always been one of my favourite nuts, pre-raw and raw, hence it has to have an article to itself!

Like all nuts, cashews are a great source of vitamins and minerals (in particular, copper and magnesium). But, best of all for the raw fooder, (and in fact for anyone on a non-dairy diet) they make great raw 'cheeses' and 'creams'. I'll be sharing with you two of my favourite cashew recipes - one from Ani Phyo, and one RawforLife original.

Cashews grow on trees, like this one, in various warm climates around the world (originating in South America). The trees are grown for the cashew nuts, and the cashew 'apples'. The apple (not technically a fruit) grows from the flower; it turns red or yellow as it ripens and is edible, with a strong taste variously described as sweet and acidic! It can be eaten raw, is often used for jam or beverages, but in many parts of the world is simply discarded after removal of the nut (as the apple doesn't last long, fermenting after 24 hours). From the cashew apple develops the true fruit, which contains a seed - the cashew nut. The cashew nut is surrounded by a dark green double shell, and this shell contains urishiol, which can irritate the skin and be toxic when ingested.

Raw cashews

The shelled cashews on sale at supermarkets and 99% of health food outlets are not raw but have been steamed. Steaming enables the shell to be opened without the toxic urishiol getting onto the nut. So, most of the shelled cashews many people think of as raw are actually cooked.

However, as many of you will know, it is possible to obtain raw cashews. 'Nature's First Law', David Wolfe's company in the US, supply truly raw cashews, which are sold on to UK online companies, such as Detox Your World.

These cashews come from Indonesia and are harvested and shelled without heating the nut. Specially-designed tools are used to split open the shells by hand, and the proof that these cashews are truly raw is that they will sprout and grow into little cashew plants! And of course not only do we then receive all the nutrients in the nut intact, in the proportions nature designed the nut to give, but we can also enjoy nuts that are softer, and sweeter in taste, than their cooked counterparts. The cashews are sold at around £12 per 500g, and if that sounds a lot, bear in mind that good-quality cooked cashews sell at high prices for small bags of around 150g.

Now, here's a 'be aware....' I did hear of a raw fooder experiencing a rash after handling cashews, and I have seen on another site the claim that 'raw cashews make some raw fooders sick.' Now whether this is due to traces of urishiol having got through the processing, or whether it's to do with something else in isolated batches, or whether the ill-effects have been entirely unconnected with the cashews, it would be wrong of me not to tell you that there are some who are wary of eating raw cashews. But, as someone who has eaten rather a lot of them (!), this is my experience: I once felt unwell after eating raw pizza containing cashews. BUT...I had eaten a LOT of raw pizza! So I really cannot be sure that the cashews were to blame.

Since that time, I've consumed many bags of raw cashews within various 'cheeses' and 'creams' and other dishes, and have not had any ill effects. I find 'Detox Your World' to be a trustworthy company and feel that they would not sell a product if there was any significant risk of upset. I feel quite happy (no - in factI feel very happy!) eating raw cashews in moderation. I wouldn't chomp my way through large quantities, but feel confident using one cup of cashews for a recipe that would feed four people or more. So, if you haven't tried raw cashews yet, I can only suggest you consider the information here then make your own decision.

Cream Cheese and Chives

This is really Ani Phyo's 'Sour Kream and Chives' from 'Ani's Raw Food Kitchen', but I renamed it because it'sso reminiscent of the Philly Cream Cheese 'n' Chives that I used to enjoy in .... a former life! I've taken this to various potlucks and it's always been very popular, spread on flax crackers with slices of tomato and shredded spinach. It also tastes even better the day after making.

1 cup cashews (soaked)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup water
1-2 tbsp chopped chives, to taste

Blend cashews, lemon juice, salt and water until really smooth. Stir in chopped chives

RawforLife 'Tzatziki'

We are a grecophile family so naturally I had to come up with a raw non-dairy version of the famous Greek dip. Luckily, this one has met with approval from family members so I offer it to you! Great with crudites, flax crackers, raw olives...mmmmm!!!

1 cup cashews (soaked)
1/2 cup grated cucumber (unpeeled)
Juice of a lemon
Pinch sea salt
Garlic to taste, crushed (suggest 1/2 clove)
1/2 cup water
Small handful mint, chopped

Blend cashews, lemon, salt, garlic and water until really smooth.

Stir in cucumber and mint, adding a little extra water if necessary. Serve really cold, and, like the cheese above, this is also even better the next day!