The Not-Science of Soaking & Sprouting?

You know the drill.  Beans and such have evil things in their skins, so traditional societies diligently soaked them to remove said evil things.  Furthermore, sprouting is known to improve digestibility and quality of the protein.  So soak and sprout your beans!

I don't disagree with any of the above, I just -- taking off scientist hat -- wonder out loud if that's really why traditional cultures did these things.

First off, I'm thinking that pretty early on, humans figured out that if you dried things, they tended to last a really long time in storage without spoiling.  Further, certain things may well have been discovered in already dried forms!  I planted green beans one year and went on vacation in August.  Well, you can guess what happened.  I imagine the "bean" part could have been saved and eaten, however.  I also think there's no better snack than snap peas picked fresh, so I plant those almost every year even if I don't bother with any other garden proper.  You pop a few "seeds" into the ground, water, and in a day or so you start to see signs of life.

You see where I'm going with this?  My mom was big into sprouting lentils before cooking,  and mung bean sprouts when I was a kid.  She would basically rinse them, put them in a colander and cover with a moist towel.  I was amazed how quickly they sprouted.  

So I'm imagining our primitive ancestors probably came across some pod like vegetation similar to today's peas or green beans and ate them.  And perhaps they came across some dried pods and thought, maybe if I put them in some of that wet stuff it will soften them up so I can eat them!   Not possessing clean water from indoor plumbing, their soaking ritual was likely less of the rinsing and maybe even less of the soaking ... as in submersed in just enough water for .... sprouting!  Then I imagine one of our precocious ancestor children schtonsted a few sprouts and discovered they were quite tasty.  Oh ... and maybe a bean or two or a sprout or two were forgotten in the soaking area and when the ancestors returned to soak a new harvest, lo and behold, what do we have here?  

This is just me thinking out loud, and it just makes a lot more sense to me (and is far less inventive as to how Grok supposedly gathered and ate food) as to how food preparation techniques "evolved".   While the WAPF rituals of soaking and sprouting are a reflection of traditional preparation techniques, let's face it, those methods came about long before  the tools to analyze the phytate and amino acid profiles of such foods, let alone analyze how this altered the absorption of  nutrients from said foods.    Many of the "toxins" are not acute ones, so it becomes rather unfathomable that our forefathers, let alone prehistoric man, made any connection between minor long term that might occur and a specific food agent among many.

Which is not to say there aren't reasons to take the time to prepare grains and beans in traditional manners, but for me those reasons are far more for one of cost, convenience*, flavor, and eating true "whole grains" vs. dust ground from supposedly whole grains.  *Soaking dried beans is generally considered to be inconvenient vs. canned, however it requires just a little forethought and you can store a crap load of beans in a very small canister vs. how many cans and the space that would take!  I just don't think we need to make up elaborate reasons for why these preps were engaged in so as to demonize those who are "too lazy" to do it correctly.  I looked into sprouting quite a bit a while ago as well, and while the science is solid, it's definitely overhyped as to the benefits.  So sorry Mom, but had you not sprouted those lentils they would have been almost as nutritious as taking the time ... but I'm still glad you did :-)  And if anyone doesn't like the big soy sprouts or the alfalfa sprouts, you really might want to try mung bean (I'm pretty sure these are the "green beans" they make bean starch noodles of) sprouts.

Speaking of soaking ....

At right is the "soft wheat" I made on Christmas Eve.  The dish I was preparing is called kutya (I am still planning to post a video of sort of several dishes I prepared for our festivities) , and this isn't even the appropriate wheat for that dish, this is "wheat berries".  (Bulgar that makes bigger "pearls" is generally used).   In the morning I "power soaked" the wheat in the microwave by putting it in water and microwaving to just about boiling and letting it stand.  Pour off water after about half hour, repeat.   Normally your traditional prepper would need to soak at least overnight, and package directions call for cooking for 4-5 hours.  My turbo-soaked wheat went into a pot with water, was brought to a boil then let simmer for hours -- like 4 hours.  I don't "count" because the day I prep this I'm in and around the kitchen all day making other stuff, so I just keep an eye on it, check the water level, stir a bit more   towards the end.  I let the wheat absorb the water as it cooks and you want to save any starch and such that cooks out into the water -- it adds to the creamy/stickiness of this dish (bulgar is better for this reason as well I believe).  This whole long process, made shorter by modern technology, is so that the wheat is nice and plumped up and soft and "edible"!

On left is after a couple of hours, at right is when about ready to use.  They look like little berries, eh?

Now THAT is whole grain folks.  This wheat tastes slightly sweet and has a very pleasant nutty taste.  The kutya is made by adding some chopped walnuts, honey and poppy seeds.   Sorry, I can't find the pic of the final product right now!   This is the first dish of the night for Christmas Eve, and I can never eat more than a few bites or I won't have room for the rest of the meal.  This is delish, and yet it doesn't trigger my wheat addiction ;-)    It is served cold, but on a cold winter morning, I could imagine having a heated bowl of this for breakfast (I'd just leave out the pesky poppy seeds).  I'm planning on trying a traditional Pima dish made with beans and (evil) wheat berries.  


Anonymous said…
Eh, I don't know. One doesn't need to know physics to know that rubbing two sticks together creates enough friction to spark a fire.

I don't think they would have known the underlying science, but it seems just as likely a combination of what you say and maybe seeing benefits through observation. The Native Americans probably didn't know exactly what they were doing scientifically when they soaked their corn, they just knew it worked. Today we know what nixtamalization does.

It is a curious question of how we came to some of the knowledge we have. Is it all strictly through trial and error or is/was there some inner mechanism. How did the Algonquians know you could eat the inner bark of a pine tree? One of those things that makes you wonder.
Regarding dried beans once soaked you can slow cook them in a thermos flask, I use a Stanley, so long as you boil them for 10 minutes first and leave in thermos about 10-12 hours - also use a pressure cooker max pressure about 15 mins for most soaked beans, legumes are also dirt cheap, just bought 2kg red lentils at Tesco for £2, thats about 10 lb reconstituted weight.
Lesley Scott said…
I did a lot of sprouting & the like during my raw food phase. It kind of turned me off to the whole thing, but your pic of the wheat berries now has me thinking it might be time to revisit some sprouting. I do still soak raw almonds overnight & then rinse & toss into the blender to make a day or two's worth of almond milk. that is a raw food thing I'm happy about. I will say though doing raw food did help me with migraines for some reason. It was probably something I was no longer eating as opposed to the overhyped benefits of raw food as a WOE. the sanctimoniousness of the raw foodies alone is enough to make you order steak with as many cooked sides as will fit on the plate.
S SD said…
I can't believe you used the (bastardized) word 'delish'.
Unknown said…
Raw food helped me with my fractured hip but it seemed to acerbate my leprosy.
Diana said…
I use the word "delish" all the time. But what is this word "schtonsted"? This is a new on one me.

Did primitive people "know" what they were doing? I doubt that they knew what they were doing w/respect to phytates, but in other cases, I think they certainly observed that children thrived on this, and not on that, so do that. Or, my stomach swells with horrible gas on this, not on that, so do that.

"Makes Lots Of Gas" would be an embarrassing name to have, as opposed to "Kills Bear With One Hand."
zanjabil said…
I always thought that beans and grains are soaked/sprouted because they cook faster. I know digestability (is that a word?) is part of the reason, but that hasn't been true for my digestion, still can't digest beans or whole grains well.
CarbSane said…
Schtonsted is the best phonetic spelling of a word I think is probably Germglish ;-) It what kids do when the steal a cookie from the cookie jar. A playful word ... don't know if it's just in my family or if that term is familiar to anyone else.
Puddleg said…
To soak, and especially to boil legumes, one needs waterproof and fire-resistant containers. Unless you live near geothermal hot pools, where you can use woven "pots", this type of cooking probably requires some degree of civilisation. Dry foods would have been crushed and baked, roasted, toasted, before they were soaked and boiled, perhaps.
Anonymous said…

"this type of cooking probably requires some degree of civilisation."

Or a simple concave stone. Or an animal bladder. Or a skin-lined hole in the ground.
Gabriella Kadar said…
Maybe Yiddish? I've heard similar in my lifetime.

Kutya in Magyar means dog. I was chuckling because geographically Ukrainians and Hungarians are only separated by the Carpathian mountains and the Verecke pass. My aunt by marriage came from the very east part of Hungary. She used to cook kasha (buckwheat) which was entirely a foreign food to the rest of us.
Gabriella Kadar said…
The interesting thing about archeological digs is in the past only hard stuff was retrieved. These days the archeologists are more careful. They are studying the impressions of woven artifacts and fossilized poo. (the correct term has escaped me) This makes things more interesting and informative.
Gabriella Kadar said…
Coprolites. Maybe that's the word I'm looking for.
Puddleg said…
I don't find many "simple" pot-shaped concave stones in my riverbed. I suppose a smart culture with the right geology could collect them. How common is boiling and stewing using traditional tools (not traded pots) in modern paleo cultures?
you could make up a mash and cook it in a skin, haggis-style, or wrap it in leaves and cook it slowly. An earth-oven would be a useful technology if you didn't have pots.
Galina L. said…
I am sure our ancestors used sprouting, fermenting, soaking for practical reasons, to improve the taste or make a food more suitable for eating, not to remove any anty-nutrients.May be it could give to a group of people some health advantage. Dr. Emily Dean is less controvertial than Dr. Davis, for example, but she is also on an anty-wheat wagon . Soaked food is easier to chew, fermented food tastes better. I am almost scared to think about possible circumstances when people started to make some cheeses.
I think the idea behind paleo-movement is that such cooking methods diminished content of gliadin, amylopectin A, lectins and what not, were used in most societies for centuries and as a result humans were not adapted well to higher levels of such substances in modern food.

In Russia "kutya" had been a mandate part of a traditional after-funeral dinner, especially before 1918. It is often mentioned in classical Russian literature, for example, in stories by Chekhov. It could be made also with a cooked rice with added honey and soaked dried fruits.
Diana said…
"Maybe Yiddish?" "Germglish" - same language, practically.

What I'd like to know is, is all this sprouting & fermenting even necessary in this day and age? The phytate thing....I used to worry about those damn phytates, and then Don Matesz did a whole demolition of the concept. Not necessary anymore, and phytates may be antioxidant! Go figure.

I've read that sprouting and salmonella sometimes go hand in hand. I am the opposite of food paranoid, I often leave eat food that has been unrefrigerated for several hours, but I do wonder about this. Given the bother of sprouting and the fact that it's just another fiddly step, I don't do it.

Yogurt I sometimes make, sometimes buy.
Diana said…
"I often leave eat food..."? Eat pray leave?

Meant to write, I often eat food that has been left unrefrigerated...
Diana said…
"where you can use woven "pots","

I have read that grass-woven pots can indeed be watertight. I read this in Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book INFIDEL. Her grandmother wove them.
Diana said…
How much fat were Paleo people eating in your area?
Good points, a recent outbreak of e-coli in europe was first blamed on cucumbers but later bean sprouts became the prime suspect, let us also not forget that because our ancestors did not eat a certain food the eating of said food today is not bound to cause problems.
Anonymous said…

Well, one of the Hadza's core possessions is a cooking pot, but I don't think modern hunter-gatherers would be the evidence anyway. They have technology cavemen didn't--bows, arrows, etc.

I don't find concave stones in my riverbed, either. I do however find such shapes in sandstone. I've also read tales of native americans (and modern survivalists) boiling water in inverted turtle shells.

Not entirely conclusive evidence as all it proves is that they were prepared with a "wet" method (baking or boiling), but the cooked grains found in Neanderthal teeth bear a striking resemblance to their modern boiled counterparts.
blogblog said…
Unfortunately NONE of the "experts" on either side of paleo argument have even an undergraduate knowledge of basic food science. They are simply regurgitating "facts" gleaned from textbooks or scientific papers out of context. If they bothered to talk to real experts they would soon learn that much of what they say is dubious . Typical examples are "pastured" milk (the composition of milk is breed-specific and is NOT changed substantially by diet) and eating fermented foods such as yoghurt or sauerkraut to improve immunity (the evidence supporting probiotic foods is weak and contradictory).

Germination typically does the following:

- converts starches to easily digested sugars
- increases protein levels
- makes minerals bioavailable
- improves texture
- reduces bitter alkaloids
Susanne said…
To boil foods without pottery or metal, you can use skin bags or baskets and drop heated stones into them. As long as there is water in the container, it doesn't burn them, although I'm sure it takes quite a while. This is known from ethnographic data (observation or documentation of living peoples). I have seen websites from re-enactor festivals where people do this. Unfortunately the skin/basketry doesn't generally survive in the archaeological record, although more recent excavations look for evidence of cracked stones, which might have broken in the process.

Way back in time I read an article by one of the people studying the very early legume/grain evidence from Franchthi Cave in Greece, who suggested this as one of the ways they might be cooking them. The earliest occupation of Franchthi is about 17,000 BP, although if I recall correctly the grains/legumes aren't found in the very earliest levels. I remember one of the author's other suggestions is that they're parching/roasting the seeds on flat stones by the fire, maybe grinding them, and mixing the result with a bit of water (you could do this right on the stone) to bake patties. You wouldn't need any kind of bowl or anything for this. The wacky thing is that the earliest Franchthi pottery, from the Neolithic, doesn't have scorch marks, which normally happens when you set the pot in the fire to cook. So at first when they're making pottery, it looks like they don't use it for cooking in that way. Maybe they're using it for other stuff, or even still dropping the hot stones into the containers.

I also have run across an article that talks about groups in the pre-pottery American southwest who baked tough plants like agave in deep pits for days. The pits have been found, and sometimes even remains of the really burnt plant material. (Carbonized plant material is more likely to survive in the archaeological record.)

I have to go to class but I'll try to find the citations later. That particular Franchthi article is probably not on line, but I think the cactus-baking thing was.

Oh, and before I forget, if the seeds are relatively fresh, you can just chew on them. I have done this going through wheat fields on field survey. (Field survey can be REALLY boring, and cookie break time is not till 10:30...)
Puddleg said…
Diana, I guess they were eating the intrinsic fats of whatever animals they killed, less what was lost in cooking. Birds and sea mammals, and when these became more scarce, each other... which suggests a certain requirement. I'm lucky to live in an area (New Zealand) where paleo living was a few centuries ago, mesolithic living is still within living memory. Traditions and artifacts are extant and able to be examined.
No grains that I've ever heard of. Roots, tubers, birds, mammals, berries, grubs, fish, shellfish. Earth ovens and geothermals main cooking technology.

I found this v. interesting. Modern day Paleo lifestyles...
Puddleg said…
I liked this line: "A diet rich in animal fats together with the occasional over-indulgence cried out for a counter-balance in the form of starchy roots, vegetables and fruit [...] Gathering the unglamorous but necessary supplements was left to the women."
Anonymous said…
We should remember that groups probably ate these grains day in and day out, several times a day. I would think they would see the effects, if any, much more quickly than we would, as we eat a much more varied diet. Also, possibly they ate these in larger quantity than their other foods once they realized the energy they could get from them, and also were more exposed to problematic stuff.
Anonymous said…
We should remember that groups probably ate these grains day in and day out, several times a day. I would think they would see the effects, if any, much more quickly than we would, as we eat a much more varied diet. Also, possibly they ate these in larger quantity than their other foods once they realized the energy they could get from them, and also were more exposed to problematic stuff.
Jane said…
- and breaks down gluten
Diana said…
"To soak, and especially to boil legumes, one needs waterproof and fire-resistant containers"

I guess you'd also need clean water.
Diana said…
@George, "I'm lucky to live in an area (New Zealand) where paleo living was a few centuries ago"

Are you saying the Maori were Paleolithic? That's not my understanding of them at all. The Polynesians were quite advanced and of the Polynesians I think the Maoris led the lot. I've seen pictures of their astounding woodwork. They had class stratification, slavery, aristocracy, and royalty. They had gardens & grew root crops. Comparing them to the Andaman Islanders is ludicrous.
Diana said…
Why is gluten so unpopular among the Paleoists? Isn't it a.....protein?
Diana said…
"Diana, I guess they were eating the intrinsic fats of whatever animals they killed, less what was lost in cooking."

In other words, the real Paleolithic people were eating a very low fat diet, except for the times they could get their mitts on nuts.

(Parenthetical question. Are wild nuts lower in fat than cultivated? One of the Paleoist articles of faith is that wild fruits are sourer and lower in carbs than cultivated - a myth that Denise Minger put to rest. Not at all true.)

"Traditions and artifacts are extant and able to be examined."

Not true. Modern HG people are not our Paleolithic ancestors they are small populations existing on marginal lands. They are only the ancestors of their descendents to be.

And evidence that OUR ancestors ate grains is mounting, as our methods of detection grow more sophisticated.
Diana said…
PS to above. I don't want to delete above reply because I've been questioned on that. However I do want to change one word.

"Not true. Modern HG peoples...."

Should be: "True but irrelevant."

Further: we do not know what the "traditions" of modern HG people were 60K years ago.

Woody Allen: "Tradition is the illusion of permanence."
Swede said…
The logic goes like this:

some people (a very very small amount) have true problems with gluten --> therefore ALL people should avoid gluten. They also say that it is not completely digested into single and/or dipeptide chains, so a large protein structure enters the body which thereby eliciting an immune response.

I agree with you. It is just a protein. If your digestion is functioning properly, any protein should be cleaved into digestible fragments and assimilated w/o problems. If it is causing problems, the person may have other issues with leaky gut and/or poor digestive capacity. The problem is with the person, not the gluten.

Susanne said…
OK, as promised, some citations. On prehistoric cooking without pots, here are a couple of nice web pages from the Texas Beyond History-UT Archaeology web site:

Heirloom cookery;
Inland Foodways
Evidence from the accounts of European explorers:

One of the interesting points made by the writers about the root-cooking pits is that calorie return is pretty low for the labor involved. People who "reconstruct" ancient foodways often assume that earlier peoples are operating on on a goal of maximizing calories/macronutrients for their labor. ("Grok would concentrate on the fatty parts, because that provided more calorie bang for his buck. Also, I like bacon, so this model works out well for me.")

But just as today, people must have chosen foods for lots of different reasons than calories: because they think they're tastier, are easier/handier in some way, because they are celebration foods, or associated with certain social situations, or have ritual or symbolic significance, or are a way of showing off. Before the 20th century there was no practical way of measuring the energy value of most foods, and if even today it takes a lab assessment to figure out which method of preparing beans leaves them with higher bioavailability of minerals or whatever, how are people 2000 years ago supposed to know that. (And no, appealing to "ancient wisdom" is just handwaving, really. Might as well say "magic" as far as I'm concerned.)

I wouldn't be surprised if lots of the processing methods aren't based on convenience and taste rather than maximizing nutrients. (It's hard to tell also how universal the "soaking" tradition really is, most of the web pages on it are WAPF party line.) Fermentation certainly makes for a zippy taste which many find appealing. Niztamalization is an interestingly complex process, and I don't know much about its origins. But I did find out when I was learning how to make tamales, that one effect of nixtamalization is that it makes the corn easier to grind, and nixtamalized flour is sticky, making dough, while plain cornmeal is not -- so you can make tortillas from nixtamalized corn but not from plain (non-nixta) cornmeal. So I wonder how much of the motivation for doing it was culinary, and the different taste, as opposed to knowing somehow that it was better nutritionally. Because foods from non-nixtamalized corn are used in those same cultures alongside the nixtamalized. So they're not soaking all their corn, and then why not? if that's absolutely the most nutritious way to do it.

Susanne said…
The Franchthi Cave article I referred to above is not online, but here's the reference:
J.M Hansen, "Palaeoethnobotany and Palaeodiet in the Aegean region: Notes on legume toxicity and related pathologies," in S. Vaughan and W. Coulson (eds), _Paleodiet in the Aegean_, Oxford 2000, pp. 13-27. I can forward notes if anyone is interested.

The "legume toxicity" refers to the evidence for apparent consumption of chickling vetch (lathyrus spp.) and fava bean (Vicia faba), also seen at other early Mediterranean sites, which are toxic to people with certain hereditary enzyme deficiencies, or in large amounts. Despite their known toxicity to people with heredity susceptibility to favism (a severe anemia with a mortality of 15% in pre-modern times), fava beans are still popular traditional foods in parts of the Mediterranean. "Fava beans also contain the psychoactive neurotransmitter L-DOPA which is associated with symptoms of restlessness, dreams and increased male sexuality noted by Plutarch (Katz 1987:151)." Fun! Are you starting to be a little more skeptical of "ancient wisdom" yet?

Lathyrus (AKA sometimes as sweet pea) is a common famine food which people still resort to today in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan -- it's normally reserved as livestock fodder. Although some of the toxic amino acid it contains can be removed by soaking and boiling since it is mostly in the skin, its use has still caused epidemics of paralysis within this decade. The toxins apparently have a bitter taste, so boiling and decanting the water would have a noticeable affect on the flavor as well as the toxicity, but you also lose proteins, carbs, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.

Here is a SAFE Paleolithic pancake you can make, socca, from a New York Times recipe: just ground chickpeas and water on a hot slab. If you are not into smashing your chickpeas between rocks before dinner, buy gram flour (chickpea flour used in Indian cooking. If you soak the chickpeas before you grind them, and make them into balls, you're on your way to falafel. Boil them before you grind them, hummus.
Socca from Mark Bittman's Minimalist column:
Simon Carter said…
Hi Diana, everything Swede says is correct, however Robb Wolf was and is totally intolerant of gluten and he demonized it. Not necessarily a bad thing, he was trying to raise awareness I believe, but that usually leads to over blowing the issue a la Lustig, Taubes and many others...
Anonymous said…
"So I wonder how much of the motivation for doing it was culinary, and the different taste, as opposed to knowing somehow that it was better nutritionally."

I tend to think any nutritional benefits would have been coincidental or at best reinforced through observation, just like we'd have had to learn what not to eat.

My guess is sprouting probably got started by accident, kind of like rennet-based cheesemaking. Some gathered grains got wet and sprouted. Being hungry, they were eaten anyway and maybe they taste better (I happen to think sprouted lentils taste way better than not). Easier to chew. Replicate.

Another thing to consider is that it would add variety. Today we have a world of flavors and foods just up the street at the market. Imagine if you were stuck eating locally-grown foods all your life. Strictly conjecture, but humans being as curious as they are, they'd have probably experimented with their foods.

"("Grok would concentrate on the fatty parts, because that provided more calorie bang for his buck. Also, I like bacon, so this model works out well for me.") "

LOL That tends to be the thinking. Has there ever been anything to show ol' Grok did focus on the fats as opposed to the leaner cuts?
Diana said…
I was just a-funnin'. I realize that some people are really gluten-intolerant. But I think that a lot of people in the Paleo world are hypochondriacs and pick up conditions & diseases that aren't. I think it's ironic that the demonized ingredient in this pro-protein (and fat) crowd is....gasp...a protein.

As for me, the only thing my gut can't tolerate is beans. I don't respond to chickpeas as much. Maybe they don't have as many oligosaccarides. I dunno. Alls I know is if America bans assault rifles, by rights *I* should be banned from public appearances after eating beans.
Anonymous said…
'Not necessary anymore, and phytates may be antioxidant! Go figure.'
' Other protective compounds in whole grains include phytate, phyto-oestrogens such as lignan, plant stanols and sterols, and vitamins and minerals.'

Behold, phytate, the protective compound. I've seen one study that demonstrates its protective effect against kidney stones.
'The phytate urinary levels in a group of active calcium oxalate stone formers were studied and compared with those found in healthy people. Urinary phytate was significantly lower for stone formers.'
Diana said…
Who started this Grok stuff? Am I the only person who thinks it's ridiculous?

Why not called your favorite caveman "Alastair" or "Sebastian?" Personally, I like "Shlomo" and "Ahmed" because so many pre-historic sites have been found in the Middle East.
Diana said…
Hey Susanne, I can't believe you mentioned socca, I discovered it two weeks ago and I love it. I also love corn meal so I use half corn meal and half chickpea flour.

Because of this post, I decided to try a fermentation experiment: I'm fermenting 1/2 cup wheat flour, 1/2 cup chickpea and 1/2 corn meal. I added the wheat flour to the mix because I don't think that regular commercial American corn meal, which is what I'm using, ferments. Is this true?

I read about hippie mamas who are soaking everything now in pickling lime, including regular ground corn meal. I don't think this is necessary, is it? Commercial ground corn meal isn't maize, which needed to be nixtamalized. Right?
Anonymous said…

I believe he's a Sissoon invention used to glamorize the caveman lifestyle.
CarbSane said…
You'd need that to make bone broth as well :-)
Unknown said…
(Parenthetical question. Are wild nuts lower in fat than cultivated? One of the Paleoist articles of faith is that wild fruits are sourer and lower in carbs than cultivated - a myth that Denise Minger put to rest. Not at all true.)

Many are. A study on the native traditional aboriginal diets listed many of the nuts they consumed to be much starchier than the modern cultivated nuts you find in grocery stores.
Susanne said…
Isn't socca great? I can't believe I never had chickpea anything before about five years ago, and now all these yummy things you can make with it. I don't know anything about fermenting legumes or corn meal, I only do wheat and rye sourdoughs. Do be careful and watch if anything unappealing in smell/taste appears, in case they're not compatible and something nasty breeds.

Commercial corn meal is maize meal too, just not nixtamalized like masa harina. Maize is the name they often give corn outside the US, because "corn" can be a generic name in British English, like "grain". I tried to find out whether you can do the nixtamalization in the reverse order (grind first and then lime) because you can't get masa here, and I do like tamales and not just cornbread. I found South African maize meal (aka "mealie maize") and I hoped it was nixtamalized and turns out it's not. But then there's also the problem of lime, unless maybe of the construction variety...

Reading WAPF articles always makes me wonder what one of the kitchen of a serious soaker-fermenter family must be like. I imagine lots of oozing, faintly reeking crocks of different sizes stuffed into dim corners, and an occasional blurp of gas escaping here and there, like in the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

I remembered overnight another advantage of pre-soaking: you can get the hulls off, which otherwise come off later and float around in your soup being tough and getting stuck between your teeth. Green peas here come whole and still with the hulls, as I found out when I made pea soup with them. And that's where more of the toxins are, in the seeds which have toxins. That's another thing the nixtamalization does too.

Also Diana, we just got a donation of a plastic (half) skeleton for the archaeology lab, and after a project to determine it was a "he", the students have named him "Abbas." So we could use that for our anti-Grok if we want to.

Jane said…
Susanne, do you make your wheat sourdough with 100% wholemeal flour? I'm told you have to make the um, 'starter' is it? - with white flour. I stopped eating my local baker's sourdough 'wholemeal' bread although it was quite wonderful because it was 20% white flour. I have found it impossible to convince myself that a little bit of white flour won't hurt me. You know they add iron and calcium to it. Because everybody has iron and calcium deficiency, haven't they. No, they haven't.
Galina L. said…
It absolutely doesn't matter what flour is used in a starter. Actually, I think it would be very inconvenient for a person who makes only rye bread to bother to keep only wheat starter. In the process of home bread-making the starter is produced by rinsing with a water the bowl in which the previous batch of bread was made, and saving that water with pieces of dough for the next baking time. Because I make only rye bread, I have only rye bread starter, but I use it also for the starting of fermented cabbage and for wheat pancakes that I prepare infrequently for my husband.
Anna Friebe said…
Thanks for all you provide!

I guess you don't need to understand anything about nutrients.

This is called cultural evolution - if some people started to prepare food in a specific way, and it made them somewhat healthier, they would have a few more surviving kids, and this population would outgrow the people that ate the food with a less fortunate preparation method.

There does not need to be any understanding or thought - like with regular evolution it is random mutations that happen to be fortunate or not so fortunate. And the better adaptations survive easier. The difference in survival does not need to be remarkable to make a difference in twenty generations.

But of course there was some degree of cultivation before the agricultural revolution - not in the same scale, but humans were not stupid. Or more stupid than today, at least.
Anonymous said…
As long as you're talking about of my favorite fermented foods is tarhana, which is Turkish. I've made my own, although I don't cook the vegetables used to ferment the tarhana. There are as many recipes for tarhana as there are regions in Turkey, according to the Turkish cooking websites I've visited.

Another little-appreciated fermented food is a very popular traditional Japanese pickle, nuka-zuke. The nuka is rice bran (although other brans can be used, in a pinch, but not so tradtional). Ingredients for fermenting (I'm just remembering, this is not a recipe: rice bran, dried red pepper, kelp, garlic, whole pieces of ginger, salt, and beer. A japanese friend told me her mother puts an iron nail in the mix, too (this is actually part of some recipes). The beer gives a bit of moisture, but doesn't make the mixture wet. Then, you cut up vegetables in chunks (onions, cukes, zucchini, carrots, peppers, etc.) and let it all ferment - and keep that fermenting mix and take vegetables out to eat (I take them out when they still have some 'bite,' but that's just me) and add new veggies to replace the old. The fermenting mix has a texture like wet sand, and you adjust it now and then to keep it that way. It's very, very tasty in my opinion - it has an earthy, wonderful flavor I've never tasted elsewhere. In some ways, it reminds me of fermenting tarhana. (I keep my fermented tarhana in the freezer - I don't have a dehydrator).

In Japan, people share the nuka fermenting mixture, the way you might pass along your sourdough culture.
Tsimblist said…
Miso was the new fermented food that I discovered during my vegan kick. The taste reminded me of the cheese flavor that I had given up. Turns out there are similarities to the way miso and cheese are made.
Anonymous said…
Nutritional yeast, the kind they sell at Whole Foods (from bins), not the kind you use to leaven bread, tastes a lot like cheese to me. I put it on popcorn - to me, it's tastier than butter! However, I've heard people say, who've tried it, that they don't 'get' a cheese flavor at all. My doctor tried it on a spelt pizza when he went vegan for a while, and loved the taste.
Diana said…
@Anna, "they would have a few more surviving kids, and this population would outgrow the people that ate the food with a less fortunate preparation method."


But were the ones who discovered this more intelligent - or where they just lucky?
Tsimblist said…
It was a scalloped potatoes recipe that had both the miso and the nutritional yeast for the cheese substitute. And it tasted just like the real deal.

I bought the nutritional yeast from a bulk bin at a health food store. And I don't 'get' the cheese flavor from it either.

I still make a "cheese" spread that is two parts tahini, one part miso and one part water by volume.
Susanne said…
My first starter was actually with wholemeal rye, because I needed it to make rye bread, and I only got the wheat one later from a friend, 100% white. I have the feeling it's a bit easier to start one with rye, either because my available rye flour is organic and it comes a bit more pre-colonized than my wheat -- I think the spores come from the flour rather than the air, at least in my case -- or just because rye is a happier medium for the yeasts. As Galina says, I have actually used the rye for both wheat and rye breads, it's much perkier than the wheat, especially given that I am a very neglectful sourdough parent and they both live in the back of the fridge unfed for months at a time.
Galina L. said…
I just want to add for people who do fermenting - use only the water without chlorine to get more robust starter. It seems obvious, but somehow it is missed very often.
CarbSane said…
Ooohhh ... I'm going to call bread baby protective services on you Susanne!

Anyone ever get caught up on the friendship bread/cake thing? Or does anyone even know what I'm talking about?
Tsimblist said…

I have made 100% whole wheat sourdough and caught the starter using the same 100% whole wheat flour.

Here is my last experience with it:
Anna Friebe said…
My guess is luck for the most part.
fr said…
Yes, evolution is part of the explanation. But it is also true that there is nothing like prolonged starvation to sharpen the mind regarding food. Stop eating for a month or two, then take a walk around in nature. I guarantee you will see potential food where you hadn't before, and you will think of ways to capture animals that you hadn't though of before. When starving, you spend all of your waking hours thinking of food. It isn't hard to imagine that starving people would reflect back on the different ways they had prepared beans in the past and how they felt afterwards, and they would eventually figure out that one method worked best. Doesn't have to be just random luck.
Jane said…
Thanks Susanne, and Galina, and especially Tsimblist. This is very interesting, and I shall tell my baker.
Galina L. said…
I just want to add that sour-dough rye bread baking is a very easy thing to do, consumes very little time and requires small effort (much less than making regular yeast-raised wheat bread ), done ones in a 5 - 7 days because rye bread stays fresh longer, and could be made exactly up to your requirements. I saw on-line offers of sprouted freshly milled rye flour. I am not advising other people what to do, I just want to share my opinion in case if you consider baking that bread yourself. The way how I do it, is even less work than Tsimblist described.(mix one cup of starter with one cup of flour, next day add two cups of water and two more cups of flour and mix, next day add 1.5 cups of flour and one Tbs of salt, mix and put it in a form to rise , bake)
Anonymous said…

I'm a big rye fan myself and much prefer it to wheat. My question is, what do you bake your 100% rye at? Temp/Time-wise, I mean. Mine always seems incredibly dense, even for rye bread, and almost always sort of underdone in the middle.

Galina L. said…
I check my bread with a food thermometer. The temperature in the middle of the loaf should be close to 210 F (if my thermometer is accurate),and the time spent in the oven depends on the inner temperature of the bread. My usual setting is 320 F for the oven, baking takes approximately one hour, but I experiment with different regimes because top of the bread looks too flat, and I try to find out what could be changed. Rye bread is naturally more sticky in texture, especially when fresh. The easiest way to achieve consistent readiness is by making a flat bread(it is a good idea to put on the top raw sunflower seeds) on a baking pan instead of a loaf shaped one. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out the right consistency of that dough, it is so different than for the wheat bread.Your bread may be too dense if the dough is too hard. If bread cracks like dry clay during baking, than you put too much flour in the relation to water.

I think that rye bread is much tastier that the wheat one, it is the food I miss the most on my LC diet,unlike cakes and candies. I bake it for other family members and my guests.
Anonymous said…
Would love to see a reference for that 'study', lian. Up here in the old PacNW, it's known that there are starchy nuts. They were not necessarily staples, though-- more survival food.

The question of how much starchy stuff was survival food is an open one, and one that appears to be ignored by quite a few anti-paleo types. Which is funny, I think the diversity of foods issue is interesting, but the determination to boomerang from 'paleo is mostly meat' (which i am not sure was ever a majority view in paleo-land) to 'paleo totally lines up with vegan-influenced conventional healthy diet macros of high carb, low fat and low protein' keeps the discussion from being sufficiently open or accurate.

As an example, note how Diana takes 'many' to mean 'most' and also how lian is happy to conflate whatever nut varieties these unknown aboriginals ate with modern nuts in stores, yet when meat-friendly paleo people make this sort of conflation error, it is fodder for numerous posts and snarky comments about how they are sooooo stoopid for doing so.
Diana said…
@"As an example, note how Diana takes 'many' to mean 'most'"

No I didn't. You are making shit up.
Diana said…
@frank r: That is very true. Twice I've lived in rural parts of the US and found that my senses sharpened with respect to local food sources very quickly. In one area things were quite remote. We had a very good supermarket but it was quite a long way off,in AZ (a huge state) so I would wonder about these things. What if the truck broke down? And the time I lived in upstate NY, I would think, why bother with buying food at all? There were many edible plants - and of course, deer.
Jane said…
I'm wondering now whether I should tell my baker to make his wheat sourdough with rye starter. What he told me is that wholemeal wheat flour makes his starter go bad, that's why he uses white flour. Perhaps rye flour would be better. He did say, when we discussed this last, that he would do some experiments when he had the time.
Galina L. said…
The amount of flour in a starter is really small, probably it doesn't matter much nutrition-vise which type of flour was used in a starter, and it is very possible your backer would be reluctant to change the already working routine. People have been making breads for centuries, using all available grains, it is hard to imagine there is something in wholemeal wheat that damages the starter. Of course, it is not appropriate for me to argue with a professional backer. I never experimented with wholemeal wheat flour, but I noticed no differences in the rising capacity between wholemeal rye and refined rye flours, however, I do think rye rises better than wheat. Probably, the difference in viscosity and structure makes only the visual difference. It looks for me like I observe the better rise, but maybe the gas production by starter is the same, it just looks differently for different doughs.
Galina L. said…
It looks like I did a mistake, assuming that the baker uses only small amount of wheat starter for the rye bread preparation, it could up to 40%. In the wiki article about the sourdough bread
"The ratio of fermented dough to fresh dough is critical in the development and maintenance of a starter. This ratio is called "inoculation" or the "refreshment ratio".[8][9] Higher refreshment ratios are associated with greater microbial stability in the sourdough. In San Francisco sourdough, the ratio[10] is 40% of the total weight, which is roughly equivalent to 67% of the new-dough's weight. A high refreshment ratio keeps acidity of the refreshed dough relatively low.[7] Acidity levels of below pH 4.0 inhibit lactobacilli and favour acid-tolerant yeasts."
Jane said…
Thanks Galina, that's a great help.

You might be interested to hear about my own bread-making experiments of 30 years ago. I needed to find a method that would take a few minutes in the morning, half an hour in the evening, and not make a mess of my kitchen. I'd heard the Hunza used a griddle so I bought one (actually I think they used a hot stone).

I made a very wet (yeast) dough which I would beat with a wooden spoon until it developed a swirling pattern. I'd leave it in the bowl to rise and when I came home I'd turn it out onto the griddle (this bit is tricky, you can miss the griddle), and cook it on the stove for 10 minutes each side, kind of like a very thick pancake. It worked very well, but it needed a lot of practice to get it right.
Galina L. said…
It was interesting.Thank you. I think Hunza beat their flat bread with something because wheat has to be treated with some sort of mechanical action (like beating or kneading) in order for the right structure to develop. Rye is different in that regard, It requires only mixing. I found out that in a modern kitchen such things like parchment paper or even plastic wrap wrapped around thin plastic cutting board could be a bid help in order to transport flat sticky things.

Yes, practice makes awkward things less tricky ,I agree.
Jane said…
Interesting that rye only needs mixing. I think if I make bread again I shall try rye.

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