IANS – Soaking Grains


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

Barley – almost ripe; see how the heads bend down from the stalks?

When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 200 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).

You can make a loaf of bread in an hour or two.

Yes, but you should first soak the grains at least overnight. Most grains, nuts and seeds should be soaked before they are eaten, cooked or made into breads. The soaking breaks down phytate, which makes the grain more digestible. Phytates also tie up iron, zinc, manganese and calcium, and slow their absorption, which limits the nutrition you can get out of the grain. Once upon a time, the only way to make bread was with wild yeast. The cook made a slurry with flour and water or milk and let the dough sit out at room temperature for a few days until it became fragrantly sour. To bake bread (which most cooks did every day or two, but at least once a week), you mix the starter with more flour and water or milk, let it sit for about 24 hours, then add a little more flour and some salt to the sponge and shape the loaves. The overnight souring process also allowed the flour to absorb liquid, which has the same effect as soaking the whole grain.

Rice, whole wheat, oats and other grains should be soaked overnight in water or broth before cooking. Soaking oats in this fashion, by the way, means the grain will cook almost as quickly as “instant” oatmeal, which is not nearly as nutritious and doesn’t taste as good. Nuts and seeds also benefit from soaking. These should be soaked about eight to 12 hours – the longer time for nuts – in water with a tablespoon of salt added. Spread the soaked nuts and seeds to dry in a dehydrator or stove set at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir occasionally. Store in the fridge or freezer.

Take a Missouri Approach

Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum is credited as the person who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. In fact, there’s no evidence that he did say it; however, there is some evidence that it was said about Barnum’s tactics, by a banker named David Hannum. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.

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