We are starting this exciting new year (happy new year!!!!) with an interview of Peach & Co. Founder Nicole Bowman. Until late 2016 the Bowmans sold sprouted grains from their home base in the Australian Captial Territory. A friend introduced me to their produce and I instantly fell in love. This was something totally new and I had never tasted oats, spelt and rye like this before.
We probably ate our own bodyweight in grains from their online shop and I was incredibly sad to see them close their doors.
But Peach & Co. are back this year. They made it their mission to help teaching people the art of sprouting their own grains. You can now do this from your kitchen and enjoy the full benefits.
HTP: Hi Nicole. Thank you so much for this interview. Would you please describe the benefits of sprouting.
NB: Strangely, I’ve always found this question difficult to summarise.
It can sound romantic to talk of food traditions, or become very tempting to fixate on the vitamin and mineral content, bio-availability or digestive benefits – of which there are many, and these are of course important. But to me the benefits of sprouted grains, and many other nutritious food preparations are intertwined in all of those aspects: Whether it’s the sweet hint of the natural sugars, the way a fresh rye sprout smells like summer, the unique profile of nutrients borne from its natural growth process, or even the way you feel satisfied for having worked at something to create something new.
To me, that’s the real benefit; the culmination of individual benefits, working together to create a story. I think the social research tells us that all of these factors layered in many things we do and eat are important in longevity and wellness.
Nutritionally speaking though – what happens when a sprout forms is a change in the composition of the grain, leading to changes not only in the levels of certain vitamins and minerals, but also in the way your body is able to absorb those nutrients. So you’re getting a double whammy. For example, if you are zinc deficient you might want to eat sprouted oats as a functional food, to supplement your other regimes – the levels of zinc in sprouted oats higher when the oat is sprouted, and your body can access those available nutrients better.
There are also changes to starch levels as they convert to a simple vegetable-like sugars, meaning they’re easer for your body to digest, but remain intact enough to still get down through your gut to feed your good bugs, when many other foods will not (this is why grains are a pre-biotic food). Enzyme production increases as well, which also assists digestion (and also improve bread baking – bonus!).
HTP: Which grains can be sprouted?
NB: Absolutely any whole, unprocessed grain or legume can be sprouted – it’s what they’re made to do.
Of course, some grains take more practice than others because of the machines used to hull them (removing the outer inedible hard layer on the outside. Some grains, like wheat are less affected by the threshing process, whereas spelt and oats can be damaged because the hull is harder to remove.
I suggest starting home sprouting with wheat, rye and chickpeas – they’re sure-fire. Once you’ve got the process down you could take on spelt or oats (you can get hull-lees, or ‘naked’ oats from one or two producers which will sprout better).
HTP: Would you describe the sprouting process.
NB: Sprouting is simply the growth process from seed, to becoming a new plant.
To be a little more technical about it: A seed has an inbuilt mechanism by which it remains dormant, making sure it preserves its nutrients for when energy s needed for the plant to grow. Once those conditions are right, the seed allows the release of these nutrients and stops inhibiting enzyme production to give itself what it needs to grow into a plant. As a consequence, starches decrease to become simple sugars for the plant to grow, certain nutrient levels increase (depending upon the type of grain) and enzyme levels increase. Depending on how long you let the sprout grow (just like leaving a plant to grow in the garden), will depend on how it tastes, functions and its nutritional properties.
When a little shoot or ‘tail’ emerges from the seed, we call that ‘modification’: when the plant is now a sprout.
HTP: DIY (How can I do this at home)
NB:I was pleased at the timing of you asking me along to talk about sprouting, as it was by far the most asked question of us at the end of last year. I promised I would work on writing down (and remembering!) how I did it when I first worked through the best process in my own kitchen, so it’s actually fresh in my mind.
Every grain requires only basic elements to sprout and you don’t need expensive equipment to begin at home, although certain tools do become helpful for regular sprouting. Following the same basic principles forms the basis of every single grain sprout or malt (a long sprout used for specialist baking and beverages like beer and whisky): Water, air and time.
First we begin with soaking the grains to get them into a state where the changes can begin, then we drain the water, rest them and allow a few rinse and rest cycles. After that, it’s simply a case of making sure they get the oxygen they need, making sure they don’t over heat and keep them slightly moist. A few days later you’ll have sprouts!
If you want to dry them, spread them thinly on a perforated sheet and pop in the dehydrator or oven at a low temperature, around 45 degrees. If you try and dry them too quickly by using a high temperature you can actually stop them from drying out! Low temperatures also preserve their ‘raw’ state, keeping the enzymes intact.
HTP: How long do sprouted grains stay fresh?
NB: If you’re eating them fresh, say in a risotto or pudding, I suggest cooking them straight away and you can store them like regular leftovers in the fridge.
If you are going to dry them and use for making flour, keep them intact, making sure they’re very dry and you can keep them (whole) in an airtight container in a cool dark place for at least as long as the original best before date of the un-sprouted grain. If you freeze them, you can add a couple of extra months to that date. Just make sure it’s a frost free environment (most modern freezers are frost free)
HTP: We love your oats! Would you teach us how you make them?
NB: Now that might be pushing the friendship too far Judy, it’s a trade secret! Actually, our oatmeal was so popular, but also took the most time to develop. I spent quite a few hours researching traditional processes, like the Scottish milling method and Russian folk recipes and adapting them to suit our palates.
The basics are the same as above, but as we found some varieties of oat do not sprout consistently well due to the hulling process we took a two-pronged approach: using the sprouting process and an additional light fermentation step. We then dried as usual and milled through a stone mill.
For people just starting out you may not get the exact results we did, but if you at least soak your oats and let them rest for a day you have still gained benefit and will get a similar outcome ot our oatmeal.
Maybe I should add oatmeal to the list of things to teach in the future?!
HTP: Thank you so much Nicole. I greatly appreciate your time and all the energy you have invested in creating Peach & Co. Building and running a business from scratch is a enormous undertaking with huge sacrifices and dedication so I am grateful for being able to get the benefits out of your work. Oh, and I’ll definitely be waiting for the oatmeal tutorial.
Peach & Co was closed in 2017. Nicole now writes a blog and you can still find some infos on sprouting here.