Do you love nuts? Is the feeling mutual? Or do nuts cause you digestive distress or “belly bedlam” as we like to call it. There is no doubt that nuts are an extremely nutritious snack. But did you know that nuts by nature are designed to give you tummy trouble?! Nuts, beans, seeds and grains have natural spoilage barriers, or enzyme-inhibitors built into their tiny seed hearts. This helps prevent them from going bad while in storage; be it in a grain silo in ancient Greece, in your kitchen pantry in Kansas or in a squirrel cache at a local park. Thanks to Sally Fallon’s Crispy Nuts recipe, traditional preparation techniques let us eat nuts without the belly bedlam.
Miracle of miracles
Enzymes inside nuts and seeds are quite unstable. Therefore it’s crucial for nuts to be protected until it is time to create a new plant. Once moisture comes in contact with the nuts and signals them to germinate, they miraculously release these enzyme-inhibitors.Traditional cultures around the world understood this process.They took great care to properly prepare their seeds, nuts, beans and grains. By soaking and/or fermenting these foods they could digest them and extract their nutritional benefits.
Phytic acid—the bad guy for a good reason
Phytic acid (or phytate) is the main offender when it comes to enzyme-inhibitors. Phytate is found within the hulls and bran of nuts, seeds and grains. Phytate stores nutrients for plant growth and prevents the seed from germinating prematurely.
We are not able to digest phytate. And it reduces our ability to digest protein. Research also shows that when consumed, it greatly reduces our absorption of such important minerals as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. In effect, phytic acid binds to the minerals and won’t release them for absorption.
When you eat too much phytic acid
Diets high in phytic acid can contribute to mineral deficiencies. For those whose diets rely on these foods, illnesses such as pellagra (B3 deficiency) and anemia (iron deficiency) are common. Even folks who don’t depend heavily on these foods can still suffer the consequences. Mental fatigue, immune dysfunction, gut imbalances, hormone disruption and brittle nails can signal impaired mineral absorption. Therefore we can ALL reap great benefits from giving phytates the boot through soaking and/or fermenting.
Crispy Nuts – Step-by-Step
Adapted by Rebekah Mocerino and Kaelin Kiesel-Germann
from a recipe by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions
Walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts all benefit from soaking. Almonds, pecans, walnuts and pumpkin seeds make the best Crispy Nuts. Store pecans and almonds at room temperature in an airtight container. Walnuts, being more susceptible to rancidity, are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Makes 4 cups
Place nuts and sea salt in a large glass bowl. Add enough warm water to submerge the nuts. Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel for 3- 24 hours.
The soaking time depends on the softness of the nuts:
- Really soft ones like cashews and pine nuts need no more than 3 hours.
- Semi-soft ones such as walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds benefit from soaking 6-8 hours.
- Almonds do best when soaked for 8 to 24 hours. If you do soak them for 24 hours, change the water once during the soaking process.
Drain the nuts. They will be nice and plump. Rinsing them is optional, though it makes for less salty Crispy Nuts.
Consume soaked nuts within 2 days or use for baking. For long-term storage, dry the nuts.
Technically there are 3 methods for drying nuts: in an oven, in a dehydrator or outside in the sun. As neither of us has a dehydrator, and since it is January in Montana, we’ll discuss the oven method.
Set the oven to 150 degrees. If your oven doesn’t go that low (some can be reset, check your owner’s manual) set it to the lowest it will go. In some ovens just turning the oven light on creates enough warmth to dry the nuts.
Don’t get hung up on the temperature. We just want a warm-not-hot oven. As with many traditional homemaking adventures, experiment to find a system that works for you and your kitchen. In our experience sometimes the nuts brown even at 150 degrees. To avoid overbrowning, give the nuts a stir every few hours. If you have to leave the house for a bit, just turn the oven off. No hard and fast rules here!
Are They Done Yet?
Check the nuts periodically while drying. Drying time will take from 4-24 hours, depending on the nut and the oven temperature. The nuts are done when there is no moisture left in them. There should be NO give when you bite into them. Crispy Nuts are not soggy nuts! Any retained moisture can cause molding.
Congratulations, your Crispy Nuts are done and happy, and your intestines will be too!
Our Favorite Tamari Garlic Crispy Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 2 cups
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons tamari, depending on your taste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder or more depending on your taste
Cayenne pepper (optional)
- Place pumpkin seeds and salt in a glass bowl. Add enough warm water to submerge the seeds.
- Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and leave at room temperature for 5-10 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the seeds.
- Spread the seeds on a lined cookie sheet and place in a warm oven (150 degrees or lower) until crispy (4-8 hours depending on your oven).
- When the seeds are crispy and cooled, toss them with the tamari, garlic and optional cayenne. Return them to the oven and warm the seeds until all the tamari has dried, another 1-3 hours.
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Kaelin Kiesel-Germann is a self-described “green as a cucumber traditional homemaker.” Her explorations in raising and preparing traditional foods were inspired by the research of Dr. Weston Price and visits to Mongolian pastoral nomads. Knowing that a nutrient-dense diet is a foundation for whole body health, Kaelin has served as co-chapter leader with Rebekah for the Weston A. Price Foundation-Bozeman Chapter since 2011.
Rebekah Mocerino is a military wife and a food fundamentalist. Her passion for real food developed after becoming ill in 2002. Armed with her Faith and the desire for renewed health, she slowly recovered by consuming traditional foods like raw milk, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and pastured-raised meat stock. Rebekah enjoys sharing the therapeutic and nutritional benefits of these once cherished but now forgotten foods.