Sprouted Wheatberry Salad
June 11, 2010

Sprouted Wheatberry Salad

Friday! Friday! Friday!

Thank you so much for the thoughtful responses to my conscious shopping post. What I’m hearing is that most of us aren’t carrying our conscientious food habits into our habits as consumers of clothing, shoes, and accessories. But it’s never too late to start!

Each month, I get countless emails about sprouting. What can I sprout? Why should I sprout it? Do I have to sprout it to get nutritional benefits?  How does one sprout something? Is it safe?

I’m delighted to see such a healthy interest in sprouting, though I also have to confess to you that I’m not an expert. Readers often assume that I sprout all of my nuts, seeds, and grains; they’re wrong! I often don’t. Sprouting is a wonderful practice, but I consider it an optional one. If you don’t do it, I assure you that you’ll survive.

What does it mean to sprout something, and why do it? Simply put, sprouting initiates the growth process of a seed, grain, or seed-grain. When a grain is sprouted, some of its complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which are easier for our body to digest that long chains of starch. Some of the grain’s protein, likewise, is broken down into amino acids, which spares our bodies the labor of breaking it down later on. Most significantly, sprouting wicks away a grain, nut, or seed’s enzyme inhibitors and naturally occurring tannins; these are compounds that reside in the skin of the nuts, seeds, and grains, and they’re very slow to digest. The goal of soaking and sprouting is to “de-activate” them, so that our bodies face no barriers when they digest and assimilate the food.

Sprouting, soaking, and germination aren’t the same things. When you soak nuts, seeds, and grains, you break down their enzyme inhibitors. You also reduce phytic acid, a compound that binds with minerals in the grain–such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc–and makes it difficult for our bodies to absorb them. Soaking neutralizes the phytic acid, and “releases” those minerals for our bodies’ use. Soaking initiates germination (growth), and if you then rinse grains and leave them in a warm, damp place, they’ll begin to sprout.

Which grains can be sprouted? The simplest grains to sprout are wheat, kamut, spelt, barley, and rye. The most sproutable “pseudograins” — or “seed-grains,” as some people call them–are millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and wild rice. I’ve experimented with sprouting all of these grains at home, and my favorites are quinoa, millet, and wheatberries (spelt and kamut are runners up!).

How often do I sprout grains? I’ll be frank: I don’t much like the taste of sprouted grains — at least not in comparison to cooked ones. And while I recognize the benefits of soaking and sprouting, I also believe that cooked grains still retain a great deal of their nutrient value; soaking and sprouting are means of optimizing absorption, but choosing not to soak or sprout won’t negate the value of your grains.

There are times, though, when sprouting grains becomes my prep method of choice. Surprisingly, I sprout grains most often when I’m busy. Why? Because once the grains are sprouted, they demand no prep time! If I have a sprouted grain on hand, I can literally throw it into a salad, mix it with veggies for a cold grain salad, or eat it plain; if I come home and want cooked grains, on the other hand, I need to put aside 20 minutes – 1 hour for the cooking process. And when it’s 9 pm after a grueling day of work, watching a simmering pot for half an hour is really the last thing I feel like doing. Having sprouted grains in my fridge means access to a meal component that’s versatile and nutrient dense; I can simply plate the grains and go.

As I battle my summer schedule, sprouted grains are making frequent appearances in the CR kitchen. Last week, I whipped up a batch of one of my very favorite sprouted grains: wheatberries. As a rule, whole wheat is less nutrient rich than some of my other favorite grains (such as millet, quinoa, or even kamut and spelt). Still, it’s a terrific source of fiber (which can help to manage cholesterol, contributes to heart health, and keeps us feeling sated), manganese (which is an enzyme activator and an aid in lipid synthesis), magnesium (which helps to keep bones healthy). In other words, it’s got tons of nutrient benefits. It’s also pretty tasty 🙂

Soaking and sprouting grains — whatever grains they may be — is far easier than you’d expect!

Today, I’ll offer a short grain sprouting tutorial:

1) Place one full cup of wheatberries in a large mason jar. Fill it with 2 1/2 cups filtered water. Let it sit, open, at room temperature for one full day.

2) 24 hours later, drain the wheatberries and rinse them well.

3) Return the soaked grains to your mason jar. Take a paper towel or cheesecloth, put it over the mouth of the jar, and secure it there with a rubber band. Turn the jar on its side, and leave it be in a room temperature nook of your kitchen.

4) Let the jar sit for 12-24 hours — I almost always give it a full day. At the end of this time period, you can remove the paper towel or cloth, and you’ll see that the grains have sprouted little “tails,” like so!

At this point, the grains are ready for consumption. You should have about 2 cups of sprouted grains at the ready. It’s. That. Simple.

See? No fuss! Sprouting is a cinch, and once you get used to it, you’ll love the process. Right now, I’ve got a jar or two of different grains sprouting or soaking almost all the time; it’s such a relief to have them at the ready when I need to toss a meal together on the fly. Note that different grains take different amounts of time to sprout; wheatberries take a long time, relatively speaking, but grains like quinoa sprout in a jiffy. As you get used to sprouting, you’ll get a sense of the times that different grains demand.

What to do with you sprouted grains? I’m glad you asked. As you know, I’m a big fan of throwing grains+avocado onto a nutrient dense salad. I also love mixing sprouted grains with banana and nut milk for breakfast. Sometimes, I grind sprouted grains and put them in cracker or bread dough.

Most of all, I love to use my sprouted grains in grain salads. These are, quite simply, big batches of sprouted grains mixed with raw veggies, oil, and a hint of acid in the form of lemon or vinegar. Here, friends, is one of my favorites.

Sprouted Wheatberry Salad (serves 4)

2 cups sprouted wheatberries
1/2 cup dried apples, chopped into small pieces
2 cups shredded dino or curly kale
1 cup chopped or grated carrots
1-2 tsp agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flax oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Adjust to suit your tastes — you may want to add more vinegar, salt, or veggies. For a well combined option, simply remove the dried apples!

This is a sweet, tangy, and filling grain salad, and it works equally nicely as a main dish or green salad topper. I’ve enjoyed it on its own:

Topped with avocado:

Sprouted Wheatberry Salad

And mixed into big salads.

In any of these varieties, it’s a nourishing and hearty raw meal.

Hopefully, I’ve just persuaded those of you who fear sprouting that it’s not so scary a process, after all! Now that it’s warm outside, and the need for hot food isn’t quite so great, it’s a wonderful time for you to get sprouting. Have fun with it — and happy weekend!


P.S. One of my fave organizations, the Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary, is hosting its 4th annual June Jamboree on June 12 & June 13th from 11-5pm. It’ll be a fun event, with live music all day both days. There will be kids activities, a pottery and art sale, farm tours and deliciously decadent food prepared by The Regal Vegan— so visitors are advised to come hungry. Check out the deets here!

Categories: Dinner, Main Dishes, Raw

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  1. I got this website from my friend who told me on the topic of this web site and at the moment this time I am
    visiting this web site and reading very informative articles
    or reviews at this place.

  2. I would love to try this tonight but am afraid they will grow mold because of the hot and humid DC temperatures. Any tips to prevent mold? Has this ever happened? I left some lemon water out for two nights and the lemons were growing green and white mold IN the water!

    Do you place them in a cupboard or dark place? Or just the counter top?

  3. sprouted grains can be dropped into a garlic oil with crushed onion, jalepeno , lime, rock salt , apple cider vinegar etc. and left so the grains can grow in this new matrix
    after all the grain is searching for nutrient to grow in . right ?
    grains are best tasting when the roots first show because the grain has not expended all its energy growing in just water

  4. What a great article! I have been curious and interested in sprouting for a while and this article cleared up all of my questions.
    I can not wait to try this recipe and start sprouting!

  5. I’ve seen draining lids for mason jars at plenty of health food stores, however they are too expensive to remain non-guilty. I’m not sure what you used to drain your wheatberries but I have a cheap and easy idea. I went to Michaels craft store and bought this 50 cent plastic screen. It was large enough to cut out at least 8 circles that fit perfectly on the mason jar lid. The screen has holes big enough to let water pass quickly but keep all the sprouting ingredients inside the mason jar. I prefer this plastic screen over the metal one because of its ease to cut.

    • I used a piece of leftover window screen cut to size of a jar lid. Very inexpensive at thr hardware store and easy to cut with scissors.

    • What about sprouted quinoa offered at WF market in plastic bags.
      It is more expensive than not sprouted but I do not understand anything now.
      How can you store for such a long time in a plastic bag sprouted seed?

  6. I just ate my leftover sprouted wheatberries as cereals, with hempmilk, raisins, and blueberries. Delicious!

  7. Your salad looks delicious! I always have a container of sprouted wheat berries in the fridge for sprinkling on greens and I even mix some in with my yogurt with cinnamon and stevia. I love the chewy texture.

  8. I’ve only tried sprouting grains for a 100% sprouted grain bread recipe I use from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads cookbook. Love it. Now I’m encouraged to try them in salads too!

  9. It’s been a while since I haven,t sprouted. You certainly gave me back the inspiration! Sprouting can do wonders for health. A friend of mine was just explaining to me how adding sprouts to her diet seems to have cures her (mild) nuts allergy. I never have thought of sprouting wheat. It’s really a good idea!


  10. I have a reader’s question post idea for you, Gena!

    How can one gain weight on a vegan and/or high raw diet? It can be from either an ED recovery perspective or someone who just needs to gain weight perspective. It’s hard when so many vegan foods (beans, greens) are so filling because of the fiber!!

    Thank you.

  11. That salad looks yummy. I have been wanting to sprout some grains but was unsure how to. Thanks for the instructions. 🙂

  12. I’ve only ever sprouted quinoa before, but like you said, it was easy! And it was great for throwing into salads, and I’m pretty sure it would work well with the recipe you have here too (I can’t eat wheatberries anyway due to the gluten).
    Thanks for the reminder about how easy sprouting is..I would have to agree that I would much rather have sprouted grains waiting for me when I get home at the end of the day than have to cook them and wait. Eating late at night doesn’t agree with me anyway, and I get home pretty late, so the faster my dinner meal is to prepare, the better.

    Re: The Whole Living article- I’m so happy that you understood and agree. I was afraid you would take it the wrong way and I really didn’t want to take attention away from your wonderful article. I just thought it was an important thing to point out. Thanks for the nice comment back!

  13. sprouting has always been a huge (and somewhat scary) mystery to me. thanks for the great explanation and step by step!

  14. This reminds me so much of my primary school science class, in which we had to sprout mung beans for our science project. I never ever thought to eat them, though, haha!

    I have a question: What about seeds? I eat a lot of kabocha, and I always feel wasteful throwing those seeds away. I’m wondering if I can sprout kabocha seeds and eat them? I don’t really care so much for roasted kabocha seeds, though.

    • Not gonna lie: if you’re not into roasted seeds, then I don’t think you’ll love sprouted ones. Maybe I can come up with a recipe for glazed or spiced ones that isn’t bad…

  15. To be honest, sprouting still creeps me out a little, but your salads look delicious with them. And I’m glad to hear that wheatberries take a shorter time to sprout–my first and last experience was with broccoli sprouts, and they took 5 or 6 days. My craving for them went away by the time they had finished growing their tails. I guess I should give sprouting another try — thank you Gena for the helpful tips and nutritional info, as always.

    🙂 Aletheia

  16. Gena I hope you have a great weekend too 😉 Love the sprouted wheatberry salad. We try and sprout as much as possible, sometimes we do it and sometimes we don’t. I would love to get more into though and really see how my body does. Maybe one day. 🙂

  17. Awesome article Gena!! I used to sprout a lot to make crackers but it was always so time consuming. I love the idea of just throwing them into a salad, and the one you made looks so delicious!

  18. Thank you for demystifying sprouting! I have always wanted to try it but had been too intimidated. I now have a jar soaking away in my kitchen. Happy belated birthday!

  19. Hi Gena! Would love to have similar tutorials for different types of grains and pseudo-grains. I’ve never thought twice about sprouting, but I’m curious now…

  20. I love sprouting mung beans…and having them on salads…so good! Thanks for the words about sprouting Gena. I have yet to sprout grains like quinoa or wheatberries but should with my huge sprouting jar!

  21. I love sprouted anything. thanks for the huge preface about sprouting etc; the information is so useful. I’m always amazed at your wealth of knowledge!
    Thanks again,

  22. I sprouted three different seeds before (all at once), but the jars & “sprouting setup” took up too much counterspace & just irritated me. Haha. It *was* cool to know I was growing my own sprouts, but I was mostly doing it to save money & since organic sprouting seeds are kind of expensive, I ended up not saving any money at all (as opposed to buying sprouts at my co-op)! Haha. I do still want to do it again, though, because I can sprout things like broccoli that the store doesn’t sell. 🙂

    ANYWAY, great tutorial! I haven’t had sprouted wheatberries, but they sound awesome!

  23. This post came at the perfect time! I have a big bag of wheat berries sitting in my pantry that I have been DREADING cooking because of the amount of time I anticipated it taking. How refreshing to know I can just toss ’em in a jar and eat ’em raw! Hooray!! Also, what kind/size tupperware is that salad monster in? I love taking salads on the go, but I never feel like my tupperware is big enough. Any reccomendations?

    • try sproutpeople.org they have great directions for sprouting (videos) and some recipes and places to purchase grains if you want.

  24. Thank you Gena! This is super helpful. I have always been a little intimidated when it comes to sprouting. This article is a concise, easy to understand resource explaining the difference between sprouting and soaking. Super helpful. I’m going to link to this article on greenlemonade.com. I also would love to work with you to promote more of the awesomeness you do here at Choosing Raw when your schedule slows down. Noelle

  25. This was an excellent sprouting tutorial! I’ll be honest, I don’t sprout! I have, and it’s great..but I just don’t do it that frequently. Probably b/c I dont crave grains that much.

    Wheatberries..I can’t eat on acct of the gluten but that salad looks phenomenal!

    The comment you left me, re roles, career, family, etc…so true that we are all on our own path and that person x cant understand person y’s path and vice versa sometimes. But I love your path so long as you love it 🙂

    Happy weekend honey bunches!