Diversity In Diet

For optimal health and absorption of nutrients, I have heard that every meal must contain at least one raw, sprouted, or fermented food. This makes sense to me – these are the foods that are most “alive” – they help us to be more vibrant, active human beings.

Not surprisingly, every single traditional culture studied by Weston A. Price had some form of a raw, sprouted, or lacto-fermented condiment or main staple food in their diet. As my permaculture teacher says, “Life begets life”. As we eat food that is more alive, we become more alive.

Coming out of winter, It’s been hard for me to feel the forward motion. Heavier, cooked food and the cold frosty nights can drag you down and drain your energy. Now that spring is showing her face in tiny corners of our garden, through an out-pour of plum blossoms and thriving seedlings in our greenhouse, I am starting to feel a welcome renewal of energy. What better way to bring in a new year of growth than with an entourage of raw, sprouted, and lacto-fermented experiments?

This early spring at Aprovecho, we’ve been filling our counters with sprouting beans, lacto-fermented beets, kefir, and lots of gingery kimchi. Our goal has been to have at least one raw, sprouted, or fermented food per meal. So far, the greatest recipe we’ve come across has been a variation on an Indian pancake called a Dosa. Mung beans are sprouted, then blended with onions, garlic, and spices, and left to ferment at room temperature for a few days. The Dosa’s develop a great sweet, sour smell, much like a good loaf of sourdough bread. Then, we lightly fry them in thin cakes on a cast iron skillet. Delicious with homemade yogurt!

We’ve also started picking the lemon sorrel that stayed through the winter as a perennial in our garden, and using it in salads. Raw food is filled with enzymes, beneficial microorganisms, and nutrients that are not destroyed by cooking.

Beans, grains, and nuts aren’t digested properly by humans in their raw state. That’s where sprouting comes in. Because beans, grains, and nuts are the seed of their respective plants, each seed can be germinated as if it were to form a new plant. This process unlocks powerful enzymes and vitamins that are completely absent or present only in very small amounts in the unsprouted seed.

Many people these days do not digest dairy or gluten well. Fermentation of milk into yogurt, kefir, homemade cheese, and other “living” milk products enhances milk’s digestibility, allowing many people to benefit from the high nutrient content of milk. Similarly, the fermentation of flour into sourdough allows microorganisms to pre-digest the bread for you, rendering the nutrients in sourdough bread easier to assimilate for many folks who are gluten-intolerant. Lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits into sauerkraut, kimchi, and chutney enhances their nutritional profile, bringing enzymes and beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion into play. Between our sourdough bread, sauerkraut, lentil sprouts, and other experiments in the making, we are all slowly feeling more spring in our step. With our guts repaired and our bodies reaping the benefits of added nutrient assimilation, we are ready to build shelter, work in the garden, and share with our neighbors with gratitude for our new-found energy boost!

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