Winter Wheat…Sprouted!

What to do when there isn’t an abundance of fresh local produce? We are lucky here in Vancouver to have a thriving winter farmer’s market but not all of you live in our neck of the woods. So when thinking about local food, winter usually means the root cellar and the pantry. Which explains our current obsession with our gorgeous 100 mile wheat.

Personally, I tend not to eat a ton of wheat – we try whenever possible to get a really good variety of grains in our diets. We eat rye bread and crackers; pasta made from corn, quinoa or brown rice and we feast on quinoa, barley and buckwheat in our cooking whenever possible. Wheat is usually reserved for making something at home from scratch – the best possible use, in my books! So something I was really interested to start experimenting with was sprouting our wheat berries.

To sprout the wheat, I started with a 1/2 cup of good quality organic wheat berries and a very clean glass dish. Rinse the wheat berries well under cold running water in a colander, pick out any debris and then place in the glass dish with plenty of warm water to cover. You want to loosely cover the container with a lid or plate to keep out dust and flies but don’t create an airtight seal. Soak the berries overnight. In the morning, rinse the berries in a colander; return to the cleaned glass dish and cover. Repeat the rinse cycle morning and night. In 3 days (wheat will sprout faster in warmer weather), you should see tiny white sprouts forming in the wheat berries. That’s all there is to it! We are not trying to create actual sprouts, just transforming the wheat berry. When you see the sprouts form, rinse the wheat berries well and store them in the fridge until you use them – ideally right away.

A polite reminder about food safety: people have been sprouting their own food for centuries…but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without risks. Give germs water, nutrients and a comfortable room temperature and they like to party. Be scrupulously clean. Wash hands really well when handling your sprouting container and wheat berries. Don’t sprout what you won’t use right away. And if you have a compromised immune system, steer clear…sprout at your own risk!

How can you use sprouted wheat? I am so glad you asked! Add the wheat berries to cookies, one of our hearty wheat berry salads or try them in muffins, as I have done here.

Sprouted Wheat Apple Date Muffins
Adapted, with permission, from Healthy Starts Here! by Marilyn Smith PHEc from Whitecap Books

Makes 12-15 muffins

1-2 Gala apples, chopped, enough to make 2 cups
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup natural apple juice (not from concentrate, please!)
1 organic egg
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used Demerara)
1 cup freshly sprouted wheat berries
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup freshly ground or cold milled flaxseed (I used Omega Nutrition brand)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or silicone muffin cups.

The original recipe made 12 muffins; however, when I found myself with extra batter due to my additions, my silicone muffin cups saved me. I just took out 3 of the full silicone cups, greased the cups of the pan with butter and then magically had room for 15 muffins!

Cut 1 apple into quarters and remove the core. Chop the apple into 1 cm cubes. You need 2 cups of chopped apple; if you are short, chop up the remaining apple. Set aside.

In a blender, process the dates and apple juice until almost pureed. Add 1 cup of the chopped apple, the egg and brown sugar and process until the mixture is well blended (you shouldn’t be able to discern the apple or dates). Stir in the sprouted wheat and let stand as you mix the dry ingredients.

Whisk together the whole wheat flour, flaxseed, walnuts, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the remaining chopped apple to the dry ingredients and toss to coat the apple pieces.

Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups with a 1/4 cup measure or ice cream scoop. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins and let cool completely. The muffins keep for 2 days in an airtight container or 2 months in the freezer.

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