Broadly speaking most of the grains we consume today in the form of milled flours, in breads, cakes, biscuits, pastas, pies, porridges and expressed breakfast cereals derive from dry, unfermented seeds whose true potential has yet to be fully realised. The grain berry, harvested and stored in silos, lies dormant waiting for the day a drop of rain will coat the seed and encourage germination to begin. Since the seed is effectively being “put on hold” it has no need to utilise any of the nutrients the mother plant has bequeathed it. The seed’s nutrients can be compared to a valuable inheritance that have been packed up and sealed away in the family chests only to be opened by the immature seed as and when conditions are right.
Thus, the complex sugars (or starches) that form the endosperm of the dormant grain are tightly bound together in close-fitting balls. Minerals remain locked up in the phytic acid. Vitamins are held in a closed bank account to prevent the infantile seed from squandering such a valuable asset on unnecessary pursuits. An army of enzyme-inhibitors, much like a committee of tight-fisted trustees, guard and protect the seeds most precious assets until the time is right for the seed to claim its substantial inheritance.
Traditional societies, who knew nothing about phytic acid, vitamins, minerals, enzyme inhibitors or proteins knew that eating a dormant cereal grain was sub-optimal. That is why every single global population, before the rise of the food industry, relied on three methods to side-step the grain’s tight-fisted trustees and unlock the nutritional inheritance of the cereal grain: fermenting, sprouting and soaking. All three methods, though different, have two essential elements in common: warmth and moisture. It is the combination of warmth and moisture that tricks the immature seed into thinking the time has come for it to mature into a fully grown plant, to encourage the trustees to release the assets and open up its high interest accounts.
Few modern cooks – celebrity, professional, absent or everyday – follow any of these basic steps which is why many of us are consuming a potentially problematic food source.