RAW SEEDS: SUMMARY INFORMATION
by Thomas E. (Tom) Billings
Copyright 1998 by Thomas E. Billings, all rights reserved.
Many popular seeds receive relatively little processing, and
most of them sprout readily. Let's examine some of the common, popular raw seeds, as
* FENUGREEK. A common ingredient in the cuisine of India.
Fenugreek seeds are said to help digestion, and may be good for a hypo-active liver. The
seeds sprout readily and quickly. They can be grown long to produce greens as well;
however, the greens can be rather bitter - try both greened and ungreened to see which you
prefer. Hard seeds - seeds that don't sprout and are hard like little rocks - are common
in fenugreek. If you soak the seeds in a large container with a flat bottom, you can pick
out many of the hard seeds at the end of the soak stage (tedious work). Alternately, try
stirring the soaked seeds in water, so the hard seeds settle to the bottom, then carefully
pour off (only) the good seeds. Neither technique is foolproof, but they can reduce the
number of hard seeds in the final product. One caution - hard seeds may present a risk to
those with "fragile" dental work (e.g., porcelain crowns).
* PUMPKIN SEEDS. Most pumpkin seeds have a very tough hull.
However, the pumpkin seeds sold for human consumption are the 'Lady Godiva' variety
(developed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture), which is 'naked' - it has no hull. Pumpkin
seeds can be sprouted, but they develop root shoots only very rarely, and they turn rancid
very quickly (in 2 days, sometimes less). Recommend soaking in water (in refrigerator) and
eating, rather than sprouting. Note that some related plants (watermelon and other melons)
have edible seeds as well, but their tough hulls make eating them difficult.
* SESAME SEEDS. An important source of oil that is popular
around the world, and is that is widely used in Ayurveda, the traditional medical system
of India. Hulled sunflower seeds are usually white, and don't sprout. Unhulled seeds may
be beige (tan), brown, or black. A red form exists but is rare in commerce. Unhulled seeds
sprout nicely: sprout for 1-2 days. Surprisingly, non-organic seeds usually sprout better
than organic. The seeds may turn bitter if sprouted too long. The seed hulls contain
oxalates, an anti-nutritive factor, the levels of which are greatly reduced if the seeds
are soaked and rinsed (i.e., in the sprouting process). Some people find unsoaked,
unhulled sesame seeds to be hard to digest. The seeds are a heating food, as the oil they
contain is very heating. (You can prove the heating properties of sesame oil, by massaging
yourself with unrefined sesame oil, and leaving it on for 30 minutes or so - hot!)
* SUNFLOWER SEEDS. Hulled sunflower seeds can be sprouted:
soak 12 hours, pour off hulls (important - will spoil quickly if hulls left in), and
sprout for 1-2 days. Unhulled sunflower seeds are generally grown for 7 days or so, to
yield sunflower greens. Unhulled seeds may be striped (black/white or black/gray), which
are grown for direct human consumption, or pure black, which are primarily grown for oil
extraction (of course, they all can be sprouted).
An interesting fact about the sunflower plant: sunflower
blooms that are not fully mature, display a type of heliotropic motion called nutation.
The bloom faces east in the morning, turns with the sun as it moves across the sky to face
west at sundown, then turns to face east at night, in preparation for the next sunrise.
Given this property, one observes that the name, sunflower, is very appropriate indeed!
MUCILAGINOUS SEEDS: FLAX, PSYLLIUM, CHIA. Flax seed oil is a
popular food supplement, but it is very expensive and spoils quickly. Flax, psyllium, and
chia seeds can be sprouted to yield greens, but a special technique is required (use of a
clay saucer sprouter). Also, the greens can be highly laxative. Probably the best way to
eat these seeds is to soak them in water in the refrigerator, then grind up in a blender
to eat them (can put in drinks, use as dressing, etc.)
Storage of seeds. Stored at room temperature, oily seeds will
eventually turn rancid. The time required to turn rancid will vary according to type of
seed and local storage conditions. (Most oily seeds will last only some months at usual
room temperatures.) The best conditions to store most oily seeds are: just above 32
degrees F, and approximately 65% relative humidity. The "meat tray" found in
many refrigerators provides such conditions. Seeds can also be frozen, then moved to the
refrigerator for later usage. Seeds that are low in oil, such as fenugreek, chia,
psyllium, can be stored at room temperature for long periods (a year or more) before
losing viability or going rancid.