There's no doubt that nuts are crazy good for you as well as being delicious, but it's only when they're activated that they can share all of their power food goodness. The really good news is that they actually taste better when they are activated too. If you count on nuts for snacks, whether in baking or straight up; activating them first is a must.
Activating nuts at home is easy with a food dehydrator. If pantry space is on your side, you can even do large batches and be done with it. But, let's get back to why it's actually necessary, because I'm not trying to give your more work or make food preparation hard.
Activated nuts are nuts that have been left to soak in salted, warm water for a time, then left to slowly dehydrate and return to a crispy state.
Nuts, like all seeds, beans and grains have phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors otherwise known as anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients can cause digestive irritation and nutrient deficiencies. I've written about the impact of these more here.
Soaking nuts helps release the enzyme inhibitors that potentially wreak havoc in your gut. Soaking essentially tells the nut "hey I'm in water, it's time to start growing". Starting the germination process basically neutralises the antinutrients and makes the nut easier to digest. It begins to break down the tough stuff (usually in the skin) and allows more healthful nutrients into your body without the battle. In a nut shell, (sorry!) activating, takes care of a little predigestion and makes nuts a hell of a lot easier to assimilate.
It's really simple. Put your nuts in a glass or ceramic bowl or jar, with some warm water, and good quality salt. And wait. It doesn't happen instantly.
Nuts have less phytic acid than their grainy cousins and are made digestible by salted water. Salt activates enzymes within the nut that neutralise enzymes inhibitors (anti nutrients). Read how to soak grain here.
I have attached a table that Sally Fallon from 'Nourishing Traditions' created. Use it as a guide. I don't get too exacting about the time. I chuck some salt in and leave it over night.
1. Place the nuts in a glass or ceramic bowl or jar and cover with warm water.
2. Sprinkle with salt and gently stir. See the table for salt measurements.
3. Pop the lid on or cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere away from direct sun light.
4. Soak for the required length of time. Overnight is a good.
5. At the end of the soak you will notice some of the nuts have residue collected around the skin. Strain and rinse the nuts thoroughly under running water.
6. Spread the nuts in a single layer onto the dehydrator trays, allowing some space for air to flow. It is best to keep one variety of nut per tray.
7. Set the temperature to 50°C and the timers to 14 hours.
The nuts must be completely dry! It is better to dry longer than not long enough. Moisture will result in mouldy nuts and that would be such a big shame. Activated nuts are crispier than raw nuts, so you will feel the texture is light and crisp when they are done. Size of the nut also matters - larger, denser nuts may require more time. Every few hours nibble on a few to test their crispness.
8. Allow the nuts to completely cool before storing in air tight jars. Activated nuts will last several months.