Oatmeal is known as a breakfast cereal, but the grain itself can be used in many different ways. Because of the slightly sweet and nutty flavor of the grain, oats make a great base for both sweet and savory dishes.
Whole oat groats with the hull removed do not need to soak as long as other grains. To sprout your oat groats, pour 2/3 cup of the grain into a large container and completely cover them with cool water. If you are using hulled oat groats, those without hulls, only let them soak for 2–3 hours; if you are using oat groats that still have the hulls intact, soak the grains for 6–8 hours to let the water soften the hulls.
After soaking the grains, rinse and drain them until the water runs clear as it runs off the grains. Let the grains sit at room temperature, and repeat the rinsing and draining two to three times a day until the grains are where you want them.
After a day or two, you should be able to see small sprouts emerging from the grains. You can continue to let them grow if you’d like the “tail” a bit longer, or you can stop once you first see the sprouts. Once they’re where you want them, rinse and drain the sprouts one last time, making sure they are relatively dry before storing.
To fully dry the grains, spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and leave on your counter or table for a few hours. Sprouted oat groats will keep for one to two weeks in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container or plastic bag.
Steel-cut oats will not actually sprout in the way that other grains do; the “tail” will not emerge from the grain, but all grains, including steel-cut oats, still benefit from a soaking period before using.
Grains, beans, and legumes all contain phytic acid, which is meant to keep important vitamins and minerals contained in the grain to sprout a plant, rather than allowing your body to absorb those things. Soaking the grains in water helps to break down the active phytic acid, neutralizing the phytates so that the grains are more digestible and the vitamins and minerals are more easily absorbed into your body.