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June/July 2003
Setting Up a Raw Kitchen

By Lucas Rockwood


Eating raw, vegan plant food is one of the healthiest choices you can make for both your personal health and that of the planet. Raw plant foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, food enzymes and nutrients, and demand far less resources to produce than cooked, processed, or packaged foods. That said, most people do not find the idea of eating salads for every meal appealing, so the ability to prepare gourmet, uncooked dishes at home can really help you make the transition toward a live food diet, or integrate more raw foods into your daily meals.

No matter what size or setup you have in your home kitchen, you can always begin preparing raw food dishes, but with a few kitchen tools, a little learning, and some experimentation, you can easily begin making exceptional meals that will hamper any cravings you may have for cooked foods.

Tools of the Trade
High-powered Blender: Probably top on the list, a high-powered commercial blender such as a Vitamix will make soups, smoothies, creams, and sauces in a snap. You can even grind flax seeds into flax meal! It’s really worth investing in a good blender that is built to last. Estimated cost: $300 to $400.

Food Processor: A good-quality food processor is definitely a must. Great for chopping and grating and perfect for making patés, desserts, soups. Any major brand makes a good food processor, but try to get one with the following blades: “S” blade, grating blade (for shredding carrots, beets, etc.), and a slicing blade. Estimated cost: $60 to $80.

Dehydrator: Also called a “sun oven,” dehydrators allow you to make crackers, fruit rolls, mock meat dishes, and much more while retaining all the valuable enzymes and nutrients in your foods. Most department store dehydrators are not designed with raw foodists in mind and should be avoided. You need a dehydrator such as an Excalibur which has large trays and low temperature settings. Estimated cost: $150 to $225 (depending on size).

Juicer: Juicers are a great addition to your raw food kitchen, but not all juicers are created equally. A centrifugal juicer (the common spinning basket type) adds lots of oxygen to your juice (thus detracting nutrients), is very wasteful, and cannot juice drier produce like parsley, wheatgrass, or ginger very effectively. The best type of juicer to buy is a masticating or “homogenizing” juicer, such as a GreenLife. These juicers have slow moving parts (less heat) that “chew” up fruits and vegetables, extracting the maximum amount of juice from just about anything. Another advantage is that you can run nuts and seeds through these machines to make delicious nutmeats and nut butters. Masticating juicers are much more expensive than centrifugal juicers, but well worth the investment. Estimated cost: $300 to $450.

Coffee Grinder: A small, home coffee grinder is great for fresh spices (cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn), flax seeds, or Celtic salt. It is not crucial, but does come in very handy. Estimated cost: $20.

Mandoline: This is essentially a knife mounted on a board, and it’s great for cutting very thin slices of root veggies (carrots, beets, yams, etc.) that can be used in dishes or dehydrated to make live chips. It’s also great for making zucchini linguini! Estimated cost: $20 (low-end model) to $150 (professional chef’s model).

Knives: A bad knife will turn you off raw food preparation faster than anything, so make sure to purchase yourself a nice cutting tool. Investing in a good knife doesn’t have to break the bank though, as there are plenty $10 knives available that are durable and hold a nice, sharp edge. Go to a kitchen supply store, look online, or ask a chef for a recommendation. A large cleaver is also handy to have for opening young coconuts. Estimate cost: $10 to $30 per knife.

In the Cupboard
Spices: Spices are plants, and fresh, organic spices are loaded with flavor and nutrients. Unfortunately, most of the spices you currently have in your cupboard have either been flash-heated, irradiated, or both, and are probably very old.

Start anew by throwing out all those old spices and restocking your cupboard with fresh, organic, low-temperature dried spices such as those made by Frontier or Harmony. A good health food store will sell these spices in bulk. This is a much fresher and more cost-effective way to fill the spice rack. As a general rule, try to use or replace the contents of your spice cupboard every six months.

Here is a small but comprehensive list of spices to get you started:
• black pepper
• paprika
• cayenne
• poultry seasoning
• cumin
• pumpkin pie spice
• curry
• sage
• dill
• thyme
• marjoram
• tumeric

Produce: Try to buy fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that are ripe, raw, and organic, and you’ll do just fine. If nuts and seeds are not labeled raw, most often they are roasted. If in doubt, ask, and also make sure to taste all nuts and seeds before you buy them to ensure they are fresh; sometimes they sit on store shelves for months.

Oils: The best oils for your health are cold-pressed, extra-virgin oils, such as olive or coconut oil—both of which are very stable (meaning they won’t go rancid easily). Cold-pressed flaxseed and hempseed oils are also great, but make sure to keep them refrigerated at all times. And all your oils should be packaged and stored in dark or opaque containers because light can easily damage the integrity of the oil.

Vinegar: Most vinegars have been pasteurized and are very acid forming in the body. Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is the only vinegar that you should use. It is a rich source of nutrients, and contains malic acid and beneficial bacteria that promote healthy digestion.

Salt: Raw food is best prepared with sun-dried, Celtic sea salt, which is salt water slow-dried into crystal from. Celtic salt tastes better than the bleached, iodized table salt you are used to, and it contains over 80 trace minerals that are essential for optimal health. It is light gray in color and slightly moist to the touch.

Getting Started
So now you have a whole set of new kitchen toys, a refrigerator full of delicious-looking produce, and a cupboard full of aromatic spices and oils… Now it’s time to start un-cooking! Buying a raw food recipe book like Rhio’s Hooked on Raw or Nomi Shannon’s Raw Gourmet can be helpful, but there are also plenty of recipes online to get you started in the meantime. Visit for dozens of free recipes. Make sure to experiment too. When you are using ripe, organic plant foods, it is hard to go wrong! Best of luck and happy, healthy eating!

Lucas Rockwood is the Raw Chef at Caravan of Dreams restaurant in New York City (405 E. 6th Street). He teaches classes and coaches people on raw food nutrition and food preparation techniques both in New York and in Los Angeles. He can be reached at (646) 594-5483, or email


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