Celebrate Grains

It’s officially National Whole Grains Month, and what better way to celebrate than with new recipes featuring a few ancient grains.

| September 9, 2011

  • Celebrate National Whole Grains Month.
    Celebrate National Whole Grains Month.
  • Amaranth grain.
    Amaranth grain.
  • Try a new recipe using Kamut grain.
    Try a new recipe using Kamut grain.
  • Millet grain.
    Millet grain.
    iStockphoto.com/Stepan Popov

  • Celebrate National Whole Grains Month.
  • Amaranth grain.
  • Try a new recipe using Kamut grain.
  • Millet grain.

According to the Whole Grains Council, it’s officially National Whole Grains Month, and in honor of the occasion we at Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods want to share some new ways to marvel at ancient grains. Thousands of years ago, populations on every continent cultivated staple whole grains, and today, while a number of those grains persist, many food lovers may not know about the delicious and nutritious splendor of these edible antiquities. As you know, there are countless health benefits from whole grains, and it is recommended that Americans incorporate 3 to 5 servings of whole grains in the daily diet. 

Have fun learning about a few more ancient grains that we personally enjoy, as well ways to cook with them.

1. Kamut – Kamut berries are an ancient relative of modern durum wheat and originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. The grain’s inherent sweetness and buttery taste make Kamut a flavorful alternative for wheat. Try using it in a vegetarian main course, such as Kamut Grain and Shiitake Risotto with Thyme.

2. Amaranth – Dates back hundreds of years to the Aztecs in Mexico. Like quinoa, it contains all of the essential amino acids, especially Lysine, which is lacking in many common grains. Amaranth offers an unusually high quality protein and is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. Try using it place of corn grits in your polenta, with this Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms recipe.

3. Millet – Originated in China nearly 5,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated grains. Whole grain millet is a good source of protein, essential amino acids, and fiber, with a distinctive, sweet flavor. Quick-cooking, easily digested and naturally gluten free, this ancient grain is an excellent choice for special diets. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal, or add it to breads and crackers for a hint of sweetness and crunch. It also makes a great vegetarian dish, Millet “Meat” Balls, for the whole family.

4. Teff – An ancient North African cereal grass and the smallest grain in the world. The germ and bran, where the nutrients are concentrated, account for a much larger volume of the seed compared to more familiar grains, making it a nutritional powerhouse. One serving of whole grain teff averages 4 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein and nearly one quarter of our suggested daily calcium intake. At your next dinner party this fall, wow your guests with an Apple and Pear Crisp, made with teff. 

9/9/2011 2:41:48 PM

A few points about the grains. Kamut, or khorasan wheat, may not have been found in a tomb, but it was from Egypt. It’s related to durum, which is used to make pasta, though sad to say usually in the degerminated form semolina. It may also have a Polish relative. People speak carelessly about grains lacking amino acids, when it’s the proportions that are out of balance. It’s easy to remedy that by eating something that excels in the amino that’s low, preferably the same day. The one food item I’m aware of that lacks an amino acid (tryptophan) is gelatin—it’s used to give rats trypto deficiency to study the bad effects on object memory. Amaranth comes in 60-70 species, maybe fewer once the genomes are worked out, and they interbreed like mad. The grain was a victim of discrimination by Spanish priests who frowned on locals eating amaranth cakes shaped like their gods, a form of communion that’s led to silly cannibal tales ever since. Since the plant is a C4 type like sorghum and corn, takes both drought and heat, it’s a fine crop as the planet warms (with all the greenwashing talk, CO2 in the air is rising #faster# than ever). And there are many millets beside hog millet and pearl millet, such as finger millet or ragi of India, which is closer to tef of Ethiopia (also once imagined to be Egyptian). I think tef is being tried in Kansas.

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