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Happy 2014! With the new year comes a slew of trends in food: heirloom produce, new cuts of meat, specialty cheeses and chocolate, ways to prepare food, you name it. Guess what we’re interested in? You’ve got it: whole grain trends.
As we’ve seen in the past year, quinoa has taken oﬀ like a rocket and freekeh is hot on its tail. Like quinoa and freekeh, 2014 looks to be the year of even more ancient grains. What exactly is an ancient grain, you ask? (And no, it’s not really old grains you have in the back of your cupboard!)
Traditionally hailing from South and Central America, Asia, and Africa, an “ancient grain” refers to grains or seeds that are just that: ancient. These seeds haven’t been modiﬁed over time by plant science. Most “modern grains” have been extensively cross-bred to make them easier to grow and ultimately process, while ancient grains remain closer to their original form. Because of this, ancient grains retain a distinctive and rich nutty ﬂavor sure to round out any meal, and are full of beneﬁcial ﬁber, protein and other nutrients.
Here are just a few ancient grains to keep a lookout for in 2014:
Amaranth: Amaranth is the common name for more than 60 diﬀerent species of amaranthus, which are usually very tall plants with broad green leaves and impressively bright purple, red, or gold ﬂowers. Amaranth (along with buckwheat and quinoa) is what’s known as a “pseudo-cereal” – a plant not in the same botanical family as most grains, but still welcomed as adopted siblings. Amaranth contains on average more than three times more calcium than other grains is also high in, magnesium and phosphorus, and is a good source of iron. It’s also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. In addition to being rich in vitamins, amaranth is a protein powerhouse and has potential to lower cholesterol, not to mention a distinct sweet ﬂavor that makes it ideal in baked goods and breakfast cereals.
Buckwheat: Common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a pseudo-cereal crop that produces short, wide-spreading plants bearing bright green, heart-shaped leaves and small white ﬂowers. Buckwheat has been providing essential nutrients, vitamins, energy, and ﬁber to humanity for approximately 8,000 years. Cuisines all over the world incorporate buckwheat, from soba noodles in Japan and galettes (crepes) in France to kasha and blinis in Russia . Bottom line? Having buckwheat in your diet can help you stay ﬁt, nimble, and healthy.
Sorghum: Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain that was domesticated in Ethiopia and Sudan and from there moved throughout all of Africa, where it remains an important cereal grain. Evidence of sorghum from 8000 years ago has been found in Southern Egypt, in a place called Nabta Playa. Sorghum, which doesn’t have an inedible hull like some other grains, is commonly eaten with all its outer layers, thereby retaining all its nutrients. Like all four grains listed here, it’s also gluten-free, making sorghum a great choice for people following a gluten-free diet.
Teﬀ: It is estimated that teﬀ is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians, who make it into the ubiquitous spongy injera ﬂatbread. It’s also widely consumed in neighboring Eritrea and other countries in the Horn of Africa. Teﬀ grains are minute – just 1/150 the size of wheat kernels – giving rise to the grain’s name, which comes from teﬀa, meaning “lost” in Amharic. Today it is getting more attention for its sweet, molasses-like ﬂavor and its versatility; it can be cooked as porridge, added to baked goods, or even made into “teﬀ polenta.”
While we love all whole grains around here, we’re really looking forward to seeing what new whole grain trends and recipes 2014 has to oﬀer! (Mallory!)