millet with zucchini and chickpeas

Earlier this year, the World Wildlife Foundation and Knorr unveiled their Future 50 Foods report, a list of 50 crops they recommend eating more of, to improve both human and planetary health. Not surprisingly, whole grains made up a substantial portion of the list, along with other environmental and nutritional superstars like seaweed and lentils. According to the report, “Swapping staples like maize and white rice for fonio or spelt increases the nutrient content of a dish while contributing to greater agrobiodiversity, making our food supply more resilient. It also helps safeguard these ancient variants for future generations.”  

With Whole Grain Sampling Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to sample a new-to-you whole grain, and incorporate more of these choices into your weekly routine. To get you started, here is a sneak peek at each of the whole grains featured in the report, as well as some recipe ideas on how to use them.

Amaranth: Technically a pseudo-grain, amaranth is a staple of the Aztecs, with a long history in Mexican & Peruvian cuisine. It’s typically enjoyed as breakfast porridge throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia, but in Mexico, it’s also served popped with honey as a sweet snack called allegria. Try making Aztec Amaranth Cocoa Porridge, or Chai Spiced Amaranth Porridge with Caramelized Bananas.

Buckwheat: Another pseudo-grain (not even related to wheat), buckwheat has a strong history in Asian and Eastern European cuisine. It is the grain of choice in traditional dishes around the globe, including French crepes, Russian blini, Japanese soba noodles, and Jewish kasha. Buckwheat is also a popular cover crop, restoring the soil between seasons of farming. Try making an Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, and Buckwheat Crumble, or Buttermilk Buckwheat Pancakes.

Finger millet:  Millet is one of the staple grains of India, and was also used in ancient Chinese noodles. According to WGC Scientific Advisor Rob Myers, “When millet is listed as an ingredient on the label of a food product in the US, such as multigrain bread, the type of millet is almost always proso.” Finger millet, on the other hand, is easier to track down in countries like India, where millets are more common. Try making Millet-Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes,” or Millet with Zucchini and Chickpeas.

Fonio: Fonio is one of Africa’s oldest cultivated cereal crops. As a grain that is both highly resistant to drought conditions, and extremely fast-growing, it’s very well-suited for climate change resiliency. According to chef Pierre Thiam (who grew up in Senegal), “fonio never embarrasses the cook!” With a rich, earthy and nutty flavor, and a texture much like couscous, fonio is prized for its distinctive taste. Try making Fonio Pilaf with Dates, Carrots, and Peanuts, or Fonio Porridge with Peanut Butter and Caramelized Bananas.

Khorasan wheat: Khorasan wheat, like emmer/farro, einkorn, and spelt, is an ancient variety of wheat, meaning that it has been largely unchanged by breeding over the last several hundred years. Today, this strain of wheat is preserved under the trademarked brand name, KAMUT®, which protects it from being hybridized or modified, and its sweet, nutty, buttery flavor attracts interest from pasta makers, bakers, and consumers alike. Try making KAMUT® Minestrone Soup, or Whole Wheat Cranberry Walnut Scones.

Quinoa: Quinoa was sacred to the Incas, and has been central to Bolivian and Peruvian diets for centuries. It’s primarily grown high up in the Andes mountains, but some US producers are starting to grow their own also. Also a pseudo-grain, quinoa is one of the few plant foods that serves up a complete protein, offering all essential amino acids in a healthy balance. Try making a Winter Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Oranges, or Pumpkin Quinoa Chili.

Spelt: Spelt is a variety of wheat widely cultivated until the spread of fertilizers and mechanical harvesting left it by the wayside in favor of wheats more compatible with industrialization. Spelt can be used in place of common wheat in most recipes. Try making a Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Spelt, or Whole Wheat Cheddar Scones with Zucchini and Herbs.

Teff: Teff is a tiny (less than 1mm) grain native to the Horn of Africa, where nomads could carry enough teff seed in their pocket to sow an entire field. In fact, its name may come from the Amharic word for “lost” because the seed is so tiny. Teff is most well known as the main ingredient in injera, the spongy flatbread that Ethiopians use in place of utensils. Try making Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Teff Cookies, or Coconut Curry Teff and Lentil Vegetable Stew. (Kelly)

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