Background: ‘New’ grains and seeds


In the last couple of years, more attention has been drawn to grains and seeds that can be used instead of the more well known rice and wheat. With names like Freekeh and Kamut, they all sound exotic, but they start to become more and more available in regular stores. Most of these grains and seeds are less refined and less processed and thus they are perceived to be a healthy option. Most of them contain more fibers and protein. But what are they exactly and how do you use them?

Read a quick description below.

These tiny beige seeds (technically from a broad-leaf plant, not grass) cook in 15 to 20 minutes. The result is a slightly sweet and earthy taste and a starchy texture. Amaranth is not absorbent like some other grains. Amaranth can be popped like popcorn as well and can be enjoyed in breakfasts.

Hulled (or hull-less ‘pearl’) barley has only the outer hull removed, and that means it takes 60 minutes or longer to cook. Slightly nutty tasting, it’s a classic addition to soups and stews.

Hulled wheat kernels are dried and cracked, thus a little less nutritionally dense than some of the other grains. But bulgur is the busy cook’s friend, cooking in as little as 5 minutes.

Native to Russia, buckwheat is actually not a type of wheat at all — it’s a herb. More closely related to rhubarb than to wheat, its seeds are ground into flour or crushed to make groats, which are cooked like rice. Buckwheat is the main ingredient in most soba noodles and pancakes.

This ancient strain of wheat was rationed to Roman soldiers thousands of years ago. A half-cup of farro has more fiber and fewer calories than brown rice or quinoa, and it can be used in similar preparations to those standbys.

Freekeh is a durum wheat that is harvested young, sun-dried and then smoked. The result is a rice-sized grain with an earthy, slightly smoky taste that is high in protein and fiber. It cooks in 15 minutes. Freekeh can be used to substitute rice.

Kamut is the brand name, and most commonly used name, for the ancient khorasan strain of wheat. It’s a great source of protein as well as nutrients like selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Kamut has a very long cooking time, thus it is adviced to soak Kamut overnight. With soaking, it cooks in about 45 minutes, without, it can take more than 60 minutes.

It’s a good source of protein and has been shown to help control glucose levels. Millet can be used in porridges or rice dishes. It can be toasted first to enhance the nutty flavor. The total cooking time is about 30 minutes. And yes, this is the same stuff ad in bird feed.

Tiny red or white seeds ( broad-leaf plant, not grass) unwraps a bit when cooked. Taking only 10 to 15 minutes to cook, quinoa has a grassy but very mild taste. It subs well in recipes that call for couscous.

Spelt is a type of wheat that is higher in protein than other types, and (in flour form) can easily be used as a substitute for wheat flour in recipes. The flakes can be used as well.

These teeny tiny grains pack a sizable nutritional punch: Teff is surprisingly high in calcium  and vitamin C, a nutrient not often found in grains. Plus, it’s gluten-free, making it perfect for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Teff is primarily made of high-resistant starch. Teff’s tiny size (about the size of a poppy seed) allows it to cook quickly compared to other grains, ranging from 12 to 20 minutes depending on desired texture.

Love, Emily


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