Ancient Grains.. Whole Grains!


Amaranth in the Field

 

A lot of different grains have become popular in recent years, both for health reasons and for the desire for variety in the diet.  The popular diets have driven this demand, in a good way.  Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, chia, spelt, flax, kamut, and millet to name just a few offer a huge variety of complex flavors and textures that can enhance anything from breads to soups to cereals.  They include a range of vitamins and minerals, but possibly more importantly, they are unprocessed and are prepared as a whole grain.  The inclusion of the hulls, germ, bran, etc of each grain provides essential fiber, often essential amino acids, oils, and vitamins.  The bulk alone assists with a feeling of fullness. 

That sounds great in theory, but Americans in particular have difficulty getting past textures.  Textures and mouth-feel are a huge part of the average food choices.  Wonder bread, white bread in general, potatoes, white flour tortillas, white rice, are all designed to deliver fluffy and homogenous textures compared to their whole grain relatives.  There are a few ethnic foods such as tabbouleh and falafel that have gained in popularity that is some quarters slip past, but in general, the starches are low in fiber. 

The average food historian might tell you a story of bread before the industrial revolution.  Mixed, kneaded, and baked by hand, loaf by loaf, the bread before the industrial revolution was a different breed than what one finds in the average supermarket.  More whole grain flour was used because it was intensive labor to sift it white.  More complex yeast cultures were used, and more fermentation by yeasts and bacteria occurred in each loaf, because that was the nature of the process.  It resulted in a denser, chewier, yeastier, tastier (due to the bacteria!), potentially sourdough style loaf, full of flavor and fiber.  

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