Amaranth seeds are tan or light brown in color and are about the size of poppy seeds. Not a true cereal grain, Amaranth is sometimes called a ‘pseudo-grain’ and has been referred to as a herb or even a vegetable. There are 60 species of Amaranth on the planet. With it’s own genus classification, Amaranthus, Amaranth is a relative of the common pigweed. Some of these species of Amaranth are grown for their spinach-like leaves which are eaten as a salad while other species are grown only for ornamental or decorative purposes. And lastly, still other species produce the tiny seeds that are so nutritious. Sold mostly in health food stores, Amaranth is an extremely nutritious grain that is just becoming known in North America.
Amaranth has a long and interesting history in Mexico where it’s been grown and harvested for thousands of years by the Mayan and Incan civilizations. The Aztecs believed Amaranth had magical properties that would give them amazing strength. Because of this, it became one of the main foods of the Aztec royalty. Amaranth also held an intricate role in some of their ancient rituals. In one ritual, the seeds were crushed open, then honey and human blood were added followed by forming this reddish paste into the shapes of birds and snakes then baking it. With the coming of the Spanish into the Americas, this abominable practice was abolished. Every crop of Amaranth that could be found was burned. Punishment for possession of the grain became so harsh that even having one seed was punished by chopping off the hands. Amaranth quickly became a ‘lost’ seed for many generations. Presently, Amaranth is grown in Mexico, Peru and Nepal as well as in the United States.
Amaranth’s great nutritional qualities are the driving force powering it’s comeback. It’s high in protein, particularly in the amino acid, Lysine, which is low in the cereal grains. In fact, Amaranth has the highest lysine content of all the grains in this study with Quinoa coming in a close second. To make your whole wheat bread a complete protein, substitute about 25% of your wheat flour with Amaranth flour. Amaranth, by itself, has a really nice amino acid blend. Just 150 grams of the grain is all that’s required to supply an adult with 100% of the daily requirement of protein. Amaranth is one of the highest grains in fiber content. This makes Amaranth an effective agent against cancer and heart disease. Amaranth is also the only grain in this study that contains significant amounts of phytosterols which scientists are just now learning play a major part in the prevention of all kinds of diseases. Amaranth is also rich in many vitamins and minerals. The following table lists only the nutrients in Amaranth that are higher than those found in wheat. As nutritious as wheat is, you can see that Amaranth puts it to shame…
Amaranth must be cooked before it is eaten because it contains components in it’s raw form that block the absorption of some nutrients in our digestive system. You should cook Amaranth whether you plan on giving it to your family or your pets.
For those of you who are allergic to wheat, Amaranth can be your grain of choice. However, Amaranth contains no gluten and because of this, it’s not good for making yeast breads by itself. Mixed with 75% wheat flour and 25% Amaranth flour, the resulting dough should give you a nice rising loaf of bread. However, for breads that don’t require gluten to raise such as biscuits, muffins, pancakes, pastas or flat breads, you can go as high as 100% Amaranth flour.
Amaranth can be boiled for 20 minutes in it’s whole seed form for a morning breakfast cereal. It can also be ground raw or for added flavor, it can be toasted before grinding. Try popping it like you would pop popcorn. Popped Amaranth’s uses are many as they add texture and crunchiness to breads, salads, soups and granola. Whole seed, cooked Amaranth also goes well in soups, granolas and as already mentioned, mixes well with wheat flour to make a myriad of different baked goods. Amaranth flour also makes a nice thickener for gravies, soups and stews. Sprouted Amaranth goes well in salads or prepared cereals.
As Amaranth contains fairly high levels of poly-unsaturated fats, it’s a good idea to store them in your refrigerator after opening the container. For long term storage, package them with oxygen absorbers in an air-tight container which should extend their storage life for several years if stored in a cool place. Having a hard outer shell, Amaranth should store better than Quinoa or buckwheat which have similar nutritional qualities but have a softer, more permeable shell.
We think you will enjoy experimenting with this ancient grain and will be excited with it’s wholesome flavor and the excellent nutrition it will provide for your family.
Much like rye, barley can grow in harsh conditions and poor soils where other grains wouldn’t produce well. Being an ancient grain, barley was one of the first grains domesticated, even before wheat was cultivated. Not used as much as it once was as a food, barley is still a very important crop in today’s market place. Today, barley is primarily used as animal feed and for making malt in the making of beer. However, on a smaller scale, barley can be processed for human consumption in the form of pot or hulled barley, pearled barley and barley flakes.
Barley’s nutrition is much like wheat’s. There are a few minor differences, however. Barley contains twice as many fatty acids as wheat which accounts for its 10% higher calorie count. And as great as wheat’s fiber content is, barley contains about 40% more, or over 17%. Barley contains vitamin E; wheat contains none. And barley contains 68% more thiamin, 250% more riboflavin and 38% more lysine than wheat, giving barley a more balanced protein.
Whole barley must be prepared for human consumption because of it’s hard, fibrous hull that is not easily removed. Only buy barley in it’s whole form if you want to sprout it and eat it as barley grass. Processors use an abrasive machine to remove the hull making it safe to eat. At this stage it’s called hulled or pot barley. In this processed form, the germ has been damaged to the point that it will no longer sprout. Pearled barley, which is hulled barley with the ends of the kernel removed so it’s round in shape is another popular way you can get barley. Pearled barley has it’s germ and much of the bran around the endosperm removed. This is where many of the vitamins and minerals are found and because of this, it’s nutritional qualities are down about 25%-33% from what you generally find in hulled barley. But pearled barley cooks up much quicker which is it’s big advantage. Both pearled barley and hulled barley are primarily used in soups and stews where they fluff up to almost the size of a pea. Some people also cook a pot of hulled or pearled barley and eat it as a breakfast cereal. It’s also sometimes an ingredient in vegetable stuffing or used in pilafs.
You can make barley flour at home by putting hulled or pearled barley though your grain grinder. Barley flour has a weaker gluten than wheat flour so when making yeast breads, you will not want to add more than 50% barley flour to your wheat flour. In some parts of the world such as Scotland and Ireland, barley flour plays a predominant part in their baking. Barley flour adds a nutty and appealing flavor to your baked goods. When making pancakes, biscuits and rolls, you can use 100% barley flour and still get good results.
Barley ‘flakes’ are made by rolling hulled barley. It looks almost identical to rolled oats and can be used like rolled oats in making cooked breakfast cereal. Barley flakes are also a perfect ingredient for granola. A few barley flakes mixed with bread dough gives your breads a unique texture and makes them even more healthy with a robust appearance and an enhanced flavor.
For the qualities barley possesses it is far under-used in North America today. Inexpensive in price, barley in it’s many forms can be used to add wholesome, nutritional goodness to the vast majority of foods you cook every day.
It is believed that buckwheat was first domesticated in China. As it spread across Asia and Europe during the centuries, it took a particularly strong hold in Russia where kasha is popular. A relatively new grain, it hasn’t been in cultivation for much more than a thousand years. Saying it’s a grain is a misstatement as it’s not really a grain at all. It’s actually, technically, a fruit. It’s a hardy plant that thrives in poor soil conditions and continues to live through freezing temperatures, droughts and excess rain.
The unprocessed, three-sided buckwheat seed has a thick, hard outer hull that must be mechanically removed before it’s ready to eat which is the way it’s sold. After the seed has been de-hulled, the inner seed or groat has a light brown or light green coloring and is so soft that it can be easily chewed. Having a distinctive, pleasant, rich flavor all it’s own, 100% buckwheat flour makes delicious pancakes. Mixed with wheat flour, buckwheat makes great tasting biscuits, muffins and breads and can be mixed up to 50% with wheat flour for making yeast breads. In Eastern Europe, the groats are toasted and are known as kasha. Commercial food processors mix buckwheat flour with other flours to make pancake mixes, breakfast cereals, breads and turkey stuffing. In Europe, buckwheat groats are used whole in hot cereals and soups. They can also be boiled until they become soft and fluffy and then eaten like rice. The Orient is the largest user of North American grown buckwheat where it’s used to make sorba noodles.
Whole grain buckwheat is an amazingly nutritious food. Even though it’s protein is relatively low at approximately 11%, the protein buckwheat does have contains the eight essential amino acids and is one of the few “grains” (remember that buckwheat isn’t a grain at all) high in lysine. If you use half buckwheat flour with your wheat flour, the buckwheat’s amino acids will round out the limiting amino acids in your wheat nicely, giving you a nearly perfect balance of the 8 essential amino acids. This particular balance between half wheat and half buckwheat flour is much more closely aligned to your dietary needs even than lean beef!!! It’s also rich in many of the B vitamins as well as the minerals; phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. In addition to this, it’s a good oil source of Linoleic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids we must have to be healthy. Nutritionally speaking, buckwheat is a truly impressive food.
Buckwheat contains rather volatile essential fats inside the seed that aren’t protected very well after the air-tight hull has been removed. It isn’t a good storing grain unless precautions are taken to remove the oxygen. Like brown rice, oxygen makes the essential oils in the seed go rancid, giving it a bad taste and making it unfit to eat. So, when storing buckwheat for long term storage, be sure you place it in airtight containers and use oxygen absorber technology which should give it a long storage life.
The buckwheat plant is also very useful as honey bees love it’s flowers for making dark, rich flavored honey. And farmers also use it as a green fertilizer. Just a couple of years ago, buckwheat hull pillows were the rage. You can still find buckwheat hull pillows advertised in different catalogs. These pillows are famous for providing a soft yet cool pillow that permits the skin next to the pillow to breath.
Buckwheat is certainly a versatile plant and is definitely a seed worth storing to round out the nutrition in your food supply – especially if you’d prefer not to eat beans to get that lysine to augment your wheat.
Yellow Dent Corn
Talk with most any corn farmer and he will most likely argue, should the subject come up, that corn is the most important grain in production today. There is twice as much field corn grown in the US than any other single grain. Aside from eating the kernel itself, corn starch was the first discovered alternate use for field corn. Soon after this, developers learned how to turn corn starch into fructose sugar, the most popular beverage sweetener in North America today which is twice as sweet as regular table sugars. From this humble beginning, literally thousands of other uses for corn have been discovered. This list includes ethanol alcohol, cosmetic and skin care products, drugs, batteries, rubber, beverages, crayons, soaps, absorbent materials for diapers, food additives, biodegradable plastics, food supplements and the list goes on and on. Many believe that corn, more than any other grain during this new century, will be instrumental in feeding the world’s ever growing population.
Another name for Yellow Dent Corn is ‘field corn.’ Field corn is quite a different product than what most North Americans have become accustomed to; sweet corn. Sweet corn, the corn we eat as a vegetable, has a very thin skin. Sweet corn is loaded with sugars which is harvested before the kernels mature. The field corn called yellow dent, has a very thick outer skin that doesn’t soften up to the point you can eat it even if you cook it for hours. There’s really only two ways to eat it – grind it dry into a meal, or by using a lye, remove the skin and eat it as hominy.
Many years ago Indians soaked their corn for hours in water that had been seeped through wood ashes containing potassium hydroxide. The kernels puffed up which broke the outer shell open. The resulting food had a unique flavor, tasting nothing like corn. Native American cultures have been soaking field corn in wood ash water for centuries to remove the outer husk making the whole kernel – minus the husk – edible without grinding it. This whole hominy was then used in soups and stews, or dried and ground into masa and was then used to make tortillas, tamales or pikki bread. It was also coarsely ground to make hominy grits.
It’s fascinating how, knowing nothing about nutrition, natural means have been developed among peoples to get their nutrition from foods. This process of using some type of caustic agent to remove the outer husk of the corn kernel is yet another example. Corn contains enough niacin to prevent it’s deficiency disease, pellagra from forming. But it’s in an unusable form! However, the lye treatment the natives have been using for centuries to remove the outer skin frees up this niacin so the body can absorb it. It’s too bad that Old World descendant Americans living in the Deep South during the 1920s and 1930s didn’t learn this simple lesson as so many of them suffered from pellagra during that period of time. Several caustic solutions can be used to remove the husks, turning yellow dent corn into whole hominy. Commercial enterprises presently use common lye, or sodium hydroxide. Quicklime, which is calcium oxide, or slaked lime, otherwise known as calcium hydroxide or pickling lime also works well for this process and adds the nutrient, calcium to the end product.
Yellow dent corn gets it’s name from the inward ‘dent’ on each side of the kernel and is the primary corn used by the large food manufacturers in making a myriad of products including corn chips, tortillas and taco shells. Yellow dent corn has a relatively soft, inner starchy layer which grinds nicely into a powder. The other variety of field corn, called flint corn, of which popcorn is a close relative, has a very hard starchy interior. Popcorn and flint corn can also be ground into a flour but their hard starch tends to shatter rather than mush into a powder. Because of this, the flint type corns make more of a gritty flour.
The cornmeal you buy in the store is also most likely made from yellow dent corn. However, nutritionally speaking, there’s a big difference between the corn meal you can buy in the store and freshly ground corn meal you grind yourself at home. There’s a couple of reasons for this. In store-bought corn flour or meal, the outer skin (a great source of fiber) and the germ which is loaded with nutrients has been removed. The grain millers particularly like to remove the germ as it contains the oils that quickly go rancid – something they don’t want to happen before you get their cornmeal home and used. Unfortunately, it also contains many of the vitamins and minerals that make corn so healthy. And just like white wheat flour, because they have taken so many nutrients out during the milling process, they’ll chuck some cheap, un-chelated minerals back in to make it look like the customer is buying a healthy product.
Corn has sometimes gotten a bad rap as not being a very nutritious food. Like the majority of the other cereal grains, corn is low in lysine. And it’s marginally low in Isoleucine and the amino acid combination Methionine and Cystine as well. However, if you add just 50 grams of soybeans to 100 grams of yellow dent corn (dry weight) it more than rounds out an adult male’s one day requirement for the essential amino acids. For the weight conscious among us, this works out to only 565 calories. Not bad! Corn also contains goodly quantities of many B vitamins and the minerals Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and the essential Linoleic Acid. Corn’s 72% starch content makes it a high energy food. Corn contains adequate amounts of vitamin A, the highest of any cereal grain. It goes almost without mention that corn and legumes (two complementary foods that combine to make a complete protein) have been staple foods for the peoples in Central and South America for centuries and continues to be so to this day.
Corn has been grown by the original peoples on North and South America for 7,000 years. Christopher Columbus brought corn home to Spain. The Pilgrims were preserved by corn the Indians gave them and corn from that time has traveled with us into modern history.
We feel freshly ground corn meal, ground yourself just before baking, produces great results both in flavor and nutrition. Until you’ve tried freshly ground corn, it will be hard for you to believe there can be such a big difference in flavor. A lot of that extra flavor comes from the parts of the kernel that’s not removed when you mill it. Added to this, the air has little chance to oxidize the nutrients in it’s whole corn form. When you grind it the same day you bake or cook with it, there’s no time for this natural aging process to make your cornmeal stale, unlike what happens as it sits in the grocery store. Whole corn can be coarsely ground to make grits or finely ground to make cornbread, tortillas or chips.
We feel as you learn how to use corn, you’ll come to appreciate this versatile grain for the unique food it is – a staple grain, that with squash and beans has kept the early native Americans alive for centuries.
Flax is truly an amazing grain which is proving itself over and over again as a nutritional wonder-grain. The scientific community is becoming more and more excited as it continues to learn about the healthful and healing effects of flax. Almost half the weight of this small, dark brown tear-shaped seed contains oil. And to a large extent, it’s this oil that’s making the big splash among the nutritional experts of today. But it’s not just the oil that’s making waves, as flax seed also contains several other remarkable nutritional elements that has everyone talking.
Flax was already under wide cultivation in the Babylon Empire in 3,000 BC and it’s early beginnings are thought to precede this date by a couple of millennia. Through the history of man, flax has also been very important for the strong fibers in it’s straw which have been extracted from the stems and woven into linen. Over the centuries, flax has been developed into different strains until today there are two main varieties grown, one for flax seed oil and the other for the fibers in the stem for cloth making.
Over half the oil found in flax seed consists of the highly sensitive fatty acid, Alpha Linolenic Acid (LNA). LNA will harden from the oxygen in the air if not protected from oxidation. This characteristic in flax seed oil has been exploited in industrial applications for hundreds of years. Paint flax seed oil on wood, for example, and over the span of a couple of days the oxidizing oils will harden, forming a protective barrier for the wood. This demonstrates flax oil’s great qualities as an oil based coating for both wood and concrete which is still in wide use today in the paint industry. It is also a main ingredient in linoleum and is presently used in making particle board.
It’s not hard to find farmers that feed flax seed meal to their livestock as it aids their digestion and gives them a nice, shiny coat. And high levels of flax seed meal are now being fed to chickens producing eggs that demand a premium price which are rich in this omega-3 oil.
Flax was first brought to North America in 1617. By 1875 flax was being cultivated over much of the inhabited country. Flax was grown in North America mainly for it’s oil used in industrial applications. During the two world wars, flax’s production had a marked increase as the need for this oil grew.
Over the centuries, flax oil has been used to coat farm tools to prevent rusting. It’s whole seed has been boiled and used as a poultice for boils and other skin infections. The mucilage obtained from boiling whole flax seed has been used as a hair gel. And through the ages, ground flax seed has been eaten for it’s healthful properties. Flax production has soared as the demand has tripled in just the last decade for flax as a nutritional supplement. The study of how flax relates to heart disease and cancer is in it’s infancy but what has been learned to date shows solid evidence of it’s healthful properties. As the nutritional benefits of flax continue to come to light, it’s use will only increase.
Flax seed has some truly amazing nutritional characteristics. It is most noted for it’s high levels of LNA, lignans and fiber which will be explored in much greater detail later. For a grain, flax seed also has a very high level of protein at 21%. The amino acid list for flax seed lines up fairly closely with wheat’s essential amino acids. However, flax contains high amounts of fiber, vitamin E, folacin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and is extremely high in the minerals potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Containing many other nutrients as well, flax seed is an incredibly important nutritional source and contains all the nutrients necessary to correctly digest the oils located within the seed.
Because of the lubricative properties of the oil, flax seed is believed to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Current research tends to support the theory that flax seed is beneficial in lowering cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease, preventing cancer, correcting auto-immune disorders and the relief of constipation.
Fifty-seven percent of flax seed oil is Alfa-linolenic acid (LNA) which is the highest LNA food known in the world. LNA is one of the two essential fatty acids we must get from eating foods. Our bodies can’t make this precursor nutrient our systems need to make other vital fatty acids which perform life’s functions. It’s estimated that less than 1% of all fatty acids eaten by the average North American contain LNA with a whopping 95% of the population not getting enough of this vital fatty acid to be really healthy. This was not always the case. Technological developments in the last 125 years have largely changed our diets. Before the Industrial Revolution, when Americans hunted and gathered their food, there was as much as ten times more LNA in the diet as there is now. In addition, the intake of saturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids which were unknown in those days, has dramatically increased. These two dramatic changes in our diets are now causing real problems with our present day health. This causes all sorts of problems we don’t need to have: growth retardation, weakness, impairment of vision and learning ability, motor un-coordination, behavioral changes, high triglycerides (fat) in the blood, high blood pressure, tissue inflammation, skin disorders, mental deterioration, hypertension, low metabolic rate and some kinds of immune dysfunction. Early research also points to LNA as an effective stroke reducing agent. Research is also learning that LNA appears to protect the heart against arrhythmia, a decease of the electrical stability of the heart. LNA inhibits Atherosclerosis, a inflammatory condition. But it is also thought that LNA works with flax’s other nutrients to help bring about this effect in reducing inflammation.
So, how much LNA does a person need? The US has no RDA for it; but the latest information suggests one to two percent of your total calories should consist of LNA. This equates to 2.7-5.5 grams of LNA per day for an adult. One teaspoon of LNA weighs about 4.75 grams. As flax seed contains about 20% LNA by weight, that would equate to 1 to 2 tablespoons of flax seed per day. To further clarify the picture on LNA and how it is affected by the other essential fatty acid, Linoleic acid (LA), see our Essential Fatty Acids pages. LA, which we already get too much of in our diets in North America, if eaten in too large amounts creates an LNA/LA imbalance and can inhibit absorption of LNA. The opposite is also true.
LNA during pregnancy and early growth is vital for correct nerve and visual development of the fetus and infant. LNA is also important in lowering blood triglyceride levels and because of this, it is believed to lower the risk of heart disease. It also reduces the chances of blood clots forming in the vessels. LNA is now under study to gain concrete evidence LNA reduces the risk of cancer.
Flax seed’s other primary ingredient we are emphasizing in this report is a group of phytoestrogenic compounds known as lignans. Flax seed contains 100 times more lignans than the next closest food. Lignans get broken down by intestinal bacteria into enterodiol and enterolactone, two mammalian lignans. Lignans contain powerful anti-cancer fighting agents and are especially effective against breast, colon, uterus and prostate cancers by controlling the sex hormones in our systems. As one example, lignans seem to flush excess estrogen from the body. Research has just begun on this fascinating subject. Lignans also seem to have anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-viral properties. Flax seed oil contains practically no lignans – you must eat the flax seed, first ground into a meal. Flax oil also is missing many of the nutrients needed to digest it. But these nutrients are located in the seed. Both from a health and economic standpoint, we suggest eating whole flax seed you grind yourself rather than the high priced flax seed oil.
Flax seed has been proven to markedly reduce cholesterol levels as effectively as oat bran and fruit pectin. This is probably due to it’s unusually high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber. Flax’s high quality fiber teamed with LNA and the rich lignans work together to build healthy blood lipid patterns.
Of flax’s 28% fiber content, 2/3rds of it is mucilage, a soluble fiber. As an experiment, boil 1 tablespoon of whole flax seed in a cup of water. In about 5 minutes, a thick, clear liquid will appear. This soluble fiber acts as a wonderful lubricant in moving food through your intestinal system. It also carries with it cholesterol that has been expelled into the large intestine, preventing it’s re-absorption. The mucilage alone is a great boon to health. Flax’s other fiber – it’s insoluble fiber – also keeps things flowing though your intestinal tract.
It’s been shown that the fiber in 50 grams of flax seed eaten in muffins increased the number of bowel movements helping prevent constipation. The two types of fiber in flax seed maintain the fecal bulk and keep it moving through the colon.
The LNA and lignans in flax seed both support and strengthen the body’s immune system. Through processes beyond the scope of this report, flax seed bolsters the immune system in several different ways strengthening it to fight off disease.
Flax seed is an important grain that will improve just about everyone’s health. Even healthy people can improve their health by eating ground flax seed. When the author started eating flax seed, he was in the US Army and considered himself to be as healthy as anyone. After eating 3 tablespoons of flax seed each day for about a month, he noticed some remarkable things begin to happen. Instead of coming back almost dead from a five mile run, he noticed his vitality increase to the point that on finishing a long run like this, he felt as fresh as he did before the run. He also noticed a big difference in his vision. Colors became much bolder as if they were ‘jumping out’ at him.
Evidently, he was suffering from an LNA deficiency. Had he been getting enough LNA he probably wouldn’t have noticed any changes which brings up a story.
A guy added 3 quarts of oil to the engine of his car and found that it ran better. He was so excited about it that he told everyone he met that if they, too, added three quarts of oil to their engines their cars would also run better. Of course, most people know if their oil level is already up to the ‘full line’ on the dipstick, that adding 3 more quarts of oil isn’t going to make their cars run better. Rather the opposite will happen and their engine will likely blow a seal.
This little analogy goes a long way to show that no nutrient is going to make you feel better unless you have a deficiency in it. If your body is already getting plenty of a certain nutrient, giving it more won’t make it feel better. And sometimes it will make the body feel worse if it’s an oil soluble vitamin or some other nutrient that can cause a toxicity if it’s eaten in over-abundance. (The author believes the real secret to good health includes eating good, wholesome foods containing all the nutrients needed for good health, coupled with exercise.) Flax certainly plays a role in this. As a full 95% of the population in North America are not eating enough LNA, it’s a fairly safe bet that you will feel better after you start yourself on a diet of flax.
For flax to do any good in your system, the seed must be broken open. The outer shell on the flax seed is so hard that unbroken, it just passes right through you, retaining all it’s nutrients. (So much for all those recipes that have whole flax seed as an ingredient!) Don’t be tempted to buy expensive flax seed oil as it contains none of the lignans or fiber found in the seed. And Don’t buy flax seed meal already ground. The outer shell of the flax seed is nature’s perfect container and breaking it open exposes the delicate fatty acids to rapid oxidation. Grind only as much flax seed as you plan on using that day. There’s several ways of breaking the seed open. The easiest way is to grind a small amount of dry flax seed in a blender or coffee grinder. When making bread, it can also be mixed with your other whole grains before grinding. Don’t try to grind flax seed in a grain grinder by itself. It contains so much fat that the oily flax seed pulp will plug your grinder.
You can add flax seed meal to many different dishes. Mix it in yogurt, salad dressings, on prepared or cooked cereal and you can bake it into many different desserts or breads.
Much like putting too much oil in a car, it is possible to eat too much flax seed. Tipping the scales with too heavy an ingestion of LNA will prevent the proper digestion and use of it’s sister essential fatty acid, LA. Three tablespoons of flax seed a day should be enough to take care of anyone’s LNA needs. And after several weeks or months of usage, you can probably cut it down to 1 to 2 tablespoons of flax seed per day after you’ve gotten over the LNA deficiency. How can you tell if you’re getting too much? Your fingernails will get thin and break easily. But it would take months of ingesting too much LNA for this to happen.
Unlike some nutrients that are destroyed with heat, the LNA and lignans in flax can safely be heated up to baking temperatures without harming them. Studies have shown the LNA and lignans in flax seed can withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees F for 2 hours. These temperatures and times are worse than most home baking conditions.
How long can you store flax seed? The author is presently eating five year old flax seed that was stored in cans sealed with oxygen absorbers. He says it’s still ‘just fine.’ Whole, un-ground flax seed should store in the kitchen without any special care given to it for a year. Stored in the absence of oxygen in a cool room, flax’s storage life will be increased to many years. With flax’s vitamin E content which is a good antioxidant, you can consider your flax seed a good storing commodity if you take good care of it.
Containing no gluten, flax seed should be perfectly safe to eat by those with wheat allergies. If you are in poor health, please consult your doctor before starting a diet of flax seed. If you are already under the care of a physician, we strongly recommend you first get your doctor’s approval before eating flax seed.
Kamut is a close relative to wheat whose kernel. Its about the same shape as a wheat seed but a Kamut kernel is more than twice as big. Even though Kamut is very closely related to wheat, many people who are wheat intolerant can eat Kamut with no problems. Kamut also has some pretty amazing nutritional strengths. And as an amazingly versatile grain, Kamut can be used in place of all the different wheats; the hard and soft varieties and also durum wheat.
Kamut’s history is as interesting as any grain you can find. Stories abound about how a small sample of this grain was found in the pyramids of Egypt. They were planted and grew. This story revolves around a young Montana airman while stationed in the US Air Force in Portugal. Someone gave, or more likely, sold him 36 kernels of this grain, telling him it came from the pyramids of Egypt. Evidently, the serviceman believed him, and mailed the kernels home to his wheat-farmer dad who planted them. Of the 36 kernels, 32 of them sprouted. After carefully tending these seeds and their offspring for the next 6 years, these 32 kernels had grown to 1,500 bushels. (I did the math, yes it’s possible.) This unusual, large kerneled wheat was shown at the county fair and was called “King Tut’s Wheat.” Bob Quinn, just a boy at the time, was a youngster in the crowd. The grain never really caught on at that time and the farmer ended up feeding it to his cattle. In 1977, Bob, now a agricultural scientist with a Ph.D., remembered that strange looking wheat and after scouring the country side came up with a pint bottle of it. By 1988, Bob had the strain built back up and had generated enough interest in it that he could start marketing it commercially.
Scientists from around the world have inspected Kamut and attempted to give it a taxonomic classification. However, it’s exact class still remains somewhat uncertain but is believed to be an ancient durum wheat variety. As 3,000 year-old wheat from the Egyptian tombs can’t sprout, the scientists who have attempted to classify this seed generally believe Kamut was an obscure grain kept alive by peasant farmers in Egypt or Asia Minor. Adding to the mystery shrouding this grain, in the last 50 years, Kamut has vanished from it’s traditional lands as modern varieties of wheat replaced it. The person who sold those 36 kernels to the airman, I can only guess to make a quick buck, actually did the world a really big favor in bringing this ancient grain back from obscurity and certain extinction. Dr. Quinn patented the seed, then coined and trade marked the name “Kamut” which is believed to be an ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Kamut may have disappeared from it’s native lands in the Old World, but it is alive and doing well in the small corners of Montana and Alberta.
Kamut is a high protein grain, generally containing 30% more protein than wheat. It’s amino acid ratio is about the same as wheat so if you should happen to be eating nothing but Kamut, you may wish to add some peanut butter, legumes or some other food high in lysine to give you a little better amino acid blend. As this grain hasn’t been altered by modern plant breeders, it retains it’s ancient nutrition, flavor and goodness. Due to it’s slightly higher fatty acid content, Kamut can be considered a high energy grain, and compared to wheat, Kamut also contains elevated levels of vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, pantothentic acid, copper and complex carbohydrates. All around, Kamut seems to be a very healthy grain. Because of it’s larger seed size in comparison to wheat, there’s less fiber in Kamut than wheat. So, depending on your needs, if you require a high fiber diet, perhaps Spelt would be a better alternative which has a higher fiber content than even wheat.
The fact that many people who are allergic to wheat and can tolerate Kamut is probably the biggest reason Kamut has made real inroads into the health food markets. Several studies have been conducted with Kamut on people with wheat allergies. People with wheat allergies must be careful when trying Kamut. Laboratory tests show that 30% of the subjects with wheat allergies also displayed allergies to Kamut. In some cases their reactions to Kamut were even worse than for wheat. However, on the flip side of the coin, many people who couldn’t eat wheat had no problem with Kamut. Giving additional hope to wheat sensitive people, bakeries have noted that their Kamut products have been safe to eat for almost every wheat sensitive person who has purchased their products. The bottom line – if you are wheat sensitive, under the advice of your doctor, you may wish to carefully try Kamut with the hope that you can eat bread again. If you don’t have wheat allergies, you can feel confident Kamut will be a new experience because of it’s great flavor. And because of it’s higher nutrition, you will probably feel better as well.
As mentioned before, you can use Kamut in your different recipes calling for wheat. Be aware, however, that Kamut is closer to durum wheat than the hard wheat varieties and doesn’t contain as much gluten. Because of this, you may wish to add wheat gluten or alter your expectations toward a little heavier loaf of bread. Kamut goes great in cakes and is ideally suited for your home-made pastas. We think you’ll appreciate the fine flavor of Kamut and after having once tried it, will look forward to baking with this new yet ancient grain as much as your family will enjoy eating it.
The millet seed is a small, round, ivory colored seed about 20 mm in diameter. There are 6,000 varieties of millet grown around the world. The variety sold in North America for human consumption is called Pearl Millet. It has a rather alkaline pH which makes it a really easy grain to digest. Used mainly as bird feed, millet has a rather bland flavor.
Millet is thought to be one of the first grains cultivated by man. The first recorded comments regarding millet date back to 5,500 BC in China. Millet could have been domesticated hundreds or even thousands of years before this in Africa where it still grows wild throughout the continent. Found in ancient pottery and ancient writings alike throughout China, millet was an extremely important grain but diminished somewhat with the advent of rice and maize. Although it’s role has diminished through the centuries, millet is still a food under wide cultivation in parts of Africa, India and China where it’s a staple food. Much of millet’s success in surviving through the ages has been it’s ability to produce well in hot, arid, drought prone areas where nothing else will grow. As another plus, it can be harvested only 45-65 days after planting. Through the centuries, Millet spread it’s way through Europe and was most often eaten boiled whole as a porridge but was sometimes made into a flat bread which the Egyptians first developed.
Millet contains more calories than wheat, probably because of it’s higher oil content of 4.2% which is 50% polyunsaturated. Millet is rich in B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc copper and manganese. It’s protein content is a little lower than that of wheat as are the essential amino acids. Like wheat, lysine is millet’s limiting amino acid. However, millet contains enough protein to still be considered a good protein source.
Millet is a gluten free grain and is the only grain that retains it’s alkaline properties after being cooked which is ideal for people with wheat allergies. With a texture much like brown rice, millet can be used in pilafs, casseroles or most oriental dishes that call for rice, quinoa or buckwheat. It can be ground into flour and used in flat breads or mixed up to 25% with wheat flour for use in yeast breads. After it has been soaked for a couple of hours, millet in it’s whole grain form cooks like rice in about 20 minutes. Millet cooks well into vegetable loaves and adds body to soups and stews. Millet added dry to your biscuit, bread and roll doughs adds a crunchy texture and brings variety to your baked goods. Able to be popped like popcorn, popped millet goes well in breakfast cereals, granola and bread. Increasing in volume more than any other grain, a cup of dry millet expands to three cups of cooked millet which takes on the form of a fluffy, delicate flavored hot cereal you are sure to appreciate.
For baked dishes, cook millet at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Boiled millet cooks in 10-20 minutes. Steamed millet, cooked in a saucepan, cooks in 15 to 30 minutes.
Millet is a good storing grain which will store without any special considerations for one to two years. If you want to put millet into long term storage, package it inside air-tight containers and use oxygen absorbers. Stored in this fashion and put in a cool place, millet should keep well for many years.
Oats, like barley, have a hard outer hull that must be removed before it’s ready for human consumption. Even though the outer hull of an oat kernel comes off easier than a barley kernel’s hull, it’s still not within reach of the average consumer to accomplish this. For this reason, if you want whole oats to eat, purchase them already hulled. Hulled oats, called oat groats, look very much like rye or Triticale. Unlike barley which must have it’s hull sanded off damaging the seed, an oat groat kernel’s outer bran layer is still intact after de-hulling. This somewhat protects the inner nutrients and also permits it to sprout. From this stage of processing, oats are most often rolled. Sometimes they are cut into two to four pieces before rolling and are called ‘steel cut rolled oats,’ or quick rolled oats. Opening the seed in this way permits oxidation of the inner nutrients causing them to go rancid. Long ago, it was learned if oat groats were steamed first destroying the enzymes that permitted rancidity to happen, the rolled oats could be stored for long periods of time and stay fresh. Here at Walton Feed, we’ve heard more than one story of a family opening up a well stored 25 year old can of rolled oats thinking they’d only be good to feed the chickens. But to their surprise, their rolled oats were still fresh and wholesome after all that time.
Oats have been around for quite some time, dating back to around 2,000 B.C. in the Middle East. Oats date back in Germany to 1,000 B.C. and because oats contain little gluten, they were considered not good for much more than animal feed. However, because oats can grow in conditions where wheat and barley won’t produce, they made a place for themselves though history during harsh years and were considered a grain for the poor. Today, about 95% of all oats grown are used as animal feed.
Through modern science won’t learned that oats are a remarkably healthy food. With a relatively high soluble and insoluble fiber content of 10%, oats are an excellent food in lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Containing over 4 times the fatty acids of wheat, oats can be considered a high calorie food containing 19% more calories than wheat. One third of those fats are the polyunsaturated type which are required for good health. Oats are also rich in the B vitamins, contain the anti-oxidant vitamin E and oats are mineral rich as well. The following table shows the nutrients in oats that are higher than the nutrients found in wheat…
Oats are considered a ‘cleansing grain.’ They not only cleanse your intestinal tract but your blood as well. Oats contain an excellent balance of amino acids. It’s proteins are almost in perfect proportion to the body’s needs. High in lysine which is often low in other cereal grains, oats bring a real balance to your protein needs without the need of mixing foods. Oats contain high levels of complex carbohydrates which have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer and the better control of diabetes.
In the grocery stores of North America, oats are most often found as either regular or quick rolled oats. However, if you have a flaker, you can produce your own rolled oats from our oat groats producing a fresher, tastier, and more nutritious cereal. You can also run oat groats through your grain grinder to get oat flour for baking or for use in other dishes. Using 25% oat flour, the natural vitamin E in oats will help keep your breads from going stale so quickly. Oat flour can also be used as a preservative for ice cream and other dairy products (it’s that vitamin E again). It’s also used as a talc replacer in skin care products.
Oat bran contains ß glucans, a cholesterol lowering chemical through a mechanism still unclear to the scientific community. This soluble fiber in oat bran may also aid in regulating blood sugar levels by forming gels that slow the absorption of glucose sugar in the intestinal tract. It only takes 2 minutes to cook oat bran in boiling water. It’s almost a convenience food when thinking of things to have for breakfast.
It takes about 10-15 minutes to cook regular rolled oats. Quick rolled oats, being thinner, cook much quicker in 2-3 minutes. And instant rolled oats, which have already been cooked then dehydrated, just need hot water added. As instant rolled oats are the least nutritious, you should think seriously about using them in your every day cooking habits instead of using the slower cooking quick oats. Instant oats certainly have their place, however, such as on camping trips and in your 72 hour kits.
Using rolled oats as a meat extender in meat loafs is a well known practice. And then there’s oatmeal cookies. But aside from eating oatmeal for breakfast, oats aren’t used too much in mainstream North America today. This is too bad as oats are so extremely healthy! The Scots and Irish base much of their cooking on oats, showing us Americans by good example that oats are a more versatile food than we seem to think. Oat flour makes rich thickeners for soups, gravies and stews. Oat flour will also add nutrition to your breads, muffins, crackers, beverages and desserts. And everybody knows oats are the main ingredient in granola.
Because of the antioxidants in oats, they are a good storing grain. However, for best storage conditions, pack them in airtight containers, use oxygen absorbers and store them in a cool place.
Popcorn is already a very familiar food to almost everyone. A special strain of corn, popcorn has been in existence for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest popcorn found to date was discovered in a bat cave in New Mexico and was 5,600 years old. Popcorn has also been excavated out of tombs in South America and it was so well preserved it still popped. Thousands of years old popped corn, still white and fresh looking has also been found in ancient burial sites. Popcorn kernels from those early times had a tougher hull and were not as round looking as today’s popcorn. When the first Europeans made their mark on the Americas, popcorn was grown by most of the Indians living on the continent. Ancient natives wore popcorn in their hair and around their necks and used it in many different rituals honoring their Gods and their dead. When the Europeans arrived, it became a favorite food for them as well. It was found at that first Thanksgiving Day feast in Massachusetts and later in it’s popped form was the first ever puffed breakfast cereal. Later, during the latter part of the 19th century, popcorn was very popular in the cities. Vendors pushed their little carts containing gas powered poppers up and down the streets and at fairs and horse races. During the Great Depression, popcorn made another upswing as this ‘extra’ was one of the few treats people could afford. During W.W.II when sugar was rationed, popcorn made another surge in popularity. The 1950’s were not good years for popcorn. But when the 60’s came along and North America fell in love with their televisions, popcorn made it’s return to popularity which has only increased until the average American now eats a whopping 68 quarts of popcorn per year.
Popcorn is a type of flint corn. It’s kernels have a very hard outer shell with a hard starchy inside. It is dried to a moisture level of 13.5% – the optimum moisture content for good popping. Over the years, plant breeders have had their hand in perfecting popcorn until it’s popping ability is now up to 99%.
You may have considered popcorn to be junk-food. However, it actually supplies a lot of nutrition and is suggested as a snack by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Popcorn contains substantial amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, many of the B vitamins, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Pantothenic acid, Copper, Manganese, Linoleic acid and all the essential amino acids. And for how inexpensive popcorn is, popcorn will give you very good nutritional bang for the buck in your food storage or every-day eating. It’s inexpensive, easy to pop and great fun to eat.
Hints for getting the best popped corn: Don’t pop popcorn in butter as the butter will burn before it can get hot enough. Popcorn pops best in temperatures of 400-460 degrees F. If your oil starts to smoke which happens at 500 degrees F, you’ve got it too hot. Any oil will work. Use enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. For your health, you should choose a light cooking oil or better yet, skip the oil all together and use an air popper. The movie houses use yellow dyed coconut oil which does a great job of popping the popcorn although there are healthier oils you can use than coconut oil. To see if you have the oil hot enough, drop a couple of kernels into the hot oil. If it’s hot enough, they should pop in just a few seconds. If you don’t have a popper, any thick bottomed, high walled pan will do. Popcorn can even be easily made in a Dutch oven over a camp fire. When your oil is the right temperature, pour in your popcorn, shaking the pan to cover all the seeds in oil. Do this with the lid on to prevent burns should the hot oil try to splash out of the pan. Using a lid helps the kernels to heat more evenly and keeps the popping corn from flying all over the place. (If you are using a popcorn popper, shaking it isn’t necessary because of it’s rounded bottom.) As it begins popping, it’s important to continue to shake a flat-bottomed pan. This helps any un-popped kernels to settle to the bottom of the pan where they can pop. As soon as you hear the popcorn stop popping, pull the pan off the heat and pour the popcorn into another container. It will burn if you leave it in the hot pan.
What can you do if you’ve done everything right but your popcorn still doesn’t pop very well? As mentioned above, popcorn must have about 13.5 to 14% moisture to pop properly. This is because as the popcorn kernel is heated, the moisture inside the seed is turned to steam creating a huge inner pressure. As this pressure continues past the shell’s strength to keep it in, the skin ruptures and the inner starchy layer of the kernel greatly expands and turns itself inside out. If the moisture isn’t there, this pressure build-up can’t happen. If you find your popcorn has excessive old maids (un-popped kernels) in it, the problem might be that it lacks moisture. Place 3 cups of un-popped popcorn into a quart bottle. Add a tablespoon of water, put the lid on and shake it to get water on all the kernels. If the water puddles in the bottom of the bottle, shake it again every 10 minutes until enough of the water has been absorbed to prevent puddling. Now let it sit for two or three days while the moisture is evenly distributed into the kernels. If it still doesn’t pop correctly, repeat this process but add no more than 2 teaspoons of water the second time. Yes, it’s also possible to get it so moist it won’t pop, so definitely, don’t add water a third time. Lastly, you can even take your old maids that didn’t pop, rejuvenate them with water using the above process and re-pop them. (With a measurement of three cups un-popped popcorn, 1 tablespoon of water will increase the moisture content 2.5%. A teaspoon of water will increase the moisture level almost 1%. Air dried popcorn will probably never get below a 10% moisture content on it’s own, so adding even two tablespoons of water would be pushing it, raising the moisture content to 15% – that is if it started out at a moisture level of 10%.)
Final thoughts: Popcorn doesn’t grind nicely into a flour like yellow dent corn but is fairly gritty because of it’s hard inner starches. Also, popcorn is such a hard kernel that several of the lower-end grain grinders can be damaged by it. As popcorn costs twice as much as yellow dent corn, it only makes sense to get that type of field corn for your corn meal needs and leave the popcorn for popping.
Like some of the other exotic grains, Quinoa isn’t a grain at all but is technically a fruit. Quinoa might be a new and exotic item here in North America, however, this isn’t so in South America where it has grown for more than 5,000 years in and around the Andes Mountains. The Incas called Quinoa ‘the Mother Grain’ as eating this food tended to give long life. Quinoa can be grown just about anywhere – presently being grown in the US and Canada. But North American growers, so far, are unable to match the quality of Quinoa that comes from the high mountains of South America. Farmers trying to grow this variety of Quinoa, called Altiplano, haven’t been able to get it to produce in the lower elevations of North America. Instead, North American farmers grow a darker brown, more bitter tasting variety of Quinoa called ‘Sea Level Quinoa.’ The really good, light colored, sweetly delicate Quinoa comes from the highest mountains in the Andes. This ‘Golden Grain of the Andes’ is such a rugged little plant that it can even grow at high, extremely dry elevations where even grass won’t grow. Yet, the most sought-after strains of Quinoa are so fragile that they won’t produce at lower elevations on good soil. Interestingly enough, much of the world’s Quinoa is grown in Bolivia at elevations around 12,000 feet.
The Quinoa seed is a small oval disk about 1.5-2 mm in diameter. As it grows, the seed is coated with a dark, almost black layer of ‘saponine’ that has a bitter, soapy taste. Saponine is the plant’s natural defense against insects, birds and other small animals that might want to eat it on the stock. Before Quinoa can be eaten, the saponine must me washed off. (As saponine acts as a crude soap, the locals who grow Quinoa, save the saponine-water and wash their clothes in it!) Virtually all Quinoa sold in North America as food already has the saponine removed. This leaves a very nutritious food that has been called by many, ‘nature’s perfect food.’ Quinoa is one of the few foods with a relatively balanced protein. Quinoa’s high level of the amino acid, lycine, complements wheat nicely. By mixing Quinoa into your wheat at a ratio of 25% Quinoa to 75% wheat, the Quinoa will make your wheat breads a complete protein. Quinoa contains a long list of nutrients. The following table lists the nutrients found in Quinoa that are higher than what is found in wheat:
Quinoa has a high oil content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Because of this, it’s important to store Quinoa in a cool place, and if you are going to store it for the long term, place it in airtight containers and remove the oxygen with oxygen absorbers. Removing the oxygen doesn’t stop the aging process of foods, but it goes a long way to extend it several times.
The Quinoa that Walton Feed offers comes from the Altiplano strain grown between 12,000 and 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. It’s saponine has been carefully washed off so you can still sprout the seed if you like.
Some Quinoa processors use steam during the de-saponine process which kills the seed. Our Quinoa comes directly from the subsistence farmers of the high mountains of Bolivia. Getting our Quinoa directly supports these farmers who work hard, toiling by hand without the aid of machines to plant and harvest this crop, wishing only to provide you with an outstanding product that can only be grown in this unique area of the world.
Quinoa contains no gluten so it’s safe for gluten intolerant people to eat. Quinoa can be eaten in many different ways. Traditionally it has been eaten as a porridge or in soups and stews. Only taking 10-12 minutes to boil until soft (Quinoa is the fastest cooking whole grain), Quinoa seed’s size mushrooms into plump little morsels with a tail. The Altiplano Quinoa has somewhat of a bland yet pleasant flavor. Having a nice, crisp texture similar to brown rice, Quinoa has greatly expanded nutritional qualities over rice and can be used in place of rice in most dishes. Quinoa is also delicious eaten as a side dish by itself. Quinoa flour has been made into spaghetti noodles, flakes, a drink and Quinoa has even been popped. Mixed with wheat flour, Quinoa will boost the nutritional qualities of your bread and add it’s unique flavor. In addition to this, it can be used to make delicious salads, soups and desserts. With the amazing nutrition that’s found in Quinoa, we think, as you begin to use this grain, you will start using it more and more in your daily cooking.
This amazing ancient food is now in the process of being rediscovered by modern peoples. In South America, a renewed respect for indigenous crops and traditional foods has reversed a 400-year decline in quinoa production that began with the Spanish conquest. And within the past three years quinoa has begun to be grown for the first time outside South America…
Additional Information: Quinoa is a small seed that in size, shape, and color looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet. It is disk shaped with a flattened or depressed equatorial band around it’s periphery. It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to purple and black. Quinoa is not a true cereal grain but is technically a fruit of the Chenopodium family. Chenopodium plants have characteristic leaves shaped like a goose foot. The genus also includes our common weed, lamb’s quarters. Quinoa is an annual herb that grows from three to six feet high, and like millet its seeds are in large clusters at the end of the stalk.
The seeds are covered with saponin, a resin-like substance that is extremely bitter and forms a soapy solution in water. To be edible, the saponin must be removed. Traditionally, saponin has been removed by laboriously hand scrubbing the quinoa in alkaline water.
The edible seed of the quinoa plant has been called both a pseudo-cereal and a pseudo-oilseed because of it’s unique nutritional profile. It is high in protein compared to other grains, although it is also high in oil and fat.
Some wheats come close to matching quinoa’s protein content, but cereals such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Also, quinoa has a good balance of the amino acids that make up the protein. Quinoa, like soybeans, is exceptionally high in lysine, an amino acid not overly abundant in the vegetable kingdom. Quinoa is also a good complement for legumes, which are often low in Methionine and Cystine. In addition, quinoa is a relatively good source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and several of the B vitamins. In addition to all this, quinoa tastes good.
Rice, a traditional staple food of the Orient, has gradually become a food that is used around the world. A primary food in many parts of Asia, rice makes up anywhere between 55% and 80% of the caloric intake in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam where the average person eats up to 300 lbs of rice a year. Up to 95% of the world’s rice is consumed in Asia, grown within 5 miles of where it is consumed. As another example of how much a local crop rice is, of the world’s 520 million metric ton crop grown world wide, only about 10% of it grown in the United States, yet the US is the largest exporter of rice in the world.
Yes, rice has been an important food in the Orient for thousands of years. But because of it’s ease of cooking, good taste and it’s high diversity in making literally thousands of different dishes, rice is becoming an ever more important part of the diet here in North America. Rice can be used as part of every meal of the day and in every dish served. Rice milk and rice crispies for breakfast, a rice snack at lunch and boiled rice in place of potatoes and rice pudding at dinner. Rice goes well with any vegetable and with most of the fruits. There are literally thousands of uses for rice in casseroles, salads and desserts.
It is believed that rice was first cultivated in central India but was quickly put into large cultivation by the Chinese. This happened as long as 5,500 years ago with rice quickly spreading throughout Asia. It took rice over 4,500 years to reach Europe in the 12th Century, AD. Then rice was brought to the Americas in the 1690s.
Most of us here in America only know of two kinds of rice – long grain brown rice and long grain white rice which is refined long grain brown rice. However, there are over 7,000 varieties of rice around the world. There are different varieties of medium length rice, and short grain rices as well whose kernels can be so stubby that the seed is almost round in shape. As 99% of the rice eaten in North America is long grain brown or white rice, we will restrict most of our comments to these two rices. However, you will see a small section on Basmati rice at the bottom.
Brown rice is turned into white rice by polishing the outer layers off. With the outer layers removed, the rice cooks a little quicker, is easier to chew and because it’s flavor is a bit more bland, can be more easily made into more foods than brown rice. In it’s unrefined form, brown rice has a very short shelf life of 6 to 12 months. This is because the fatty acids, unprotected from the air in the outer layers of the kernel go rancid relatively quickly. In it’s refined form, white rice will store for many years if carefully preserved. But there’s a big problem with white rice. The majority of the nutrients in the rice kernel are in the layers that are removed. What’s left is mostly starch. As refined rice is 81%-83% carbohydrates, it’s considered a high energy food. But on the flip side of this, many of the nutrients needed for correct digestion of white rice were removed during the milling process which forces the body to ‘steal’ from it’s reserves to digest it. Compared to brown rice, white rice’s nutrients have been greatly reduced in fatty acids, fiber (which is already low in brown rice compared to some of the other grains), vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. The amino acids remain relatively unchanged. As white rice is so poor nutritionally, it is usually fortified with several of these same nutrients that were removed. These fortified vitamins are usually in the form of a powder on the outside of the rice. If you wash your white rice before cooking it, you will wash off the majority of these added nutrients. When you eat brown rice, you eat all the natural nutrition that comes with this grain. After becoming accustomed to brown rice, many people like it just as much or better with it’s more robust flavor and more hardy texture. We, at Walton Feed have come to understand brown rice will stay fresh for years if it is packed in the absence of oxygen then stored in a cool place. With the oxygen removed, there’s little oxygen to oxidize the fatty acids. This greatly retards the aging process.
There are a couple of different ways white rice can be processed. The parboiling process takes brown rice, soaks it then steams it which drives many of the nutrients from the outer layers into the main endosperm part of the seed. It’s then dried. After drying, the outer layers and germ are removed, turning it into parboiled, white rice. Parboiling the rice first increases it’s nutrient value but parboiled rice still falls far short of the nutrition found in brown rice. But enough of the B vitamins have been driven into the kernel to prevent beriberi, a deficiency disease caused by a lack of thiamin. Eating only white rice, beriberi is almost a certainty.
Instant rice has been fully cooked and is then dehydrated. It requires little more than hot water to reconstitute it. Being pre-cooked, instant rice could go well in your 72 hour kit or the small survival unit you keep in your car or boat. However, as it has been further processed, it’s generally more expensive and although it has been fortified, is the least nutritious of the different kinds of white rice you can buy.
Taking about 90 minutes to cook (20 minutes if it’s been pre-soaked), rice is customarily cooked once a day in the orient and eaten in various ways during the day. White rice is the least nutritious of all the grains. Should you decide to make rice one of the staples of your food supply, care should be taken to insure adequate vitamins and minerals are received from other sources.
Although rice has it’s problems nutritionally as a stand-alone food, it’s a great energy source. And although it’s low in protein, as compared to some of the other grains, the protein rice does contain is more available than the amino acids in wheat. The good news is you wouldn’t get a protein deficiency even if the only thing you ate was rice. And among the grains, rice’s amino acid balance is only bettered by oats. Lastly, although not as cheap per calorie as wheat, rice is a great buy when considering energy VS cost and is much more versatile in it’s whole grain form than wheat. Permit rice to add a lot of diversity to your food supply and day-to-day diet.
Basmati rice, traditionally a special strain of rice from India and Pakistan, it’s starting to be grown in North America as well. Indistinguishable from brown rice to the untrained eye, all one needs is a quick whiff of the Basmati rice to know they are not the same.
Basmati rice has a strong, pungent odor that also has a much stronger flavor than regular long grain brown rice. When cooking Basmati rice, it’s always a good idea to wash it first in water which washes away a bit of it’s starch, making it less sticky when cooked. Sought after for Asian cuisine, many people have grown to love the flavor and texture of this rice grown half way around the world.
A kernel of rye has many of the characteristics of a wheat seed but is a little less plump, is a little longer and has a darker, grayer color. Chewing seeds from each, they also taste quite similar, although rye has a little stronger flavor. When cooked, rye takes on it’s distinctive flavor that makes this bread such a treat. A very popular grain in East Europe and Germany, breads made from rye have a distinctive flavor that is prized by many. A relatively new grain, it’s estimated that rye has only been in cultivation for 2,000 to 3,000 years, probably originating in Asia Minor. In the past, rye was a very popular grain as it grew so well, even on poor soils, under dry, cold conditions and at high altitudes – on lands where other grains didn’t produce well. For many in the dark ages, rye was a grain that could most often be counted on to give them enough of a return that they wouldn’t starve. Rye made it’s debut into the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries and has been a minor cereal grain here ever since. During the 19th century and into the 20th century with the advent of more hardy, quicker maturing and more abundant producing strains of wheat, rye has markedly decreased in popularity and production. But rye continues to hold it’s ‘nitch’ with the distinctive flavor it gives breads in Europe as well as here in North America.
Although rye does have some gluten, it doesn’t contain enough to make good bread and must be used with other high gluten flours. Because of this, rye bread is generally heavier than wheat bread and has a darker color, a reflection of the grain it comes from. The more wheat flour is used, the lighter and milder the bread. Pumpernickel is one of the breads on the rye heavy side of this spectrum, prized by many for it’s rich, dark brown color and strong flavor.
Rye’s nutritional characteristics are similar to the other cereal grains, however rye is higher than wheat in fiber, vitamin E, riboflavin, folacin and pantothentic acid. And unusual for a cereal grain, rye contains twice as much of the amino acid, lysine as wheat. This is especially significant because lysine’s the limiting amino acid in wheat and most other cereal grains which necessitates food mixing to develop a complete protein. This isn’t a problem with rye as eating rye by itself gives you a well rounded protein. Rye’s high fiber content, higher than the wheats, also aids in fighting heart disease. In one study reported in the December, 1966 edition of the American Heart Association’s Journal, the high fiber content in grains, and especially rye, decreased the incidence of heart disease by 17% in 22,000 Finnish subjects.
Rye has many uses but is most well known for breads and the making of rye whisky. Rye flours are used as fillers in sauces, soups and in many processed meats such as sausages. Rye can be rolled into flakes or cracked and eaten as a breakfast cereal or ground and made into crackers. Rye can be added to many foods to give them a distinctive flavor. Whole rye kernels take a long time to cook – as long as two hours. And rye flakes can take as long as an hour to cook. Soaking the whole rye seed overnight will reduce the cooking time markedly. A small percentage of rye goes well with rice or you can make your own cracked or rolled multi-grain cereals. Rye flakes go great in granolas, trail mixes, and rye flakes are also a popular item in rye breads.
Spelt comes from a wheat-like plant whose seed somewhat resembles wheat but is a bit longer and more pointed. Just like hard red winter wheat, Spelt must be planted in the fall of the year, maturing the following summer. It is an ancient grain that has been grown all over Europe for the last 9,000 years and is also referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible. In fact, it is believed that only the grains Emmer and Elkorn have preceded Spelt in being domesticated. Here in the United States, Spelt was brought by Swiss Immigrants to the Eastern Ohio and from that time spelt was a very common grain grown for hundreds of years throughout the United States. During the 20th Century, it was almost completely abandoned for the more modern varieties of wheat which had a higher yield, shorter growing season and better resistance to disease. In Europe, especially during the Middle Ages, Spelt was grown for human consumption and also animal feed. Here in the United States, until recent times, Spelt was grown mostly as feed. However, since the mid 1980’s, Spent has made a real inroad into the health food market as a wheat substitute.
Many people who are allergic to wheat can tolerate Spelt. However, many allergy doctors believe that Spelt is too closely related to wheat for it to be an effective replacement grain. They feel that even though wheat sensitive people might be able to tolerate it now, as time goes by they will develop wheat-like allergies to it. However, companies that exclusively sell Spelt products to people, many of them with wheat allergies, say their customers have had really good luck eating Spelt goods. Spelt has a lower gluten strength which makes it possible for many people with gluten allergies to eat this product. Purity Foods, one of the main marketers of Spelt say that out of thousands of their customers with wheat allergies, only 16 of them have reported allergic reactions to Spelt. An Ohio bakery that specializes in making spelt products and distributes them over several different states has numerous customers who can’t tolerate wheat yet can eat Spelt products. It seems, for the wheat intolerant among us, Spelt is probably worth a try. If you are allergic to wheat and you want to use Spelt, please consult your doctor before trying this product, then use adequate safeguards when trying Spelt to prevent serious complications should you also be allergic to this product.
Spelt contains 15 – 21% protein which is much higher than wheat. It’s also higher than wheat in complex carbohydrates, iron, potassium and the B Vitamins. Spelt is easier to digest than wheat products because of it’s higher solubility in water. Spelt also contains nutrients that aid in blood clotting and also stimulate the immune system. Due to Spelt’s high water solubility and fragile gluten, the grain’s vital substances can be absorbed quickly by the body with a minimum of digestive work. Spelt contains special carbohydrates which play a decisive role in blood clotting and stimulate the body’s immune system. It’s high fiber content aids in reducing cholesterol and heart disease. It’s also nice to know that something as healthy as Spelt also has a great flavor. Spelt is just another example of what great nutrition should taste like.
Cooking with Spelt flour is similar to cooking with wheat flour. You can make all the same dishes such as pancakes and waffles, muffins, cakes, crackers and cookies, pastas and breads. Because of it’s lower gluten content, however, you will probably not wish to let it rise as high as regular wheat flour bread. When baking, Spelt flour doesn’t require as much water – if substituting spelt flour for wheat flour in your favorite recipe, start by using only 3/4ths as much water.
Triticale is a new grain that was created by crossing rye and durum wheat. It’s kernels are longer than wheat seeds and are plumper than rye. It’s color can range from the tan of wheat to the gray-brown color of rye. Triticale is a new, man-made grain first grown in 1875. But it’s development didn’t really begin until the 1930’s. It took scientists over 30 years to get it perfected to the point they felt they could release the grain for commercial production. This happened in 1969. Triticale is still in the middle of it’s period of accelerated evolution which will continue into the future.
Triticale takes the best qualities of durum wheat and rye and ends up with properties better than both grains. Rye is known for it’s ability to grow well on poor ground, dry conditions and cold climates. Triticale is just as hardy. And Triticale contains more protein than either of it’s parents, rye or wheat. The scientists haven’t worked out all the ‘bugs’ yet in Triticale, however. The lower gluten content of Triticale is one of them. Because of this, bakers who use Triticale use 50% wheat flour so the loaf won’t be so heavy. As the world becomes more populated and we put ever poorer soils into production, Triticale’s importance will increase with it’s higher yields over wheat or rye.
Triticale is a healthy grain. We’ve already mentioned it’s higher protein content. Of that protein, it has a higher quality amino acid balance than it’s parents. It has a higher lysine content than wheat and like wheat, can be stored for long periods of time. Presently, 6 million metric tons of Triticale are grown, mostly in Europe, with about 7% of this production here in North America. This will only increase in the future.
When using Triticale, treat it much like you would if you were using wheat or rye. With it’s flavor that’s much like wheat, it can be cooked whole as a breakfast cereal in about an hour. Rolled or cracked, it cooks up much more quickly. It can also be ground and used in the multitudinous recipes where wheat flour is used. Perhaps we should again mention that because of it’s weaker gluten content, when making leavened breads, you should use at least 50% wheat flour to ensure a good rise. Don’t knead the dough excessively as this can damage Triticale’s delicate gluten.
Hard Red Wheat
Hard White Wheat
Wheat has been called the ‘staff of life’ for hundreds of years because of it’s excellent nutrition, storability and versatility. Aside from just a couple of limiting nutrients which can easily be made up with small quantities of other foods, wheat has long been considered the focal point of home food storage. Nutritional bang for the buck, wheat is the cheapest food available in North America. Just $90 of wheat at 2001 prices will provide the energy needs, all the protein requirements and many of the vitamins and minerals an adult needs for a whole year to stay healthy. No other food can even come close to this claim for such a low price. Wheat is the most versatile whole food grown in North America and is found in a high percentage of today’s prepared dishes.
Wheat has been a valuable crop for many thousands of years. It is believed that wheat was first domesticated from wild grasses as long ago as 9,000 B.C. in what is present day Iraq where it’s still growing wild. From Iraq, wheat spread over the ancient world. By 2,000 B.C. wheat had spread through much of Asia, Europe and North Africa. Slowly during this same period, the different varieties of wheat we know so well today started to emerge – the hard and soft wheats and durum.
Around 2,500 B.C. the Egyptians learned how to exploit the gluten in wheat flour making the first raised breads from yeast. This discovery alone pushed wheat to the forefront ahead of the other prized grains of the day, oats, millet, rice and barley. The Egyptians grew huge amounts of wheat. They eventually started exporting wheat to other parts of the new world. This turned into such a huge trade that massive sailing barges were built, large enough to carry 1,300 tons of grain in their holds. Their main trade route plied between Alexandria and Rome. After the fall of Rome, these massive sailing ships disappeared and nothing of their size was again seen until the early 19th century. Pasta, first believed to be invented in China, quickly became a mainstay in Rome and the rest of Italy where it remains an important staple item to this day. Wheat came to the Americas with Christopher Columbus and again by the Pilgrims in 1620. Through the centuries, wheat remained a labor intensive crop to grow and harvest but all of this changed in 1831 when Cyrus McCormick’s binding machine went into production which was followed by the early threshing machine. Today, these two pieces of equipment are combined into one machine in the form of the modern combine which can do the work that took hundreds of men to accomplish with a scythe, flail and the wind.
The different varieties of wheat grown today probably show little resemblance to wheat grown thousands of years ago. Plant breeders have had hundreds of years to carefully modify this grain to produce quicker in areas of short summers, be more drought resistant and have higher yields. Each variety has been enhanced with the positive characteristics for it’s intended use. Wheat’s productivity has been tweaked to the point that a year’s harvest on one small acre of wheat can make all the bread a family of 4 eats in a ten year period! Wheat is the grain of versatility. More foods have their origins in wheat than any other single food source contributing to 10-20% of the daily energy needs of people in over 60 countries.
Wheat’s secret to it’s vast popularity lies in it’s high gluten content – higher than any other grain. Gluten comes from the two amino acids, Gliadin and Glutenin, which make up about 80-85% of the protein in the hard wheat varieties. Gliadin and glutenin are also found in rye, oats and barley but at much lower levels. Gluten, when mixed with water, forms stringy, elastic strands which permits the dough to trap expanding gasses produced by yeast. This permits light, fluffy breads. Because the amino acids forming gluten make up so much of the protein in wheat, you can generally determine the gluten strength of hard wheat varieties by the total protein content. Although it’s not true in all cases, generally speaking, when the protein content rises, the gluten content follows it. If you are going to mix other, non-gluten or low gluten flours with your wheat flour to make yeast breads, be sure to mix them with high gluten wheat flour. Gluten makes dough ‘tough’ which is good for bread flours but not good for pastry and cake flours.
Refined gluten such as our Vital Wheat Gluten has a gluten content of around 45%. Next in gluten content comes flours made from the high protein hard wheats which contain gluten levels of 12.5-13.5%. All purpose flour contains about 10-12% gluten and is actually a mix of high and low gluten wheat flours. Pastry flour contains about 9-10% gluten and lastly, cake flour contains about 7-9%. Both these last flours are made from soft wheats. Flour high in gluten content doesn’t make very good cakes as the cake would lose it’s soft, easily cuttable characteristics. Good angel food cake requires the lowest gluten flours.
Wheat is grown over much of North America but different types of wheat produce better in different parts of the country. The soft wheats which produce low gluten flours are grown east of the Mississippi River and in the Pacific Northwest where the humidity is usually high and temperatures remain elevated during the night. The hard wheats require low humidity, hot days and cool nights to develop their high protein levels. The Intermountain West has the best conditions for this although Kansas is also a major producer of the hard wheats. Perhaps the best areas, however, are the mountain valleys that don’t freeze too early in the fall of the year or the plains of Montana and Alberta where hot days, cool nights and low humidity are the norm. These are the areas where we get our hard wheats for bread making.
There are two major groups of wheats – the hard and soft varieties with a third major division for durum wheat.
The hard wheats generally contain smaller kernels and are harder than soft wheat kernels. They contain high protein and gluten levels primarily designed for making bread flours. Depending on variety and growing conditions, hard wheats can have vastly different protein levels. For bread making, your wheat should have a minimum of 12% protein. The hard varieties of wheat can have protein levels up to 15 or 16%. Generally speaking for bread making, the higher the protein content the better. The two main types of hard wheat are the hard red and the hard white varieties. Hard white wheat is a relative new-comer that tends to produce a lighter colored, more spongy loaf of bread and because of this, it is gaining quick popularity among home bread makers. However, we have talked with bread makers who prefer the hard red wheat for it’s more robust flavor and more traditional textured loaf of bread it makes.
The soft wheats are just that – not quite so hard. If you want to roll your own wheat, you should buy soft wheat. The hard wheats tend to crack and break in the flaking machine. Containing less protein and gluten, soft wheat flour is ideally suited for making biscuits, pastries and quick breads. Typical protein levels for the soft wheats are 9-11%. Flour made from the soft wheats can also be used for cake flours. If you want a really low gluten cake flour, mix your soft wheat flour with other low gluten flours such as oat flour, barley flour of buckwheat flour.
Durum wheat is a botanically separate species from the hard and soft wheat varieties. It’s kernels are a little larger and are shaped a bit differently than the other wheats. Durum wheat has very hard, high protein kernels but it’s the wrong kind of protein to form a strong gluten. Durum has been used for centuries to make pasta; whether it’s macaroni, egg noodles or spaghetti noodles.
These different wheats can be further broken down into the winter and spring wheats. Winter wheats are planted in the fall of the year and must begin growing before winter comes. The top ‘winter kills,’ but just as soon as spring arrives, they jump back into life. Winter wheats can be harvested earlier in the year than spring wheats. Some people claim that hard red winter wheat has a better protein content than the hard spring wheats. However, this is not necessarily so. It all depends on the growing conditions and farming methods.
The spring wheats are planted in the spring of the year then are harvested in the fall and can have excellent protein profiles. For example, all hard white wheat the bakers love so much is a spring wheat. There is also hard red spring wheat.
We know of no food that stores as long as wheat. Stored in a cool, dry place, wheat has been known to store for 30 years. Prepared for long-term storage, wheat will last even longer than this if carefully stored. Modern food storage methodology suggests, however, that you rotate your wheat like you should rotate all your other foods to keep it as fresh as possible.
Source of this and more information on grains: Walton Feed