Amaranth, millet, sorghum, oh my!
First off, before we enter into teff territory, it’s best to define what a grain actually is. A grain is the edible, hard seed – or fruit – of a grass, known as a cereal grass. (no, not your Puffins or Cheerios.) They are a staple food around the world and are responsible for feeding billions of people. But once you get beyond rice, wheat, corn and rye, things can get a little confusing. What’s the difference between them? How do I know which ones to eat? Which ones contain gluten? Luckily, this Grain girl – sated from her dinner of roasted vegetables and barley – can guide you through the thoroughly nourishing, but sometimes perplexing, world of grains.
Amaranth – a staple food of South America – the Aztecs used it in religious practices -this hearty little yellow grain is a complete protein and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C. It’s quick to cook, (just add a lot of water), maintains a nutty crunch even when cooked, and can be easily added to any number of wheat containing recipes (except pilafs!) And it’s gluten free!
Barley – After rice, corn, and wheat, barley is the most consumed grain in the world. It has been used as a malted base for beer, as a unit of measurement, and as a foodstuff it contains the highest fiber of any of the whole grains. It also contains a high portion of B vitamins, maganese and selenium. But beware! If your barley is pearled, or white – not hulled – it is not nearly as nutritious as the outer bran has been removed. Barley has a nutty, chewy flavor. It does take a while to cook, and is not gluten free.
Bulgur – A staple of Middle Eastern cuisine (commonly used in tabbouleh and couscous), bulgur is the crushed up remains – or groats – of durum wheat kernels. It contains a high amount of low-calorie insoluble fiber, and is high in protein. It has a quick cooking time and a mild flavor, making it an excellent choice for the neophyte to the world of grains. It has three grinds: coarse, medium, and fine. The fine grind is the grind used in tabbouleh. Being derived from wheat, it is not gluten free.
Buckwheat – Coming soon…