Whole Grains

Amaranth (Amaranthaceae cruentus)

Amaranth is not considered a true grain because it is not a member of the grass family (Poaceae). Amaranth and quinoa are in the same family and are a source of complete protein (all the essential amino acids), unlike true grains which need to be eaten with legumes to provide a complete protein.

Family: Amaranthaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): North America, Central America
Life cycle:
annual or short-lived perennial
Appearance: Amaranth seeds are tiny, round, beige in color.
Aroma: slightly earthy, delicate green, vegetal, sweet
Flavor: earthy, nutty
Nutritional value: Amaranth is a source of complete protein (all the essential amino acids), unlike true grains which need to be eaten with legumes to provide a complete protein. Quinoa is a grain that provides a complete protein. Amaranth is gluten-free.
Culinary uses: A staple food of the Aztecs. Amaranth can be eaten as a porridge or popped like popcorn. Cook 1 cup dry amaranth grain with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, simmer 15-20 minutes.

 

Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Fertile Crescent
Climate:
temperate, subtropical
Life cycle:
annual
Appearance: grass plant that has upright stems with spikes on the tip where the grains develop from flowers.
Aroma: malty, cocoa, fatty
Flavor: rich, mildly sweet, tender, chewy
Nutritional value: complex carbohydrates, protein, calcium, very little gluten
Culinary uses: eaten cooked in porridge in North Africa and Asia, bread, soup, stew, beer. Pearl barley cooks faster because it has had the bran partially removed. Cook 1 cup dry barley grain with 3 cups water. Bring to a a boil, simmer 45 – 60 minutes. Soaking overnight is recommended.

 

Corn or Maize (Zea mays)

Corn was domesticated about 10,000 years ago by people living in the region now known as Mexico. The main types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.  

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): North and South America – Mexico, Guatemala
Climate:
widely grown around the world
Life cycle: annual
Appearance: corn plants are tall and slender, growing up to almost 10 feet high. the thick stem has dark green leaves and seeds (kernels) that grow on ears that are wrapped in leaves. corn kernels (grains, seeds) are usually yellow or white, but can be red, purple, or black.
Aroma: popcorn is basmati, fried, coffee, clove, vanilla, butter
Flavor: sweet corn kernels are sweet and juicy, popcorn is mild, bland, starchy, firm
Nutritional value: vitamin B (B1, B3, B5, B9), dietary fiber
Culinary uses: Corn on the cob is sweet corn, and it has a sweet taste and juicy texture. Unlike sweet corn, popcorn seeds are dry and hard when they are ripe. Cornmeal is ground dried corn used to make porridge-like dishes like grits in USA, polenta in Italy, ugali across Southern and Eastern Africa, and obusuma in Kenya. cornmeal can be ground finer (more like flour) and made into cornbread, tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and more. Popcorn is made from specific varieties of corn. Corn has many by products including cornstarch, corn oil, corn syrup. corn needs to be soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, washed, and hulled to get the most nutrition from it. Bring to a boil 1 cup dry whole grain cornmeal with 4 cups water. Simmer 25-35 minutes. 

 

 

Farro (Triticum)

Farro is not one specific grain, it is a term for three species of wheat – spelt (Triticum spelta), emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (Triticum monococcum). Farro is Italian for “ancient wheat grain”.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Fertile Crescent
Climate: temperate
Life cycle:
annual
Appearance:
green to brown grass plants grow to be around 3 feet high. Each plant has long, hollow stems that each produce a spike with spikelets where the seeds form. the leaves are long and narrow.
Aroma: whole farro is vanilla, honey, caramel, fenugreek, fatty, sweaty, and potato; refined farro is vanilla, honey, caramel, fenugreek, and fatty
Flavor: rich, nutty flavor, faint vanilla, and a hearty, plump, chewy texture
Nutritional value: vitamin B, antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, fiber, protein
Culinary uses: soup, salad, pilaf, risotto, pasta, bread

 

 

 

Millet (Cenchrus americanus)

Millets include sorghum, pearl millets, finger millet, Japanese millet, and Little millet. Millet is a staple around the world, though in the US it is primarily used as birdseed.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Asia – China, Japan
Climate: temperate
Life cycle: annual
Appearance:
millet grains are small, round seeds
Aroma: nutty, sweet, popcorn-like
Flavor: mild sweet, buttery flavor
Nutritional value: complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, calcium, zinc, gluten-free
Culinary uses: staple crop in Africa, can be boiled or ground into flour, cooks quickly, made into porridge. Bring to a boil 1 cup dry millet with 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer 25-35 minutes.

 

Oats (Avena sativa)

oat groats, steel cut oats, or Irish oats, rolled oats, instant oatmeal 

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Western Europe
Climate: temperate, very hardy
Life cycle:
annual
Appearance:
the oat plant has upright stems that can grow up to 6 feet tall. the leaves are pointed and have a rough surface. spikelets of grains develop from flowers at the top of the oat stems.
Aroma: sweet toasty oat, cooked apple, cheesy, vanilla, hints of butterscotch
Flavor: hay, weedy, browned.
Nutritional value: manganese, dietary fiber, largely gluten-free (but proteins in oats can trigger a reaction to people with celiac disease)
Culinary uses: usually eaten cooked, steel cut oats, rolled oats, porridge, flapjacks, granola, muesli, oat milk. Bring to a boil 1 cup dry steel cut oats with 4 cups water. Simmer 30 minutes.

 

 

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)

Quinoa is not a true grain because it is not a member of the grass family, Poaceae. Quinoa has a higher protein content than true grains, and a complete protein (all nine essential amino acids).

Family: Amaranthaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds, leaves
Native region(s): South America – Andes Mountains
Climate: tropical, subtropical, temperate
Life cycle:
annual
Appearance:
tiny seeds, produced in achene fruits, can be white, red, yellow, brown, purple, or black; seeds expand to four times its original volume, seeds split open when boiled and reveal a translucent seed part and a tiny white circle.
Aroma: earthy
Flavor: nutty, slightly grassy flavor and a light, fluffy texture, pleasantly firm chew.
Nutritional value: staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain”, gluten-free, provides a complete protein (all nine essential amino acids), unlike true grains
Culinary uses: grains and leaves cook fast (boiled), used in soups, salads, side dishes, main dishes, puddings, ground into flour, made into pasta. rinse before cooking to remove bitter outer coating (saponin). Bring to a boil 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Simmer 12-15 minutes.

 

Rice (Oryza sativa  – Asia, glaberrima – Africa)

Rice is a staple for almost half the world’s population. There are tens of thousands of varieties of rice. Rice is native to Asia, Africa, and wild rice in North America (wild rice is not directly related to Asian rice).

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Africa, Asia – China
Climate: tropical, warm, requires a lot of water
Life cycle: perennial grown as an annual
Appearance: rice is a grass plant which can grow up to 3 feet tall. Its upright stem has spikes that bend or arch at the top.  Rice can be long-, medium-, or short-grained. Whole grain rice is brown, black, green, and red.
Aroma: basmati and jasmine rice have an aroma of pandan and popcorn, black rice has an aroma of pandan, popcorn, smoky, rose, and citrus peel
Flavor: sweet, nutty, toasty, hints of caramel
Nutritional value: dietary fiber, vitamins B and E, iron, protein, gluten-free.
Culinary uses: usually eaten cooked, steamed, boiled, fried, ground into flour and made into noodles, crackers, cakes. Bring to a boil 1 cup brown rice with 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer covered 25 – 45 minutes.

 

 

Rye (Secale cereale)

closely related to wheat and barley

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Western Europe
Climate:
temperate
Life cycle: perennial, annual
Appearance: 
Aroma: semi-refined rye is cooked potato, mushroomy, caramel, fenugreek, and fatty
Flavor: malty, earthy, nutty, tangy, rich
Nutritional value: vitamins B & E, iron, zinc, fiber, protein
Culinary uses: eaten cooked, ground into flour and baked into bread, crackers, cookies or boiled and used in salad. To cook rye berries, soak them overnight. Then cook 1 cup dry rye grains with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, simmer 45 – 60 minutes.

 

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)

Also called milo.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Africa, Fertile Crescent
Climate: drought and heat-resistant
Life cycle: 
annual
Appearance: Also known as Indian millet, sorghum is an important grain crop in India, West Africa, and China. The sorghum plant is highly drought-resistant. Sorghum is a grass plant that can grow up to 15 feet high. the stems and leaves are coated with a white wax, and the tiny flowers grow in clusters. Sorghum is a small starchy grain smaller than wheat.
Aroma: sweet/fruity, green, floral, fatty, citrus-like, roasty/nutty, sulphury/smoky/mushroom
Flavor: sweet, mild nutty flavor with hints of corn or wheat, a hearty texture, pleasant firm chew
Nutritional value: protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin B (B1, B3, B6), iron, manganese, gluten-free
Culinary uses: eaten raw when young and milky, has to be cooked when mature. Sorghum is eaten whole like rice and popped like popcorn, and it is also ground into a meal and made into a porridge or flatbread or boiled for grain salads and pilafs. Sweet sorghums, or sorgos, are grown to make sweet syrup. By products include oil, starch, dextrose, paste, and alcoholic beverages. Bring to a boil 1 cup sorghum with 4 cups water. Simmer 25 – 40 minutes.

Teff (Eragrostis tef)

A staple food in Ethiopia for thousands of years, the name teff is thought to originate from the Amharic word teffa, which means “lost”, likely because of the tiny size of the grains.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Eritrea
Climate:
tropical
Life cycle: annual
Appearance: teff is a grass plant that has thin stems and shallow fibrous roots which form a large root system. flowers at the tip of the stems produce tiny (less than 1 mm diameter) grains that range in color from white to deep red-brown. The seeds are tiny.
Aroma: nutty, fresh
Flavor: mildly sweet, nutty, undertones of hazelnut and cocoa.
Nutritional value: dietary fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, gluten-free.
Culinary uses: teff is ground into flour to make injeraa soft, spongy, slightly fermented flatbread that is very popular in Ethiopia. Bring to a boil 1 cup of teff with 3 cups water. Simmer 20 minutes.

 

 

Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

Wheat has been farmed by humans for over 10,000 years. Farro, Emmer, and Kamut are related to wheat.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s):
seeds
Native region(s): Fertile Crescent
Climate: temperate
Life cycle:
annual
Appearance: green to brown grass plants grow to be around 3 feet high. Each plant has long, hollow stems that each produce a spike with spikelets where the seeds form. the leaves are long and narrow.
Aroma: whole wheat is vanilla, honey, caramel, fenugreek, fatty, sweaty, and potato; refined wheat is vanilla, honey, caramel, fenugreek, and fatty
Flavor: nutty, slightly sweet, earthy, pleasant fluffy, chewy texture
Nutritional value: protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin B (B1, B3, B6), iron, mangangese
Culinary uses: eaten cooked whole wheat berries in salads. Bulgur wheat is grains of wheat that are parboiled, dried, crushed, and de-branned, is used in soups and warm or cold salads such as tabouli, wheat grain ground into flour is made into bread, pasta, bagels, biscuits, crackers, pastries and desserts. Hard wheat is grown in the winter, high in gluten, for making bread; soft wheat is grown in the summer, low gluten, for making pastries. Wheat bran, the by-product of milled wheat, is used to enrich breads and breakfast cereals. Bring to boil 1 cup wheat berries with 2 1/2 – 4 cups water. Simmer 25 – 40 minutes. Soak (or simmer) 1 cup bulgur in with 2 cups boiling water, covered, 10-12 minutes.

 

 

Wild rice (Zizania – aquatic, palustris, or texana)

Wild rice is not actually related to rice, it is a wild aquatic grass that grows in shallow water. Native Americans traditionally harvested wild rice in a canoe, using sticks to knock the ripe rice seeds into the canoe.

Family: Poaceae
Edible part(s): 
seeds
Native region(s): North America – upper Great Lakes 
Climate: temperate
Life cycle: 
annual
Appearance: wild rice is a grass plant that grows in shallow waters of streams and lakes.
Aroma: nutty, smoky, tealike, green
Flavor: aromatic, nutty flavor, chewy texture
Nutritional value: vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, iron fiber, protein
Culinary uses: eaten cooked, in salads, soups, stuffings, pilafs. Bring to a boil 1 cup wild rice with 3 cups water. Simmer 45-55 minutes.