Amber Waves of Grain

Grains of one kind or another, are a staple part of cuisines from every corner of the earth. For thousands of years they have been valued for their simplicity of preparation and nutritional value. Middle Easterners use wheat to make bulghur, Italians use it to make pastas, North Africans to make couscous. Rice is the staple grain throughout the Orient, as is corn in South America and wild rice in North America. Grains not only pacified civilization's hunger but also "grounded" former nomads as they tended the land and subsequently developed our societies and so-called civilizations. For all their uses and applications, grains were considered one of the most revered foods. Gradually, animal foods & milled grains began to replace whole grains as the mainstay of the diets of the affluent. Milling removed the most nutritious parts of the grain, the bran & germ. Over time these polished grains were perceived as status symbols, much to the demise of the common people's health. The result was widespread vitamin deficiency diseases such as beriberi. Fortunately whole grains are making a comeback as an important part of a healthy diet.

Nutritionally Speaking
The key here is to use whole grains, not refined, artificially fortified grains. Each kernel of a whole grain is made up of three major components. The germ is a tiny nutrient-packed seed that provides fat, protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and is capable of sprouting into a new plant. The endosperm is comprised of complex carbohydrates encased in protein that provides initial energy to the grain embryo. The bran is a hard protective coat that provides fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are a source of long-lasting energy, a rich source of B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals, especially calcium, phosphorous and iron. Lastly, they are low in calories, fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.

Most Americans are familiar with corn (the only indigenous grain to the Americas), wheat, oats and rice. As cultures and cuisines from around the world begin to mix we are also introduced to others, quinoa, millet, polenta, teff, and spelt to name a few.

Buying & Storing Grains
Buying in bulk at Sundance helps reduce environmental and monetary costs of packaging and transporting your food to our bins. It also allows you to buy just as little or as much as you want. Just trying something for the first time? Buy a small amount. Eat rice twice a day, four times a week? Buy a 25 or 50 lb. bag and save 10% off the per pound price. Store your whole grains in a glass jar in a cool, dry place.

There's a world of possibilities awaiting your next meal. See the cooking chart below or try one of the many ethnic cookbooks in our book section. Whether you want to improvise or sample a worldly tradition, we can help you get started.

Grain How to Cook (1 cup grain) Characteristics
Amaranth to 2 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes Prized crop of the Aztecs; adds a crunchy texture to breads, cookies & casseroles.
Whole Barley to 3 cups water for 60 minutes. Has a pleasant, chewy texture; can be substituted for brown rice.
Buckwheat in 2 cups water for 10 minutes. Toasted buckwheat (kasha) has a robust, hearty flavor; good cold-weather fare.
Bulgur to 2 cups water for 10 minutes Made by soaking and cooking the whole wheat kernel, then removing 5% of the bran and cracking the remaining kernel into small pieces. It can be used in salads, soups, breads & desserts.
Corn Cook 1 cup coarse yellow or white cornmeal in 4 cups water for 30 minutes to make polenta. Top polenta with yogurt and/or maple syrup for breakfast, layer w/sauce & vegies for lasagna or pizza
Couscous in 2 1/2 cups water for 10 minutes Made from durum wheat, it tastes like pasta. Often served as a pilaf, couscous is a good source of protein.
Millet in 3 cups water for 30 minutes A welcome change to rice; light toasting gives it a pleasing aroma & almost nutty flavor. It adds texture & flavor to breads or can be ground and used like cornmeal.
Oats whole oats in 4 cups water for 60 minutes; rolled oats in 2 cups water for 10 minutes; steel cut oats in 3 cups water for 30 minutes. Oats are rich in protein & minerals. Although they have appeared on the breakfast table for many years, oat flour is a tasty addition to breads and baked goods.
Quinoa to 2 cups water for 15 minutes Although not a true grain, this prize of the Incas is a superior source of protein, as well as calcium, iron, vitamins & potassium. Tasty & quick cooking, it's a welcome addition to almost any dish, from salads to desserts.
Rice in 2 cups water - bring to a boil for 8 minutes, then reduce to low for 35 minutes Many different varieties abound, each with unique flavor and texture characteristics.
Rye in 2 cups water for about 10 minutes With a hearty flavor, it can be eaten like rolled oats or added to bread for chewiness.
Spelt Berries Use in place of wheat in baked goods, cereals & other recipes. Related to wheat but frequently tolerated by those with wheat allergies.
Teff in 3 cups water for 15 minutes The smallest grain in the world, its size prohibits it from being hulled, thus retaining all the whole grain nutrients. It's delicious in combination with other grains.

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: May 23, 1996