(Not written by Agatha M. Thrash)
Amaranth is a tall bushy plant with broad leaves, a showy flower and seed head. A relative of pigweed, it is grown for the leaves as a vegetable and for the seeds as a grain.
Amaranth has a mild, sweet nutty flavor that lends itself well to breads and other baked goods. Use 1 part amaranth flour to 3 to 4 parts other grain flours.
Amaranth seeds can be cooked for hot cereal and becomes rather gelatinous when it is boiled. The seeds are also good puffed like popcorn, or sprouted by spreading the seeds on moistened paper towels in a flat pan and covering the pan with aluminum foil. The sprouts are ready in 4-6 days.
Amaranth is a high-protein grain (15-18%) and is high in the amino acids lysine and methionine. It is a high fiber grain with notable levels of calcium and iron. Unlike most grains, it is high in Vitamin C and also contains Vitamin A. It has a fairly high amount of fat, about 7%.
Amaranth was originally grown by Aztecs in what is now Mexico, where it was used as a basic food as well as in religious ceremonies. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs in 1519, they banned the religious ceremonies and the growing of amaranth. It is now readily available in many natural food stores and directly from growers in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and other states.
Amaranth is best stored in a cool, dark place in a tightly covered container. The flour should be refrigerated and used within 3-6 months.
Buckwheat grains are the seed of an herb. Its name was derived from bockweit, a Dutch term for beech wheat, because of its resemblance to beechnuts and its nutritious similarities to wheat.
The buckwheat plant is bush like and grows to about 3 feet in height. It is related to dock and rhubarb. Leaves of the plant are heart-shaped, and the stems grow clusters of very fragrant flowers which are especially attractive to bees.
Buckwheat seeds are called groats. They are especially difficult to hull because the seeds are three-cornered, thus they require special hulling machines. Buckwheat groats can be cooked for a breakfast cereal. They can be dextrinized (roasted in a dry skillet). Add 2 to 2.5 times as much boiling water, cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Groats may also be toasted and eaten by themselves or in combination with other nuts and seeds.
The nutritional value of buckwheat is similar to that of wheat. Its notable vitamins are thiamine and riboflavin and notable minerals are calcium and phosphorus. Dark buckwheat flour contains more of the hull than the light flour. The amino acid lysine is present in the hull, so dark buckwheat flour is a slightly better protein source than the light.
Corn is a grain that is larger than most other cereals. It grows on stalks. The corn "ears" are 8-12 inches long, 2-3 inches in diameter and have about 1,000 kernels on the cob.
Cornmeal is usually made from "dent" corn (the seeds indent upon drying). Dent corn is harder and starchier than sweet corn eaten as a vegetable. Other types of corn are popcorn, and flint corn (Indian corn), which has multicolored kernels. Blue corn has a rich flavor and about 20% more protein and higher levels of lysine and minerals than does yellow corn.
Dried dent corn can be soaked in water and added to soups and casseroles. It may be ground into cornmeal or corn flour.
Cornmeal is coarsely ground whole kernels, which may or may not have been hulled and degerminated.
Corn flour is finely ground corn usually used to make tortillas or other flat breads and added to baked goods such as cookies and bread. It is made from whole kernels or hulled and degerminated.
Corn is the only common grain that contains Vitamin A. The yellow varieties have more than the white ones. It also has notable quantities of the B-complex vitamins. Degerminated corn is usually enriched with artificial B-complex vitamins and iron. The niacin found in corn is usually in a "bound" form, which makes it unavailable to the human body. Due to this deficiency, the disease pellagra is found in some places where corn is a main food. If corn is treated with alkaline substances (such as lime from limestone used in tortillas and wood ashes used in hominy) the niacin is released and made usable by the body.
Corn provides the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc.
Store cornmeal and flour in covered containers in a cool, dry place, and refrigerate them if used infrequently. They can become rancid, due to the high oil content in the germ, which is exposed to air after grinding.
Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans. It is the chief source of carbohydrates for the northern Chinese as well as many people in Africa and India. The national bread of Ethiopia, injera, is made from finely ground millet flour.
It is cultivated mostly in the Eastern hemisphere specifically in countries with primitive agricultural practices and high population densities. It grows well in poorly fertilized and dry soils.
Millet is related to sorghum, a grain that is cooked into a sweet, molasses-like syrup. A wild millet, foxtail, is a weed found in roadside ditches and some farm fields.
Millet can be cooked as you would rice, using 3 parts water to 1 part millet and cooking 45-50 minutes. Cooked millet is good in casseroles, breads, stews, souffles, and stuffing. Use it as you would rice.
Millet is high in B-complex vitamins and protein. It contains lecithin and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most easily digestible of all grains.
Popcorn ears and kernels are smaller than other types of corn. The kernels have a hard hull and a higher percentage of endosperm that other corn. When popcorn pops, the moisture inside the kernels turns into steam and creates pressure of up to 250 pounds per square inch, at 400° F. This pressure forces the kernel to burst, the endosperm exploding through the hull.One cup of plain popcorn only has 25 calories. It is high in fiber and contains some B-complex vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Iroquois Indians in the early 1600s popped corn in potter vessels placed in heated sand. In the United States, an estimated 33 quarts of popcorn are eaten per person per year.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an herb originating in the Andes region of South America. It is related to lambsquarters (a garden weed with nutritious leaves) and grows from 3-6 feet high and produces a bushy head of colorful seeds. These round, usually pale yellow seeds resemble millet, although they are flat and have a band around the center. The quinoa seeds are covered with a resinous, bitter substance called saponin. To rid the seeds of this they must be washed in alkaline water before they are marketed and eaten.
Quinoa quadruples in size when cooked. After rinsing and straining the seeds, cook them using 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water for 15-20 minutes. Quinoa is great with vegetables and in casseroles. The uncooked seeds can be added to soups as you would rice or barley.
Quinoa flour can be used in pancakes, muffins, crackers, cookies and pastries. For an infant cereal: boil 1 C. water, stir in 1/4 C. flour, and cook 20 minutes over low heat.
To sprout quinoa, soak about 1/3 C. seeds in a jar for 2-4 hours. Drain and rinse the seeds twice a day. In 2-4 days, the sprouts will be about an inch long. Put them near a window to allow them to turn green, then eat them in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish.
Quinoa is 16-20% protein. It is high in the essential amino acids cystine, lysine, and methionine - amino acids typically low in other grains. It also has good amounts of iron, calcium and phosphorus. It is higher in fat (6-7%) than most other grains. Present also are B-Complex vitamins and vitamin E.
The seeds are best stored in a covered container in a cool, dry place. Use them within a year. The flour, because of the high oil content, should be refrigerated to prevent rancidity. Use it within 3-6 months. The Incas of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador once relied on quinoa as a staple food until the Spanish conquests in the 1500s. It has become more widely available in the United States since two entrepreneurs learned of the food from a Bolivian. They began test plots in high arid fields in the Central Rockies and test marketing in 1985.
Rice is a staple food for over half the earth's people and is one of the main grains grown for human consumption. Up to 400 pounds of rice per person per year are consumed in the Far East, compared to only about 10 pounds in the United States.
Brown rice is the whole rice with only the hull removed. It is available as short-, medium-, and long-grain rice. The shorter grain contains more of the starchy substance called glutin (not to be confused with gluten) so the main difference between short- and long-grain rice, besides size, is that short rice cooks up sticky and long rice comes out fluffy.
Converted (parboiled) rice is processed by steeping and steaming the grain in water before milling. Vitamins and minerals from the hull, bran, and germ are infused into the starchy part of the grain. The rice is then milled in the same way as ordinary white rice.
White rice has the hull, bran, and germ removed. White pigments, such as chalk or talc, and preservatives may be added to white rice.
Sweet rice, is a short-grain, waxy variety that cooks into a very sticky paste. It is often used in desserts, in gravies, and for baby food cereal. Mochi, a Japanese dish, is made from cooked sweet rice which is pounded in a mortar until it becomes a heavy paste. The paste is then cut into cakes and baked or deep-fried.
Basmati rice is a special long-grain rice imported from India or Pakistan, which has a distinct aroma and flavor. Texmati rice is a cross between domestic long-grain and basmati rice. It is grown in Texas and may be erroneously labeled as basmati rice.
Rice flour is finely ground rice. It has a tiny crystalline appearance and is excellent for pie crusts, batter breads, and crackers.
Rice is generally cooked by simmering. Up to 10% of the thiamine in brown rice (25% in white rice) is lost by washing it. After bringing rice to a boil, cover it, and turn heat to lowest setting. Allow it to simmer gently until water is absorbed. Do not stir the rice because as it cooks little passageways form to allow it to cook evenly. Disturbing this network will result in a gummy, sticky texture. For variety add seasonings such as soy sauce, herbs, or onions to the rice before cooking.
Brown rice is higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. Converted rice contains similar levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals as brown rice. It is usually enriched with thiamine and iron. White rice has less protein and half the vitamins and minerals of brown rice.
Wild rice is a grass that grows in lakes. It has rounded, hollow stems and flat, pointed leaves. Tiny flowers form during July and the seeds appear 2-3 weeks later. It is not in the same botanical family as the other types of rice.
Prepare wild rice as you would other rice, using 2.5 to 3 c. water per cup of wild rice. It should be rinsed carefully to remove any dust or foreign particles. It triples in size when cooked.
Wild rice has a unique flavor, so you may want to mix it with other rice until you are used to the hearty, wild taste. Another way to eat wild rice is to pop it like popcorn. The Kernels will double in size. Try grinding wild rice into flour and using it in pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Use leftover cooked wild rice in homemade bread.
Wild rice contains twice as much protein as white rice. The amino acids lysine and methionine are more prevalent in wild rice than in most other cereals. It is low in fat and high in B-complex vitamins. Notable amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc are present.
Wild rice will keep indefinitely stored in a tightly covered container in a cool, dry place.
Wild rice is the only grain native to North America. It was a staple food for the Sioux and Chippewa Indians. Two thirds of the wild rice harvest is from Minnesota.
Teff has been a staple grain in Ethiopia and the eastern highland regions of Africa for thousands of years. The brown, red and white seeds are so small that about 150 teff seeds stuck together would be the same size as one kernel of wheat. Teff is grown as a food grain as well as an annual hay grass. Teff straw is sometimes mixed with mud to make thatch huts. Teff grows to a height of four feet and has been used as an ornamental grass in North American gardens.
Teff is used for making injera, the national bread of Ethiopia. A spongy flatbread, injera serves as a wrapper for food or it is torn and eaten like buns or chapati.
Teff is good in baked items like waffles, muffins, etc. Teff seeds can be used to make hot porridge and can be added to soups. It has a slightly robust, nutty flavor, and is somewhat mucilaginous, which makes it good for puddings or as a thickener in gravies. Mix cooked teff with herbs, garlic, and onions to make grain burgers or fillets. You can substitute teff seeds for sesame seeds (1 part teff to 2 parts sesame). It can also be sprouted.
Teff is amazingly high in iron. Brown teff is very rich in iron: one 2 ounce serving provides 25% of the U. S. Recommended Daily Allowance of iron. It provides thiamin (Vitamin B-2, calcium, and protein. The lysine content of teff is low so it is best to eat it with beans or peas or other high-lysine foods. Store it in a cool dry place in a closed container.
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