Quinoa: Pronounced KEEN-WAH, this grain comes from the Andes Mountains in South America and once provided a staple food source for the Incas. Quinoa includes all eight essential amino acids which makes it a good protein source. It makes an excellent hot cereal, salad, or side dish, and is delicious in soups and stews. When cooked, its tell-tale curly-cues are soft and provide a wonderful texture on your plate.
Amaranth: An ancient Aztec grain rich in protein and calcium, amaranth cooks up with a soupy consistency that is excellent served with vegetables or stews. Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fries or to soups as a nutrient dense thickening agent.
Teff: The smallest grain, about the size of a poppy seed, teff is packed with protein and minerals particularly iron. Native to Africa, it is available in three colors – white, red, and brown – each with its own distinct flavor. Delicious in porridge, stews, stuffing, and pilaf, teff is delicious cooked alone or in combination with other grains and vegetables. Teff is the main ingredient in the soft pancake-like injera served in Ethiopian restaurants.
Millet: A small, round grain with a sweet, nutty taste, millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans. Millet is an alkaline grain, and is soothing and easily digested. One of the least allergenic grains, millet is an excellent addition to your diet. The flavor can be enhanced by lightly roasting the grain in a dry pan before adding water for cooking.
Buckwheat: Despite having “wheat” in its name, buckwheat does not contain wheat and is actually not a grain at all, but a relative of rhubarb. Found raw or roasted (Kasha) at your local natural foods store, this nutty grain is delicious for cold-weather eating. Raw hulled buckwheat can be soaked, sprouted, and dried for a delicious grain-free granola.
- Peruvians use fermented amaranth seed to make “chicha” or beer. In the Cusco area the flowers are used to treat toothache and fevers and as a food colorant for maize and quinoa. During the carnival festival women dancers often use the red amaranth flower as rouge—painting their cheeks, then dancing while carrying bundles of amaranth on their backs as they would a baby.
- One pound of teff can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks. This amount is hundreds of times smaller than that required for planting wheat. This productive potential and minimal time and seed requirements have protected the Ethiopians from hunger when their food supply was under attack from numerous invaders.
- Quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.
- Buckwheat is the seed of a flower, related to the plant rhubarb.
- Millet grows in heads on the top of stalks 1 to 10 feet high, and ripens in 60 to 90 days. It is drought resistant and will grow in relatively infertile areas, and since it also matures in such a short time, it is widely cultivated in less agriculturally developed areas.