If you’ve read our article on common favorite kitchen tools, then you’re already one step closer to maximizing the use of your kitchen. Now, it’s understandable if you still need a little more help. This is especially true when dealing with ingredients that you may be unfamiliar with. To help you out, we’ll be giving you a crash course on ancient grains. While ancient grains have been increasing in popularity, there are still people who know very little about what they are and how to prepare them.
What Are Ancient Grains and What Are Their Benefits?
While there is no strict definition of ancient grains, grains that have been largely unchanged for hundreds of years are often considered as ancient grains. To better understand this, let’s look at wheat. Wheat, a grain that has been bred and modified over the years, isn’t an ancient grain. In fact, this article highlights how researchers have managed to trace the genetic history and diversity of wheat highlighting just how much it has changed over the years.
Benefits of Ancient Grains
So are there benefits to consuming ancient grains over the modified grains we have today? Well, the short answer is yes. Huff Post’s feature on why ancient grains are the superfoods of the future highlight how ancient grains are packed with nutrients such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Best Ways to Prepare Ancient Grains
One great thing about ancient grains is how easy it is to incorporate them into your diet. There are several ways to go about this, as you can basically just swap them out with your staple grain of choice. But to use ancient grains this way would be rather bland, as you won’t be maximizing their unique flavor profiles by just subbing out modern grains for ancient ones.
Ancient Grains and How to Prepare Them
Amaranth is a pseudocereal that was a staple food for the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. While it isn’t a cereal grain, it shares qualities with a cereal such as wheat and oat. Its most identifiable quality is its nutty flavor, making it a great choice for a multitude of dishes.
When it comes to preparing amaranth, it’s all about soaking the grains overnight. You won’t need special instruments to do this but a container that can be sealed would be preferable to avoid contamination. This article on the ‘Ultimate Guide to Aroma Rice Cookers’ highlights that their rice cookers are pretty versatile. To the point that most of them can even double as a rice washer, so soaking the amaranth in these types of rice cookers should be no problem at all.
Let them soak for at least eight hours to get the best results. Soaking them for less time is okay if you’re in a pinch but will result in a slightly chewier end product. From there you can basically treat it as you would oats to make oatmeal and use it for porridge with fresh berries.
Farro’s origins can be traced back to Mesopotamia. It’s important to note that farro isn’t one single type of grain. It’s actually a catch-all term that refers to einkorn, emmer, and spelt. When it comes to flavor and texture, farro closely resembles rice and quinoa with a nuttier flavor profile.
While you can use farro as a rice substitute, it can also be used as a pasta alternative. In fact, this recipe published in the New York Times has even found a way to integrate farro into comfort food staples such as mac and cheese. You’ll need whole farro for this (pre-soaked overnight) and you need to cook it down for about 30 minutes or until the grains are tender.
Barley’s origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt. This highly nutritious ancient grain is rather common and is a staple in the standard American diet. It’s packed with fiber and other minerals like manganese and selenium. Flavorwise, barley has an evident nutty flavor that goes well with just about any dish.
Preparing barley is a breeze. Just add barley in a heavy saucepan with 3 cups of water or stock (vegetable stock is a good option) and leave it on until it reaches a boil. From there reduce the heat to a simmer and check for doneness. It should take around 25 to 40 minutes (25 for pearl barley and 40 for hulled barley).
Millet is a cereal grain commonly eaten in Africa and Asia. It’s become increasingly popular recently as it’s a good gluten-free alternative that also boasts high protein and fiber.
When it comes to preparation, you can treat it as you would couscous. Just toast the grains in oil until they turn golden brown. Season to taste and add parsley or coriander and let it simmer until all the liquid from the pan is soaked up by the grains.
Before wheat become the common option for breadmaking that it is today, rye was the default option for breadmaking in Europe. Rye is considerably more nutritious than wheat. This mostly has to do with the fact that rye is harder to refine, allowing it to retain more of its nutrients. It contains more fiber than wheat and is packed with vitamins and minerals.
Rye is pretty easy to prepare as all you’ll really need to do is to boil it. Just add one cup of rye that you soaked overnight into a saucepan. A good rule of thumb is 3 cups of water for every cup of rye. Once the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a steady simmer. The rye should be ready within 45 minutes but cooking time may vary so it helps to check on it every now and then.
We hope this article helped you out and encouraged you to try and prepare some of these ancient grains yourself. If you have any favorite ancient grain recipes and would like to share them with our readers, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Authored by Celeste Pierce for the sole publishing of christinepalumbo.com
Celeste Pierce is a UK-based health and wellness enthusiast and writer. Passionate about helping people, she hopes her articles inspire others to live better and healthier lives.