If you’ve ever cooked up some quinoa or sprinkled chia seeds into a smoothie or salad, you’ve already experienced a taste of ancient grains. These nutritious and increasingly popular foods (some are actually seeds) have helped sustain people around the world for ages.
Almost 8,000 years ago, amaranth was first cultivated in Mesoamerica, where it became a staple of the ancient Aztec diet. Kamut, an ancient wheat variety that’s now a traditional grain of Egypt, was discovered around 6,000 B.C. And millet, a popular grain in Asia, was first cultivated nearly 10,000 years ago.
Ancient grains like these and others—chia, farro, quinoa, teff, spelt and more—have just as much to offer today as they did way back when. For starters, many ancient grains are naturally gluten-free, making them ideal for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Amaranth, millet, quinoa, teff and sorghum (a hearty staple in Africa and India) are all free of gluten.
When it comes to nutrition, ancient grains also deliver a lot of bang for the buck. That’s why chia, for one, is considered a superfood. This nutritional darling boasts substantial fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and essential minerals. Kamut, teff and quinoa are all rich sources of iron and protein, and amaranth (a small seed) is a rich source of amino acids, fiber, magnesium, and iron.
Ancient grains are versatile and hearty, making them an easy addition to your everyday diet. Substitute them for other grains in recipes to add variety and a nutritional boost. Millet stands in for rice in salads and stir-fries, try amaranth and teff for baking, and use nutty, chewy farro in stews, salads, and casseroles. No ancient tools or special fire-building skills required!
Recipes courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, which recently debuted Bob’s Red Mill Grains of Discovery featuring ancient grains and seeds sourced from around the world. bobsredmill.com
LEMON CHIA FRESCA
This summery spritzer is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which makes a good excuse to drink it in any season.
1 tablespoon chia seed
1/2 cup water
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
32 ounces club soda
lemon wedges to garnish
1. Stir together chia seeds and water and chill overnight.
2. Combine lemon juice and evaporated cane juice and heat just until granules have dissolved. Let cool completely before using.
3. Fill four glasses with ice. Divide chia gel and lemon syrup evenly between each glass and top with club soda. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Yield 15 servings
1 cup organic amaranth grains
2 tablespoon diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoon gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Oil, to fry
1. Place amaranth, onion, garlic and stock in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
2. Transfer cooked amaranth to a bowl and let cool.
3. Once amaranth has cooled, add egg, flour, and chopped basil. Mix well.
4. Heat oil over medium-high heat about 1/4-inch deep in a wide skillet. Drop two tbsp batter per serving into the hot oil. Let cook until browned on one side, about two minutes, then turn to cook on other side.
5. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt to taste.
6. Serve with tomato sauce or salsa.