Whether emmer or buckwheat, millet or quinoa: local ancient grains and exotic pseudo-grains bring variety to the kitchen. Grains, flour and processed products can now be bought not only in organic shops and health food stores but also in supermarkets.
Ancient grains such as einkorn, emmer, unripe spelt and millet have been cultivated for thousands of years.
Pseudo grains like amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are becoming increasingly popular with us.
Pseudo and ancient grain varieties are healthy and provide variety on our plates.
Already 10,000 years ago ancient types of grain such as einkorn, emmer, unripe spelt and millet were cultivated in Asia Minor and soon also in Europe. However, with the cultivation of higher-yielding grain types that were easier to process – above all wheat – they lost their importance from the Middle Ages.
They are currently making a comeback, especially in domestic organic farming. Just like the classic grains, the ancient grains belong to the sweet grass family. However, they are more nutritious and richer in minerals.
The situation is similar with the pseudo-grains: amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds and quinoa are similar to grain in terms of appearance, use and processing. However, they belong to completely different plant families and are therefore called “pseudo-cereals”. The grains are hailed as “Supergrain” thanks to their richness in carbohydrates, protein, minerals and fat.
Pseudocereals form only very small amounts of gluten. The pseudo-cereals are at home in warmer climates. They come to us primarily from Eastern Europe and South America. The health value is bought with long transport routes and burdens on the ecosystem.
The individual ancient grains at a glance
When it comes to einkorn, the name says it all: in each spikelet there is only a single soft, yellow-colored grain, the shell of which has to be laboriously removed. Due to the complex harvest and processing as well as the low yields, einkorn ekes out a niche existence. However, it has gained in importance in recent years, especially among organic farmers. They rely on the ancient grain because it makes few demands on the location, needs little fertilizer and is resistant to pests and diseases.
Einkorn can score points with consumers for its health benefits: the ancient grain owes its intense yellowish color to its extremely high lutein content. This carotenoid scavenges free radicals, boosts vision, eyes, immune and cardiovascular systems. The content of high-quality proteins, minerals and trace elements also exceeds that of modern wheat. Einkorn flour gives bread, pastries and pasta a slightly nutty taste. Since the grain can only bind a small amount of water, the result is firm, sticky dough. Mixtures with wheat or rye flour work well.
Emmer, also called Zweikorn, is a close relative of Einkorn, but has two very hard grains in each spikelet. Depending on the variety, the husks are white, brown or black. It is popular with organic farmers thanks to its robustness. In addition, the yields are higher than those of einkorn, but still far lower than those of wheat.
In terms of content – with a particularly large amount of protein and minerals – emmer is similar to einkorn. However, its taste is much stronger. This makes the cooked grains popular ingredients for soups and stews, salads, casseroles and patties. Emmer flour is easy to process into hearty dough for wholemeal bread and rolls. In addition, emmer grains are also used to produce dark, mostly cloudy and very flavorful beer. You can read all further information about Emmer in the article Emmer: That is why the ancient grain is so healthy.
Grünkern was born out of necessity in the 17th century: severe storms threatened to destroy the spelled harvest, so the farmers brought in the grain before it was ripe. They quickly discovered that the dried kernels boiled with water made a tasty and filling ingredient, e.g. B. are in the stew. This led to the tradition of harvesting part of the spelled as a green grain. After threshing, the soft, juicy grains are dried or roasted. This creates its typical olive-green color and the spicy, slightly smoky aroma. Thanks to the special treatment, the grains not only last longer than other types of grain, but are also harder, i.e. easier to grind.
Among the inner values, the high content of vitamins from the B group, plenty of magnesium, phosphorus, iron and protein are outstanding. In the trade there is unripe spelt as whole grains, as meal, flakes, semolina and of course as flour. Whole grains can be stored in a dark, cool place for about a year. It takes a little time to prepare: the basic rule is to cook for 10 minutes plus let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes over a low heat. Soaking overnight reduces the cooking time to 10 to 15 minutes.
Whole unripe spelt is good in risotto or in a patty, on a salad, in a soup or as a filling for vegetables. Crushed green spelled should be used up quickly. Flakes end up in muesli or in dumpling dough, flour in all kinds of baked goods. The high gluten content makes the dough particularly fluffy.
Millet is a collective term for ten to twelve cereal genera and numerous types. Its small, rounded seeds were already being used as food by the Chinese, Indians and Greeks around 8,000 years ago. Even today, the most important millet-growing countries are in Asia and Africa. The sorghum millets with their strikingly large grains are particularly productive. Other well-known genera are proso millet, foxtail millet, pearl millet and finger millet.
All types of millet are characterized by significant amounts of B vitamins, fiber and minerals. However, millet can also contain undesirable substances such as oxalic or phytic acid. They are primarily found in the shell. When buying, it is best to use peeled goods of organic quality. Whole grains can replace rice in almost any recipe. They must be rinsed under hot running water before preparation to remove the slightly rancid taste. Millet in the form of flour, semolina or flakes is primarily processed into porridge or flatbread. Millet does not contain gluten and is therefore well suited for people with celiac disease.
The pseudo-grains amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa
Even discounters now have the grains of the pseudo-grain amaranth on offer. The seeds of the foxtail plant, which needs warmth, are tiny and have been a staple food in South and Central America for around 3,000 years. Amaranth owes its currently growing popularity in our latitudes to its great abundance of easily digestible nutrients and vital substances. The high-quality protein is outstanding. But iron, magnesium, potassium and the essential amino acid lysine are also contained in considerable amounts.
The fine, nutty taste goes well with sweet and savory dishes. Thanks to the lack of gluten, the grains are an ideal alternative to conventional grain for people with gluten intolerance. Whole seeds are thoroughly rinsed under running hot water, then boiled with two to three times the amount of water for about half an hour and allowed to swell a little. They are good as a side dish or ingredient in stir-fries, casseroles and patties. Amaranth flour is suitable for cakes, bread and pastries and should be mixed with wheat, spelled or rye flour in a ratio of 1:2. Without gluten, the dough otherwise lacks stability and flexibility. Children can be tempted with homemade popcorn. Puffed aramanth is also found in many cereals and bars.
Despite the name, buckwheat does not belong to the cereals, but to the knotweed family. Its small pyramid-like seed fruits are reminiscent of beechnuts. Today, its homeland China is one of the largest growing areas alongside North America. The undemanding, warmth-loving buckwheat has been cultivated here since the Middle Ages as a stopgap on sandy and moorland soils or even after slash and burn. However, small harvest quantities and complex processing make it an uneconomical crop, so that there are only few cultivation areas in this country.
Buckwheat provides plenty of carbohydrates and high-quality protein, as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins, as well as the secondary plant substance rutin. Whole, peeled grains can be prepared and combined like rice. They develop their aroma particularly well if they are briefly roasted in a pan before cooking. For buckwheat groats, the grains are crushed and served with fruit. Buckwheat sprouts are crisp, fresh salad toppings. Buckwheat flour is particularly fine and indispensable in Russian blinis, in pancakes, waffles and cakes. Grains rich in gluten, soy flour, locust bean gum or even an egg compensate for the missing gluten.
Quinoa is also at home in South America. The undemanding foxtail plant even thrives in the heights of Peru or Bolivia. The local shelves are stocked primarily from the equatorial regions. The yellow, white or reddish seeds of the quinoa plant are high-energy sources of valuable proteins, polyunsaturated fatty acids and minerals. Celiac patients can also enjoy the variety of taste: quinoa does not contain gluten. Depending on the variety, however, there are larger amounts of saponins in the seeds. Although these bitter substances are reduced before sale by washing in a water bath or by polishing the grains, small residues can cause intolerance in small children.
At home, after washing, the quinoa seeds are prepared similarly to rice. They swell up a lot and therefore need a lot of liquid. When cooked, the grains become yellowish and glassy. Caution: Do not cook for too long, otherwise the grains will lose their bite. Whole grains are served as a side dish or soup ingredient.