Wet Wheat
Ancient Grains,  Culinary History,  Food History,  History

What Are Ancient Grains?

This month’s historic food spotlight is on ancient grains. It seemed appropriate for these short autumnal days of harvest and golden sunlight.
But to tell you the truth, the phrase “ancient grains” sounds like an oxymoron to me. Aren’t all grains pretty ancient? We humans have been eating wheat, barley, spelt, corn, rice, oats and rye (among other grains) for many long years now. Growing them, harvesting them and then carefully storing them was the way of life for our ancestors for hundreds of years. How well the grain harvests did often meant the difference between survival and starvation. These grains have been feeding us for thousands of years and are still feeding us. If that doesn’t give you an appreciation for grain, I don’t know what will! 🙂
Yes, I know that there are a lot of gluten-free people out there. My mom is one of them and my family, in general, doesn’t eat a lot of bread. Which leaves me, who LOVES bread, nibbling on her slice alone. And yes, I could eat a whole loaf by myself, especially if it is homemade, but I digress.
Once again, I am spotlighting ancient grains this month, so that begs the question, of course, of what are ancient grains?
Ancient grains, by loose definition, are grains that have been cultivated the same way for centuries. They are from the grass family and are scientifically known as cereal grains. Fair, enough. So, besides the all-popular wheat, this means that the following are considered ancient grains:

1. Barley
2. Spelt
3. Kamut
4. Sorghum
5. Corn
6. Rye
7. Teff
8. Freekeh
(That’s a fun one to say. Free-kuh! Frreee-kuuh! 🙂
9. Bulgur
10. Farro
11. Oats
12. Rice
13. Millet

Surprised that some of the recently “rediscovered” newer “ancient grains” aren’t on this list? Not everything that may be typically called an ancient grain now days is a grain. Quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth for example are actually seeds! They come from the family which scientists label “pseudocereal grains”.

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