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Ancient Grains – People Want Something Different

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Touch the Soil News #191

The research company “Packaged Facts” has recently reported on the stellar rise of ancient grains in U.S. diets. Unlike modern hybrid “gluten” wheat grains – that have removed diversity from human diets – ancient grains are providing a nutritious alternative. The most recent data is for the 52 weeks ending 7/13/14. Following is a short recap of their treks to greater use:

Sales of Kamut, also known as Khorasan Wheat, are skyrocketing

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Kamut – sales up 686 percent. Kamut is the trademark name for Khorasan Wheat. This ancient grain is a wheat species whose kernel is twice the size of modern-day wheat. According to legend, Kamut was found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, hence the nickname King Tut’s Wheat.

The Greek Goddess Demeter is credited with giving Spelt to the world

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Spelt – sales up 363 percent. Spelt is also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat. Its origins go back to 5,000 BCE. In Greek mythology, spelt was a gift to the Greeks from the Goddess Demeter – the Goddess of agriculture and harvest. Legend has it that since the Greeks were a seafaring people, it was introduced to Europe and other countries around the world.

Freekaeh, a specialty roasted grain, is an ancient dish often served with vegetables

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Freekeh – sales up 159 percent. Freekeh is actually a cereal food made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production. Freekeh is mentioned in an early 13th century Baghdad cook book. Freekeh is also popular in Egypt.

Amaranth is thought to have represented 80 percent of the Aztec peoples caloric consumption

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Amaranth – sales up 123 percent. Amaranth, known to the Aztecs as huauhti, it is thought to have represented 80 percent of the Aztec’s caloric consumption before Spanish conquest. Amaranth is toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses and chocolate to make a treat called alegria – meaning joy in Spanish. Modern sources of Amaranth were recovered in Mexico from wild varieties. Amaranth is gluten-free, easy to cook and contains a protein well-suited to human nutritional needs.

Teff - a specialty grain - originated in Ethiopia some 6,000 years ago

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Teff – sales up 58 percent. Teff is a unique grain high in dietary fiber, iron, protein and calcium. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is smaller and cooks faster. Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia some 6,000 years ago. In 1996, the US National Research Council characterized teff as having the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security and foster rural development.

Quinoa - a stapel of the Inca peoples - was sacred and the first seeds each year were sown by the Inca emporer

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Quinoa – sales up 35 percent. This grain is high in protein and tolerant of dry soil. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. declared 2013 to be the year of Quinoa. Quinoa was domesticated by the Andean people around 6,000 years ago. The Incas held the crop to be sacred and it was the Incan emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using golden implements. Since 1970, world production of Quinoa has increased from 17.1 metric tons to over 80 metric tons a year.

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