Whole grains have been a central element of the human diet since early civilization. Once harvested, these grains have a very long shelf-life, providing energy during harsh seasons when fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce. Many hunter-gatherers settled down into farming communities as they began to cultivate grain crops and domesticate animals. Each region had their staple grains, including corn (the Americas), rice (Asia), sorghum (Africa), wheat (Middle East and Europe), and buckwheat (Russia). Because of varying lifestyle and dietary factors, very few people were overweight.
Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins. Because the body absorbs grains slowly, they provide sustained and high-quality energy.1
The quickest way to create great grains is to experiment and find what works for you. Remember one cup of dry grain yields enough for 2 to 4 people. Here are basic directions:
1. Measure the grain, check for bugs or unwanted material, and rinse in cold water using a fine mesh strainer.
2. Optional: soak grains for one to eight hours to soften and increase digestibility. Drain grains and discard the soaking water.
3. Add grains to recommended amount of water and bring to a boil.
4. A pinch of sea salt may be added to grains to help the cooking process, with the exception of kamut, amaranth and spelt (salt interferes with their cooking time).
5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for the suggested amount of time, without stirring during the cooking process.
6. Chew well and enjoy every bite!
All liquid measures and times are approximate. Cooking length depends on how strong the heat is. It’s a good idea, especially for beginners, to lift the lid and check the water level halfway through cooking and toward the end,
making sure there is still enough water to not scorch the grains, but don’t stir. Taste the grains to see if they are fully cooked or starting to burn.
Cooked grains keep very well. Busy people can prepare larger quantities of grains and simply reheat with a little oil or water later in the week. Also, keep in mind that roasting grains makes them more alkaline.2 Cooking larger grains like brown rice, barley and berries in a pressure cooker speeds up cooking time and creates softer grains.
*The texture of grains can be changed by boiling the water before adding the grains. This will keep the grains separated and prevent a mushy consistency. Do not add kasha to cold water, as it will not cook properly. For a softer, more porridge-like consistency, boil the grain and liquid together.
**Technically not a grain, but a small pasta product made from wheat and does not require soaking.