What's in a grain? The grains we typically eat in foods like bread and breakfast cereal begin as the seeds of grasses belonging to the Poaceae family. The most common types are wheat, corn, rice, rye, oats, and barley. Others have also become popular, such as sorghum, farro, and spelt.
A grain is a small edible fruit harvested from grassy crops that is usually hard on the outside. A seed is an embryonic plant covered in a seed coat that often contains some food.
Grain Hot Cereal is a wonderful blend of freshly milled grains, seeds and beans, including whole grain hard red wheat, rye, triticale, oat bran, oats, corn, barley, soy beans, brown rice, millet and flaxseed meal. It makes a hearty, nutritious porridge that is sure to satisfy.
All types of rice are considered grains. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, and tortillas are examples of grain products. Foods such as popcorn, rice, and oatmeal are also included in the Grains Group.
Whole corn, like you eat on the cob, is considered a vegetable. The corn kernel itself (where popcorn comes from) is considered a grain. To be more specific, this form of corn is a “whole” grain. To complicate things a little more, many grains including popcorn are considered to be a fruit.
Grains are also technically fruits. They're produced from the flowers of the plant, and they contain the seeds. However, the fruit of the grain isn't always used in every grain product. In some cases, only the seed itself is used.
Wheat berries are a good choice for exploring alternative grains
What are wheat berries? Wheat berries are minimally processed wheat kernels with only the outer husk removed. Wheat berries have a higher level of nutrition, a different shape, and a chewier texture than many people are familiar with.
Farro (an italian word, pronounced “Fah-row”) are the wheat berries of three specific wheat varieties: Emmer, Einkorn, and Spelt. These wheat strains/varieties are ancient, but they are not as easy to harvest and mill so they had generally been displaced by more modern wheat hybrids (such as durum wheat). Ancient grains and older varieties of wheat are now experiencing a great deal of interest as modern wheat alternatives.
Emmer wheat – or farro medio
Italian farro is Emmer wheat, also known as farro medio. This alternative grain is sometimes referred to as “Pharoah’s wheat,” Emmer is an ancient wheat of the Mediterranean world that survived to the present day in rural pockets of Italy, Russia, and the Middle East. There are a few hundred different types of Emmer wheat.
Spelt – or farro grandio
Spelt is an ancient wheat grain also known as farro grandio. However, as discussed above, don’t try to substitute spelt for farro in recipes and expect the same cooking times because spelt has a larger grain size and texture are different than the widely known farro (farro medio, or Emmer).
Einkorn – farro piccolo
Einkorn wheat, or farro piccolo, is a small kernel wheat that nearly went extinct. Similar to its cousins Emmer and Spelt, it’s an ancient alternative grain that has fallen out of favor until recently. The flour is outstanding for baking. Einkorn is not gluten-free (it is wheat and therefore contains gluten).
Freekeh for a toasty nutty alternative grains choice
Freekeh (pronounced freeh-kah, and also known as farik) is a Middle Eastern wheat grain. Freekeh is a cracked and toasted immature (or green) wheat. The toasting process removes the dry outer hull of the wheat, but the leaves the inside intact. The result is a roasted, nutty, earthy whole grain that looks a little bit like wild rice. A staple for centuries the the Middle East, the alternative grain Freekeh is becoming more popular in North America.
Khorasan wheat (aka Kamut®)
Kamut® is the commercial brand name for a high-protein wheat known as Khorasan (pronounced core-ay-san). The kernels of this wheat are twice the size of modern wheat. It is sweet (sometimes referred to as “sweet wheat”), richly flavored and higher in protein than modern wheats. Khorasan is not gluten-free (it is wheat and therefore contains gluten).
Bulgur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that is cleaned, steamed (partially cooked) and ground to varying sizes. Bulgur is not on of the gluten-free alternative grains (it is wheat and therefore contains gluten). Medium grind bulgur is probably most familiar as the main ingredient in tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern wheat salad with tomatoes, mint, cucumber, and lemon and other spices.
Barley: one of the most ancient alternative grains
Barley is one of the cereal-type alternative grains dating back to the Egyptians. Barley is actually one of the first cultivated grains, used in trade, as currency, as food, and in brewing. It was an essential staple until replaced by wheat in Roman times. Barley is not one of the gluten-free whole grains, it is actually one of the three whole grains that contain gluten (wheat, barley, and rye).
Rye and rye berries
Rye is an ancient grain with a distinctive fragrance and mildly bitter flavor… rye is not a mild tasting grain, it has a “bite.” Common across northern Europe, Nordic countries, and Russia due to its hardiness (basically its ability to grow well despite cold and damp conditions). Rye is not one of the gluten-free whole grains (it is one of the three main gluten-containing whole grains along with barley and wheat).
Triticale: a hybrid of wheat and rye
Triticale (trit-ih-KAY-lee) is a flavorful wheat and rye hybrid whole grain, with higher protein than wheat, dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
Triticale kernels are a bit larger than standard wheat kernels and it tastes much milder than rye, and nuttier than wheat. It’s higher in protein and lower in gluten than wheat, and contains a high amount of lysine.
Couscous looks like a pasta, so much so that the not-pasta taste is a bit startling. Couscous is a coarse ground wheat. The wheat is rubbed with damp hands and a bit of flour to form coarse granules.