Grains are an important part of the human diet today. Breads, cereals, and pastas are all made from grains. Man, in his earliest existence did not require grains in his diet. If fresh food could be found, there wasn’t a need for something that could be grown and cultivated. Over time, as communities started being formed and man became less nomadic, different plants were found to be good for food and easily cultivated and used to make food for the entire community.
There is evidence of grains being cultivated in southwest Asia as early as 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. This area is also referred to as the Fertile Crescent and included North and South Egypt, Phoenicia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia.
These early grains included barley, Emmer wheat, Einkorn wheat, and flax. Today, there are 19 known grains which originated in different places around the world that are eaten all over the world. The list of grains that follows is broken up based on where the grains originated from.
Amaranth, corn and quinoa originated from South America. Millet and teff were found in Africa. Barley, Emmer wheat, Einkorn wheat berries, flax and kamut come from the Middle East. Chia, modern wheat, and wild rice are North America grains. Oat, rye and spelt originally came from Europe. Brown rice, buckwheat, and Job’s Tears were found in central and eastern parts of Asia.
The grains come with their own history as to how they were discovered, what they were used for originally, and why they are used today. Some of these grains such as amaranth and quinoa were banned from use for a time because they were used in religious ceremonies of the Incas and Aztecs of North and South America. When the Europeans took over these areas they forbid the indigenous people to practice their “heathen” religions, which included the use of these grains.
Today, because there is a strong interest in returning to original grains and whole foods, these grains have gained popularity all over the world. Each one has it’s own set of vitamins, nutrients and levels of dietary fiber that are important to a person’s diet. Also, some of these grains do not include gluten, which has been proven to cause health problems in some people.
Some of these grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, flax, and buckwheat are not actually grains. Which means they don’t belong to the poaceae family and are not considered “true grains.” They are called pseudograins because are very similar to grains but are actually seeds. Grasses, such as wheat, corn, oat, rye, and rice are in the poaceae family and considered true grains.
All of these grains are used in a variety of ways. Many of them are ground into flour and used to make breads, cereals and pasta. Some like amaranth, which can be popped like popcorn, and flax seeds are used in salads. Others like barley, rice, and corn are used in soups. This list of recipes and uses for these grains is very long and can be found in a variety of places.
To find more informations about whole grains, check out Whole Grains A to Z. And for recipes using the different types of grains, check out Versagrains.com.