Alterna-grains from Small Farms

We recently received a lovely sample of nutty, chewy heirloom wheat from a family farm in Washington called Bluebird Grain Farms. It was emmer (a.k.a. farro, if it’s grown in Italy), an ancient variety that used to be grown before hybrid varieties of durum cornered the market due to their higher yields. Emmer is making a comeback, along with alterna-grains like amaranth, teff, spelt, and rye: Why, just the other day, I saw "rye emulsion" while perusing the menu of Vidalia in Washington, D.C.

The idea of small American farmers growing these grains that were popular back in the time of the pharaohs intrigued me, so I looked into who else was doing it. I found...

Bluebird Grain Farms
Emmer wheat, rye, and other types of wheat, milled-to-order flour, and hot cereals from a small Washington State family farm.

Timeless Natural Food
Farms in Montana’s “Golden Triangle” agricultural region (who knew Montana had its own Golden Triangle?!) grow Purple Prairie barley, Black Kabuli chickpeas, and interesting types of lentils. Yeah, I know those latter things aren’t grains, but they’re good.

Anson Mills
The place to shop for grits, Anson Mills started out with a mission to preserve Southern ingredients including Carolina rice, biscuit, and graham flour. The company has resuscitated several varieties of near-extinct Southern mill corn, and is trying to save a bunch more using research grants. They work with 30 organic growers in 6 states.

Bob’s Red Mill
Worker-owned and sold in many health food-ish grocery stores, Bob’s Red Mill offers a staggering array of grains, many of them from the U.S. Their teff is grown by a few farmers in Idaho, spelt from Eastern Washington, and kamut from Montana.

Death’s Door Vodka and Gin
This craft distillery makes its products using small batch winter wheat grown on a Wisconsin island called Washington Island. You can buy the booze, not the wheat.

Fun Fact: An easy way to incorporate more hearty whole grains like wheat berries or oats into your diet is to soak them overnight. They cook in just as few minutes as opposed to an hour. I throw them into my oatmeal in the morning for a chewy, nutty component.

Image Courtesy of Bluebird Grain Farms.