Sales in the seed trade were up 30 to 80 percent this spring. The growth was attributed to the increased interest in eating more locally grown food. People are getting closer to their food sources, whether from farmers’ markets and farm stands or a community supported agriculture share, or from locally grown, seasonal produce in restaurants. We want to put a face on the farmer who grew our food, to have a conversation deeper than the checkout line query of “paper or plastic?”
People are also growing more of their own food, some returning to gardening or expanding an existing plot, and many are starting a garden for the first time. So, small and large farmers and gardeners were buying more seed, and the seed trade was hustling to meet the demand.
I wonder how all that seed will fare this summer, how all those new gardeners will do. How many of the ambitions dreamed up over a cup of tea at the kitchen table in February made it back to that table in summer and fall as steaming bowls of green beans or eggplant parmesan or sliced ripe tomatoes sprinkled with fresh basil. I think of the farmers talking to their customers, of the chefs connecting with the farmers, of the new gardener asking a neighbor for the use of a rototiller or advice on what to do about the bugs eating his cucumbers, or passing along surplus zucchini to any willing taker. I hope that all are encouraged to keep growing, to learn and share that knowledge with each other. Slowly but surely, we are returning to our communities, and to our own backyards. To me, that is a truer measure of wealth than the any stock market.
Part of the burgeoning interest in local foods has been an increased demand for local and organic grains. Bread bakers can’t get enough locally grown wheat. Organic dairy and meat farmers need a source of locally grown grains and local milling facilities. On a home scale, some gardeners are learning about growing small plots of grain to meet their own needs.
After winter conversations with my partner over many a cup of tea, we decided to try growing some grain on a new plot of ground that we had opened up last fall. This summer we grew hulless barley and hulless oats, amaranth, wheat, quinoa and soup peas. The quinoa looks like it will take a few years of selection to adapt it to our northern day length and climate, but we have a good crop of hulless barley and oats and wheat to learn to clean.
I have been collecting whole grain recipes, the best of which I will share with you, my extended community. May these dishes feed you through next winter and nourish your dreams future gardens.
Serve warm, tepid or chilled.
1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
5 to 7 dried apricots
3 Tbsp. snipped chives or finely minced scallion
1/4 c. dried currants, softened in hot water, then squeezed dry
4 Tbsp. finely diced sweet pepper
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a bowl of cold water, then strain. Quinoa must be rinsed to remove a natural bitterness from the grain. Bring water to a boil, add quinoa and salt. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes or until tender. The opaque spiral of germ should show, and the grain should have a little resistance when bitten. When done, pour the grain into a strainer. Save the liquid to use in soups or to replace oil in some recipes, including some of the oil in this recipe.
Cut the apricots and vegetables to uniformly small pieces. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan or in an oven on low heat until they’re golden brown. Place them in the bowl intended for the salad. Make the vinaigrette below. Then toss the warm quinoa, chopped fruit and currants, vegetables and cilantro in the bowl with the pine nuts and vinaigrette. Serve the salad as is or on a bed of lettuce or greens.
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. finely minced cilantro or parsley
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriandar
Salt to taste
4 Tbsp. olive oil (can use part or all vegetable oil)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon juice as needed.
Spelt and Shrimp in Spicy Coconut Broth
Makes 5 1/2 cups
1 c. spelt
1/4 tsp. salt
4 c. water
3 c. fat free, low sodium vegetable broth
1/2 c. diced red bell pepper
1/3 c. coconut milk (full fat or reduced fat)
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar or honey
1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1 lb. medium or large, peeled, deveined shrimp
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onion
1/4 c. thinly sliced Thai basil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Combine the spelt, salt and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer spelt for 1 hour or until grains are al dente. Drain well.
Return spelt to pan along with vegetable broth.
In a small bowl, combine coconut milk, red bell pepper, fish sauce, brown sugar, ginger and Thai curry paste. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and add the shrimp. Cook for three minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked throughout. Remove from heat and stir in the green onion, basil and lime juice.
Garnish with additional green onions, basil and lime wedges, if desired.
Wheat Berry Salad with Apples and Mint
1/2 c. orange juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2/3 c. tightly packed spearmint leaves
2 c. cooked wheat berries
2 tsp. grated orange zest (from 2 juice oranges)
1 small green apple
1 small red apple
1/2 c. sunflower seeds, toasted
First prepare the dressing: Blend the orange juice, oil, vinegar, salt and 1/2 cup of the mint in a food processor or blender.
Put the wheat berries in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing over them and toss to coat. Stir in the orange zest. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Toss occasionally.
Meanwhile, core the apples and dice them into 1/4-inch pieces. Stack the remaining mint leaves and roll them into a log. Slice them as thinly as you can. Toss them into the salad along with the apple and sunflower seeds. Add more salt, if needed.
Variations: After blending the dressing, stir in 2 to 3 Tbsp. finely chopped, crystallized ginger. Use triticale, spelt or kamut instead of wheat berries.
Makes 9 servings
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 c. amaranth grain
2 Tbsp. shallots
3/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. finely chopped, fresh marjoram
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles or morels, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces OR use store-bought mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped, fresh marjoram
1 c. shaved Parmegiano Reggiano cheese
To make batter for the cakes, pour 2 cups of boiling water over dried porcini and let the mushrooms soak for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the mushrooms from the water. Carefully pour the mushroom water through a fine sieve into another container, discarding any sediment. Rinse the mushrooms again, chop them very fine and set them aside.
Place the amaranth, shallots, salt, chopped mushrooms and 11/2 cups of mushroom liquid in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to very low. Cook for 25 minutes or until the grain absorbs all the liquid. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and cool. Stir in the egg, flour and marjoram.
To make the mushroom mixture, heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt, and cook, tossing from time to time, until the mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Add shallots and garlic, cook for one more minute and add wine. Continue to cook until only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Stir in butter and marjoram, and transfer to a bowl or saucepan. Keep warm while making the cakes.
To make the cakes, pour 1/8-inch layer of olive or vegetable oil into a large skillet, and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop in two tablespoon-sized mounds of amaranth batter and flatten them with a fork into pancake shapes. Cook until they’re browned on the bottoms, about 1 minute, flip, and brown the top. Repeat until the remaining batter is used up.
To serve, alternate layers of amaranth cakes and mushrooms on individual serving plates or on a large platter. Top with shaved cheese and serve immediately.
Steel Cut Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. evaporated cane juice sugar
1 c. applesauce
3/4 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. whole grain flour
1 c. white flour
4 c. steel cut oats
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 to 3 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 1/2 c. chopped dates, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips or diced apples
Mix the applesauce, eggs, vanilla and sugar together in a bowl to dissolve the sugar. Blend with butter. Add the dry ingredients. Stir in dates or raisins, etc., and nuts. Mix well. Grease cookie sheets. Drop by spoonfuls on cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
Amaranth, Quinoa and Corn Chowder
2 to 4 Tbsp. butter
2 c. finely chopped leeks (white and light green parts)
1 c. finely diced celery
1/2 c. finely diced red bell pepper
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. amaranth
1/2 c. quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
1/4 tsp. dried summer savory
4 c. fresh corn kernels
1 c. whole milk
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
In a large, heavy pot, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the leeks, celery, red bell pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the amaranth and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Stir in the quinoa and summer savory. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook at a gentle boil, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, puree 3 cups of the corn kernels with 1 cup of water. When the quinoa has cooked for 10 minutes, stir the corn puree and remaining whole corn kernels into the soup. Add salt to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer until the quinoa and amaranth are tender, 3 to 5 more minutes. Stir in the milk and remaining tablespoon of butter. Add ground pepper. Divide into portions and garnish each with a little parsley.
If the soup thickens on standing, thin as needed with additional milk and add salt to taste.