Trendy food is nothing new. We all remember the kale craze. I know acai is a thing, even if I have no idea how to pronounce it. And a certain TikTok video has made it hard to find feta at the store lately. But recently I’ve been reading a lot about a trend that I hope is here to stay – ancient grains.
What are ancient grains?
The term “ancient grains” is a bit of a misnomer, since common wheat flour has been around just as long as these more specialized grains. But wheat has evolved quite a bit, whereas some of these other grains have largely stayed the same. I like the idea of baking with spelt that looks and tastes exactly the same as the kind our ancestors ate.
There are some ancient grains that everyone has heard of, like barley and quinoa. But others – buckwheat, teff, and einkorn – to name a few, are less common (although a Michigan company makes an AWESOME granola out of teff).
I’m interested in learning more about how to cook and bake with these grains, as well as where I can find them right here in Michigan.
Why ancient grains?
I’m definitely sold on the idea of ancient grains. Here are the main reasons why.
- They’re good for you. AP flour is a baking workhorse, but it’s not the most nutritionally dense food. On the other hand, many ancient grains are packed with good-for-you ingredients like fiber and magnesium. Plus, many are grown on smaller farms that use fewer pesticides and chemicals.
- They’re good for the environment. Speaking of local farms, the benefit of buying ancient grains is that you can often get them direct from a farmer near you, making a smaller environmental impact. As their name implies, they have been around for a LONG time. They are hearty and sustainable, and they nourish and replenish the soil in which they grow.
- They’re good for local farmers. Again, buying local and buying direct from farmers not only benefits you and the environment, it benefits the farmers who grow our food. Just like CSAs, finding a local grower supports your community’s food ecosystem and the people who make that ecosystem work.
- They add complexity to your cooking. Even subbing out a bit of AP flour with, say, buckwheat flour adds a depth and richness that really stands out. It’s fun to experiment with ingredients, and ancient grains provide endless opportunities for creative cooking.
Overall, buying and using ancient grains is a win-win-win-win – good for you, good for the planet, good for local farmers, and good for the people who get to try your creative new recipes!
We know the benefits of finding local producers of these grains. So where do we find them? I’ve rounded up a few sellers below. If you know of others, please share them in the comments!
- By the Pound: An Ann Arbor speciality bulk store that sells ancient grains.
- Maiden Mills: Based in Holland, they sell Michigan-grown flours and grains.
- Westwind Milling: This Swartz Creek farm sells a variety of flours milled from ancient grains, and even offers a CSA.
- Zingerman’s Bakehouse – This is a great source for all kinds of speciality ingredients, including a variety of ancient grain flours.
We’ve gotten our hands on some buckwheat and rye flours and have been playing around in the kitchen. Very soon, we’ll be sharing some recipes. Stay tuned for Chelsea’s chocolate rye muffins, my date and walnut buckwheat muffins, and Sister Pie’s to-die-for buckwheat chocolate chip cookies.
What are your favorite ancient grains? What are your favorite recipes that use them? Let us know in the comments!