In these colder months we turn to the pantry for our cooking inspiration: jars full of rice, barley, wheat berries, oats, and more. Whole grains are a great staple to use in baking bread, making hearty salads, and for warm breakfasts of porridge on a chilly day. When you eat unprocessed whole grains you are getting protein, minerals, and fiber that are converted into energy to sustain you through the day.
In 2013, Island Grown Schools began growing heritage grains with students in school gardens. We grew Turkey Red winter wheat, Duborskian-South River rice and two corns grown by native peoples in our region, Narragansett White Flint and King Phillip. Though we grew only small plots of these grains, this fall students were able to dry, shell, and grind corn into tortillas, and harvest rice and wheat stalks for seed to use next growing season. Students used their rice harvest in math class, and at one school they discovered that from just 15 plants they were able to harvest 2,580 seeds.
There are many ways to incorporate whole grains into your cooking. When baking, experiment with using up to half whole wheat flour in your favorite bread and cookie recipes. Prepare large amounts of whole grains such as quinoa and rice to heat up and enjoy throughout the week. Make a quick meal by mixing cooked wheat berries, quinoa, or rice with seasonal roasted vegetables, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
This January, choose whole grains in your kitchen, and harness all of the nutrition and flavor these mighty seeds have to offer. Try this:
Barley and Roasted Beet Salad from Harvest of the Month chef Robin Forte
2 cups barley, cooked
1 lb. red beets, peeled, cubed, and roasted until tender
4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. honey
½ tsp. allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbs. olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish
Roast beets in aluminum foil until tender, about 20 to 45 minutes depending on size. Combine all the ingredients, and top with fresh parsley.
Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools. IGS works with children ages 2 through 18 to empower them to make healthy eating choices, learn to grow food, and connect with local farms. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.