Know Your Grains
Add amaranth, black japonica and more to the Thanksgiving table.user rating
From barley and bamboo rice to quinoa and amaranth, grains and rice have heart-healthy properties and exotic tastes and textures. Rice, corn, barley and lesser-known grains are being featured in everything from cereals and salads to frozen pizza, organic crackers and even cocktails and desserts. And with Thanksgiving approaching, these grains and rice can make delicious and different side dishes or additions to baked goods.
Grains are not new, but they are more established and requested than they were five years ago. Consumer health trends such as the low-carb craze and celiac disease have boosted the popularity of grains and driven product innovation. Now, whole-grain items are ubiquitous, and there are gluten-free products for everything. Less-recognizable grains such as farro, teff and freekeh are increasingly prevalent on menus and in stores.
Exotic varieties are not the only grains garnering attention. Barley, most famous for “beef barley soup,” can be found in cocktails—paired with Johnny Walker, ginger and orange juice. Brown rice, with its plethora of health benefits, has also seen its popularity rise, resulting in things like brown rice sushi rolls.
U.S.-grown specialty rice includes basmati, jasmine, black japonica, aromatic red and sweet, among others.
Glossary of Grains
Here are 11 grains or rice varieties to watch.
AMARANTH: These seeds have a peppery taste and contain a higher level of protein than most other grains. They are gluten-free and popular in cereals, breads, muffins, crackers and pancakes.
BARLEY: This is one of the oldest cultivated grains. It is full of fiber with cholesterol-lowering properties.
FARRO: Also known as emmer, it is an ancient strain of wheat making a resurgence in specialty stores and in high-end restaurant dishes. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture that makes it versatile.
FORBIDDEN RICE: A short-grain heirloom rice variety that is rich in fiber, iron and amino acids. This black rice has a deep, nutty taste and turns deep purple when cooked.
FREEKEH: This grain is made from roasted spring green baby wheat. It has up to four times the fiber of brown rice, is rich in probiotic properties and the antioxidant lutein.
QUINOA: A gluten-free grain with a sweet and nutty flavor. It is available in red, yellow and black varieties.
RISO VENERE: An Italian hybrid rice produced in the Po Delta. The rice is usually used for rice salads, soups and seafood dishes. Once cooked, it turns a rich ebony color.
SORGHUM: A gluten-free grain also called milo that can be eaten like popcorn, cooked into porridge, ground into flour for baked goods or even brewed into beer.
SPROUTED GRAINS: Growing in popularity because they are easy to digest, sprouted grain products are created by soaking grain kernels until germination occurs and a small sprout appears from the kernel. Sprouted grains can be ground up and made into bread dough. They are considered whole grains.
TEFF: This tiny grain can be cooked as porridge, added to baked goods or made into polenta. It grows in colors of red, brown and white and is know for its sweet molasses-like flavor.
—Nicole Potenza Denis and Vanessa Facenda