|Wheat field, Froid, Montana, 1941. (Library of Congress image)|
It’s been a bad decade for grains. Between publicity about grain allergies and fads such as the Atkins and paleo diets, a lot of people are shunning wheat, rye and barley. At a panel discussion this weekend sponsored by Common Grains I heard Monica Spiller of the Whole Grain Connection and Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills make some compelling arguments that will forever change the way I see grain. It was, no exaggeration here, a paradigm shifting discussion. Some of the questions Spiller and Roberts raised:
- Could modern hard wheat varieties, bred for the convenience of industrial agriculture, have the unintended consequence of increasing allergic reactions? Are older varieties healthier for us?
- What have we lost in terms of flavor when we decreased the diversity of grain varieties?
- Is sourdough bread a pro-biotic food? Could some of the allergy problems associated with bread be related to commercial yeast strains and the way commercial yeast processes sugar?
I’ll spend the rest of this week taking a deeper look at these issues, including some practical suggestions about what we can do in our kitchens and gardens to bring back heritage grains.