Ancient grains bring us back to simpler, purer food and Fieldstone believes they may be a solution for so many issues that are surfacing around modern wheat.
As part of the agricultural revolution, modern grains underwent substantive hybridization with the good intentions of increasing production, increasing profitability and ultimately reducing the cost to the consumer. Unfortunately this was not all that was modified in the hybridization of modern grains. In selecting for yields, disease tolerance and improved storage life it is now postulated that inadvertently the protein structures were changed and toxins may have been built up in the make-up of conventional grains. This in turn is suspected to be one of the reasons that so many people are becoming intolerant to wheat and why the modern grains store so long. Insects and pests are naturally repelled by these same toxins.
Ancient grain crops come from seeds that have been around for millenia and as such are free of hybridization and GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) manipulation. They are as nature designed them.
Though ancient grains like Quinoa, Emmer, Farro, Spelt, Khorasan (Kamut) may be new to many of us, they have actually been around for centuries. As a matter of fact Emmer/Farro was eaten on a daily basis by ancient Egyptians and is considered the first grain to be cultivated. These grains faded in popularity as their hybrid modern cousins produced higher yields and thus, higher profits, but while the wheat and corn we are all used to looks and tastes nothing like its distant ancestors, ancient grains are virtually unchanged from what they where thousands of years ago.
As Dr. William Davis explains in an interview with Mcleans Magazine in 2011:
William Davis, a preventive cardiologist who practices in Milwaukee, Wis., argues in his new book ‘Wheat Belly’ that modern wheat is bad for your health.
Q: You say the crux of the problem with wheat is that the stuff we eat today has been genetically altered. How is it different than the wheat our grandparents ate?
A: First of all, it looks different. If you held up a conventional wheat plant from 50 years ago against a modern, high-yield dwarf wheat plant, you would see that today’s plant is about 2½ feet shorter. It’s stockier, so it can support a much heavier seedbed, and it grows much faster. The great irony here is that the term “genetic modification” refers to the actual insertion or deletion of a gene, and that’s not what’s happened with wheat. Instead, the plant has been hybridized and crossbred to make it resistant to drought and fungi, and to vastly increase yield per acre. Agricultural geneticists have shown that wheat proteins undergo structural change with hybridization, and that the hybrid contains proteins that are found in neither parent plant. Now, it shouldn’t be the case that every single new agricultural hybrid has to be checked and tested, that would be absurd. But we’ve created thousands of what I call Frankengrains over the past 50 years, using pretty extreme techniques, and their safety for human consumption has never been tested or even questioned.
It could turn out that if we wind back the clock 100 or 1,000 years, and resurrect einkorn and some of the heritage forms of wheat, maybe that would be a solution. Of course, wheat products would then be much more expensive (because they cost more to produce).
The benefits of Ancient grains are showing up in numerous studies. The simpler genetic makeup and water soluble gluten levels in ancient grains have been shown to be more easily digested by the body than modern foods. For example, studies have shown that many people with severe wheat sensitivities do not have the same issues with KAMUT® (khorasan) grain as they do conventional wheat.
Although each grain has its own individual sets of health benefits, these grains generally are higher in fiber and protein than most modern day grains and have enhanced flavor. The taste in ancient grains is often distinctive and more pleasing. Because taste and nutrition were only secondary concerns in selecting for modern grains, ancient grains are proving to have surprising flavor and nutrition profiles. Discerning cooks that enjoy the challenge of working with ingredients that are new and that offer a whole new flavor experience will appreciate these resurrected grains. They are truly both delicious and nutritious.
One of the most exciting aspects of ancient grains is the promise of more to come. Although botanists estimate that there are 80,000 edible plant species in the world, modern agriculture focuses on only about 150. Just 20 crops provide 90 percent of our consumption. So Fieldstone’s work in resurrecting ancient grains brings much needed diversity to our modern day diet and could go a long way to reducing the over consumption of common wheat.
Time only knows what a lot of these plants will do for us. Ancient whole grains may very well have ancient wisdom on how we can all eat healthier.