There is a new kid on the block. An extremely healthy kid. And, unless I miss my guess, it will turn out to be the leader of the pack. Are you intrigued? It is called kernza.
What is kernza? Glad you asked.
What Is Kernza?
With the rise of wheat alternatives, finding whole grains has become very important. Enter stage left – kernza – accompanied by its benefits to health and its potential to revolutionize farming. It has a sweet yet nutty flavor and is loaded with crucial nutrients. As an added bonus it is an environmentally friendly grain. In a competition with wheat, kernza wins hands down. It contains more fiber and more protein. Significantly more, and this is important for lowering the risk of heart disease, reducing the onset of type2 diabetes, promoting regular digestion, and aiding weight management.
As for the environment, it helps with nutrient cycling and soil ecology. As opposed to other crops, which may strip the earth when grown and harvested, kernza replenishes the soil. This perennial grain product was developed by the Land Institute for just such reasons.
The plant is native to Eastern and Central Europe, Asia, the U.S. Sweden, France, and Paraguay and was previously used for forage. It is now being grown in Canada as well.
Kernza has a deep root system, (ten feet underground) which means it can prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.
Kernza has not been genetically modified in any way (at least not yet…). Chefs, farmers, researchers and more are delighted to use this grain to shift agriculture from annual to perennial.
What Is Kernza Used For?
Now for the good stuff. As stated above this grain has a sweet but nutty taste which is a
welcome addition to cereals, snacks, and bread. Left whole it is made into flour. It can also be malted or mixed directly into beer and whiskey. The flour is a bit difficult to work with but it gives the dough a unique texture. It is hard to describe but has a custardy feel and works very well in quick breads, waffles, and pancakes. It can also be cooked as you would cook wild rice or used as a loose grain in salads, soups, or stir fries.
A simple salad can be prepared by cooking the kernza in stock and spices and toss with mushrooms, herbs, and toasted nuts. If desired, carrots, onion, and celery may be added to make it more robust.
This grain is still in an early stage of market development, although Perennial Foods is now selling to consumers and wholesalers. Food processors have developed products which incorporate kernza into their ingredients. It has recently started popping up in numerous mainstream grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Watch for it where you would find quinoa products. Your heart, digestive system, and waistline will thank you.
Who knows? With all the new growing methods and constant testing even more health benefits might be discovered.
Wanna Grow Kernza?
A Few Kernza Recipes
Here are some good kernza recipes for you to try:
“A good way to start with Kernza is quick breads like pancakes, waffles, and muffins. In these kinds of more forgiving doughs, you can substitute 100% Kernza for wheat or other flours.“ -ProjectGrounded.com
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