When squirreling away our food supplies, it is easy to make two major errors. The first is storing
"survival foods" which we would not normally eat. The end results of this error are: upset GI tract when you must rely on the stored foods, subtly lowered morale as you must suddenly subsist on food you don't like, and (probably) finding that these foods are past expiration dates because you subconsciously didn't want to buy them in the first place.
The second error is not including variety in your stored foods. This article deals with a classic example of this, the sole reliance on storing rice and wheat for the grain component. Both are useful grains and certainly belong in our food store programs. But both can quickly lower group morale as one or the other is served, day after day. Variety in stored foods will help keep the diet balanced nutritionally and palatable throughout the time of need.
This article is a brief overview of a few alternatives to wheat and rice for food stores. Quinoa is one of the few grains which is a complete protein source and has a unique taste and texture which I find wins people's taste vote time and time again. Buckwheat is a "psuedograin" which can provide both grain and greens for cooking. But see the cautions below re: buckwheat greens. Amaranth is an ancient grain which is very high in, complete, protein and very useful and versatile, easily substituting for cous cous or farina in recipes. Spelt is a great alternative to wheat for cooking as it has a yummy taste and cooks quicker than wheat. Millet is a tasty grain which is about as nutritious as brown rice, though with more minerals.
Quinoa and amaranth are ancient grains from South America and Mexico respectively that not only are delicious grains,they also produce good salad greens as well. They are members of the same family as beets and spinach so they are not technically grains.They are higher in protein than wheat and, unlike most grains, are composed of complete protein so there is no need to serve with beans or nuts to get a decent amount of protein per serving. Quinoa cooks up to over
three times its dry volume, so it is a good value for its dry volume.
Quinoa and amaranth can be grown in a rich soil. They are related to pigweed so control of this weed, and general weeds, in your quinoa or amaranth patch is important. Plants grow to about 4-6 feet in height in the garden and are relatively pest and disease resistant. Expect to pay around $3.00/pound for quinoa and around $2.70/pound for amaranth. Several heirloom seed companies sell seeds for planting.
Buckwheat is another "pseudograin" that is actually related to rhubarb. When cooked, it has a coarse texture and a nutty taste. It is ideal for complementing the protein in beans and seeds as well as being "soul food" for Slavs when served as a kasha ;-) The grain itself is rich in minerals, B vitamins, and iron. In addition, buckwheat sprouts and greens are edible and very nutritious. To me, buckwheat greens taste like a cross between spinach and cabbage.
But,buckwheat sprouts and greens can only safely be eaten about once a week as the plant contains a toxin called fagopyrin which, when enough has built up in the body at a time, causes moderate to severe skin reactions when the consumer is exposed to sunlight. The seeds contain only trace amounts of the toxin, so pose no threat. The toxin also affects livestock so keep your stock out of your buckwheat patch/field to avoid serious skin problems. Consume buckwheat sprouts/greens sparingly or else you will find out how those vampires in countless movies feel when they are exposed to sunlight by the film's protagonist!
Buckwheat is very easy to grow. It grows well in poor soil, indeed, planting buckwheat as a green manure is one of the best ways to regenerate poor soils. It grows about 3-4 feet tall here in Western Montana, with tiny white flowers that are very attractive to bees. It matures within about 9 weeks when grown for grain. When grown as a green manure, turn it under before it flowers. When used for sprouts, the sprouts form quickly; in about 1-2 days.
Spelt is an excellent alternative to wheat for your stores. It can be tolerated fairly well by those with wheat allergies or candidia overgrowth. It stores nearly as well as hard wheat and cooks up with little or no need for presoaking. Its taste is unlike wheat so it makes for a good change in diet taste if your survival group/family needs a little break from wheat.
Millet is an African grain, best known in the USSA as birdseed and treat for chickens and guinea fowl. It cooks up well, expanding to about twice its dry volume and with a cooking time similar to white rice. It has a nutty taste and is very attractive with its pale, yellow color. Cost is a bit more than for brown rice.
Sources for these grains in Western Montana: Good Foods (Missoula; all the above), Dancing Rainbow Natural Grocery (Butte, all the above in small packages, though bulk is available), Montana Harvest Natural Foods (Bozeman, all the above from well-stored supplies), Community Food Co-op (Bozeman, most of the above), Real Foods (Helena, all the above, but not stored as well bulk as elsewhere), 2Jays (Great Falls, all but amaranth). Wheat Montana stores, statewide, can supply spelt in #50 bags or #45 pail (nitrogen packed). I assume there are good sources for these grains in Billings, but I don't know as I have not been to Billings.
New grains to taste. New recipes to try. Enjoy. Here is a millet recipe to get you started. Recipe is a South African one that I modified to use millet.
bouillon powder, chicken is best
1-2 tsp. curry powder
0.5 tsp. ground cardamon
Cook up the millet with the bouillon powder. Takes about 30 minutes to cook. Add the seasonings during the last ten minutes and correct to taste; the cardamon adds a "sweet, aromatic heat". Depending on the curry powder, it adds a full, complex warmth or a blazing blast of flavour. Add the raisins a few minutes before serving. Add some ground flax seed if desired. Enjoy.