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Ancient Grains: What Are They, And Why Do You Prefer Them?

Rich in nutrients and sustainable, ancient grains are making a comeback. Let’s find out what they are and why we prefer them to other cereals.

What Are Ancient Grains?

Before seeing what the ancient Italian and Sicilian grains are, it is advisable to understand what they are and how they differ from other cereals. By definition, ancient grains represent a natural “throwback to the past,” given that they have existed for thousands of years, that is, since man began to cultivate and grow cereals for his consumption.

Unlike modern grains, such as wheat, corn, and rice, which have been modified over time, ancient grains have remained unchanged. Therefore, they do not present any of the genetic modifications that have affected most crops.

Not only that, ancient grains differ from modern options in terms of nutrition.

These offer more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than industrial grains. They are also richer in antioxidants which help fight the action of free radicals. Although today the queen of baking preparations is often  soft wheat flour, in recent times, these ancient cereals have been spreading as healthier, more sustainable, and nutritious alternatives.

To be used in their original form, in grains, to enrich soups, soups, and burgers, today, ancient grains can be the essential ingredient for all oven preparations. Therefore, it is common to find pasta, bread, pizza, and old-grain flour in grocery stores.

What Are Ancient Grains?

It is straightforward to understand when one wonders what ancient grains are since they have been grown and consumed for centuries. According to the definition, ancient grains are those belonging to the genus Triticum which were consumed in antiquity and which today we commonly call grains; Among these, the list includes some wheat varieties, such as durum wheat and soft wheat (the most common), and other cereals, such as einkorn, bacon, and spelt. However, some include cereals and pseudo cereals in the list of ancient grains, such as:

  1. The mile;
  2. barley;
  3. teff;
  4. quinoa ;  _
  5. buckwheat; 
  6. the amaranth.

One ancient wheat variety that has recently gained fame as Khorasan wheat. 

Among the many bowls of cereal that are making a comeback in our country, there are also some types of ancient Sicilian grains. There are about 50 varieties of grains, among which we find: 

  1. Tumminia, which was already cultivated on the island at the time of Magna Graecia; 
  2. Russello, a typical grain of the Sicilian hinterland which is used to produce the local bread;
  3. the bidì (or Margherito) arrived in Sicily from nearby Tunisia; 
  4. Majorca wheat is grown on arid land and from which a fine flour for cakes is made;
  5. perciasacchi, an ancient variety of durum wheat native to the island ;
  6. Senatore Cappelli is perhaps the best-known of these and is synonymous with high-quality pasta.
  7. Ancient Sicilian grains are highly nutritious cereals and are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that can stabilize blood sugar levels and promote a sense of satiety.

Why Shouldn’t We Do Without It?

The fact that ancient grains have not undergone genetic alterations by man should already be reason enough to prefer them to more modern cereals. Yet numerous other reasons drive us to integrate them into our diet. Compared to their composition, ancient grains have a better nutritional profile.

They contain less gluten, which makes them more digestible and precious allies to counteract gluten sensitivity which recently affects more and more people. Some are even wholly gluten-free and therefore suitable for those who have celiac diseases, such as amaranth, quinoa, and teff.

They are less refined because they are generally stone ground and therefore manage to retain most of their organoleptic properties. This also makes their keyboard, with varied and appreciable smells and flavors, much more prosperous than those we are generally used to. Furthermore, they are not industrial products as they are grown by small farmers with manual systems.

This also means that introducing these cereals into our diet favors the sustenance of smaller realities in the area, unrelated to the large-scale retail trade. Among the great benefits of consuming ancient grains is that they protect biodiversity. Buying only a few varieties of modern cereals en masse makes the production of ancient grains less advantageous and gradually causes them to become extinct.


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