The Ancient Grains Of The Future
20th Apr, 2021
Today, 60% of the plant-derived calories that we eat come from rice, maize and wheat, which means it is time to diversify. Farmers in the UK are diversifying their crops away from processed or refined grains into what we know as ‘ancient grains.’ These grains have not undergone any selective breeding for centuries and have an incredible range of health benefits.
Ancient grains are pretty much unchanged since they were first farmed in the Neolithic Revolution about 10,000 years ago. Until the 19th century, ancient grains had almost disappeared from the arable fields of Europe, before a movement to reintroduce them.
With most popular grains and seeds seemingly coming from afar - quinoa, the grain of the Andes, chia, the super seed of the Aztecs and Mayans, and from west Africa comes fonio. The question is: does Britain have the grains to compete?
Diverse grains and pulses are cropping up all around the UK. Some pioneering farmers are experimenting with foreign crops such as quinoa, which happens to do well in the British climate. Others are revitalising forgotten foods such as camelina. Camelina is a flax-like oilseed that was first cultivated on our isles thousands of years ago.
"Today, 60% of the plant-derived calories that we eat come from rice, maize and wheat, which means it is time to diversify." - Datamonitor Consumer
Ancient grains are naturally very hardy and thanks to the significantly reduced amount of human intervention, tend to have a lower carbon footprint than modern varieties. They also conserve soils and contribute to ecological diversity in the fields themselves. Many species don’t need much to survive, and can thrive on nutrient poor soils as well as being comparatively weather resistant. They also
tend to grow with lower levels of pesticides, fertilisers and irrigation generally.
"Ancient grains tend to have a lower carbon footprint." - Our World In Data
Ancient grains also have significant health benefits. Due to extreme refining of modern grains many important nutrients can be lost including fibre and protein, both essential in supporting a healthy gut. Ancient grains have been shown to strengthen, stimulate, and boost the immune and nervous systems, and help maintain a healthy hormonal balance. Luckily for us, British grown grains are becoming increasingly more diverse and more accessible.
"Ancient grains can offer more than double the fibre and protein content than modern varieties." - Harvard Medical School
The key is in varying what we eat and supporting the farming systems that enable us to do that. At TYME we actively source from Hodmedods who supply unusual and forgotten crops grown by small British farms. You can find many ancient grains and pulses in our menu such as marrow fat peas, badger beans and quinoa.
"it’s the diversity of ancient grains and what this can bring to our diets and farming systems -that’s the key." - Josiah Meldrum, Hodmedods
Image credits: The National Geographic, The Telegraph, Hodmedods