THE minor cereals they are in a certain sense "niche" but do not imagine unknown species, they are simply not used as the wheat with which we produce most of our food. Nothing against this protagonist of our tables but we know that in the diet the variety rewards and it would be appropriate to include these cereals in our menus, especially because, in addition to being good, they also a high content of minerals and vitamins. By reading you will know which are the minor cereals and you will realize their value and at the same time also the ease with which it is possible to insert them in interesting dishes and recipes which, also thanks to their presence, take on a more original character.
What are the minor cereals
Among the minor cereals that we are going to tell in this article we find barley, rye and oats which are the most often mentioned, perhaps also the easiest to find, albeit minor. But that's not all, there are also millet, spelled and buckwheat. Going down among the lesser known cereals that are not yet impossible to find in our area, we find kamut, amaranth, quinoa and sorghum, names that are not often heard but which deserve a taste.
Minor cereals: Barley
With the arrival of wheat and corn, barley faded into the background but in ancient times it played a primary role in the nutrition of many peoples and there are many testimonies that we remember. Thanks to its ability to adapt to different soils and climates, even if not very welcoming, it was grown almost everywhere, also in Egypt, along the Nile valley. Today it is not widely used for the preparation of food products such as bread and other baked goods for which we tend to prefer wheat or rye.
It has certainly not disappeared, however, and is used to feed livestock or for the production of beer, whiskey, malt and many coffee substitutes. There are varieties of barley that are more suitable for one or the other purpose, it depends above all on the external coating they have. When it is tender, it is used for beer or other beverages, otherwise it is used for food purposes.
Among the types of barley that we find on the market, there is also the pearl barley, the ideal ingredient for soups in broth or dry or as a side dish for meat stews. It is a highly treated barley, left to macerate for 12 hours in warm water before being rinsed. Unfortunately, it ends up losing many of its benefits from a nutritional point of view, the better is the hulled one, usually used to fill sweet or savory pies and to prepare pancakes and some typical regional dishes.
By continuing to work the pearl barley, you can also obtain barley flour, not very suitable for bread making, fairly protein but with lots of carbohydrates. If you use it for bread, you get a product that is a little too hard and compact and with a sour taste that you may not like. By mixing the barley flour with other flours it is possible to obtain a good base for sweets and biscuits, with corn flour it can be used to prepare polenta. At breakfast we can include barley flakes, light and digestible, in our diet, while with barley malt we can even make food for babies and the elderly because the treatment to obtain it improves the nutritional value of the cereal.
The same malted flours they can also play a role in bread making if mixed with others, because thanks to their characteristics they can increase the volume of the dough, also improving the organoleptic and product characteristics of the product. It is difficult to talk about malt without mentioning beer, what drives the production of malt all over the world.
Minor cereals: Rye
If it is really difficult to find here, in Northern Europe it is so widespread that it competes with wheat. It is particularly popular in cold areas like Russia because it adapts well to the climate and is more resistant than other cereals. It is less rich in protein but makes up for it with large doses of vitamins and minerals, which is why it is given to farm animals to balance their diet. We use it mainly to make bread, with its brown flour you can also make it breadsticks, crackers.
Minor cereals: Oats
Like rye, oats in Italy are really a minor cereal while in northern Europe they are more widespread. It can be cultivated with naked or clothed kernels, in the first case it is used to make some flours, excellent base for diet biscuits or to mix with others to prepare beer, or spirits, such as brandies. In the second case, with dressed kernels, it is destined to become animal feed, especially horses.
From a nutritional point of view, oats are among the richest cereals, it contains many fats and mineral salts, at the same time it is not very digestible and is therefore not recommended for children and the elderly. One of the forms in which oats are most consumed are flakes, we can eat them for breakfast or use them for creams and soups, crèpes or greedy pancakes. There is oat flour but it is not used to make bread, it is not suitable, we can instead mix it with other flours to make pasta.
Minor cereals: millet
It is among the oldest cereals and over time has been overtaken by other cereals such as barley and rice. It is a shame because it is very nutritious and rich in substances that other cereals do not have. It has a protein load significant, with a better mix of amino acids than wheat. It also contains mineral salts in abundance, especially iron and phosphorus, and then the B vitamins. Despite these interesting properties, it continues to be little used for human nutrition, a little better for animal nutrition, especially for birds. . On the market there are flakes, flours for making bread and others bakery products and grains for soups and soups.
Other minor cereals
Let us now turn to others minor cereals that we can find on the market but which are even more rare to find in our diet. Let's start with spelled, considered a precursor of wheat together with spelled and small spelled. It is not easy to grow and is a very low yielding plant. There is the buckwheat also, officially not cereal but with very floury seeds. It was used in the Middle Ages for food but it is not very widespread and today we find it almost exclusively in regional recipes such as pizzoccheri or polenta taragna. Thanks to its amino acid content, as well as calcium and vitamins, it is considered a useful food to supplement.
Originally from ancient Egypt, me Kamut it is a durum wheat cultivar, it is similar to wheat but is not suitable for celiacs. From Central America comes theAmaranth whose grains are very nutritious, and then there is quinoa which belongs to the same family of spinach, also used by the Incas. The last minor cereal is Sorghum, today used mainly as bird feed but which theoretically would be excellent for celiacs, as it does not contain gluten.