What Are Ancient Grains, Why You Should Eat Them, and 13 Ways to Cook Them

There is more to ancient grains than just trendy buzz, and it’s delicious
What Are Ancient Grains, Why You Should Eat Them, and 12 Ways to Cook Them


Use farro in lieu of traditional arborio rice for this Wild Mushroom Fall Vegetable Farro Risotto recipe.

What makes a grain ancient? Grains have been a part of the human diet since the middle Stone Age, and grains themselves were around long before that, so does this culinary buzzword have any meaning?

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According to the Whole Grain Council, the nomer, “ancient grains” is given to any grain that has remained relatively unaltered over the last several hundred years. This matters when you consider the debate and health concerns surrounding GMO seeds, not to mention the rise in gluten allergies (which many blame on modern wheat hybrid crops).

People have been dining on wild seeds for more than 100,000 years, according to archeological researchers. While cereals are a daily part of our diet today, the culinary leap (cooking skills and tools) it took to transform wild grains and seeds into modern cereals marked a huge shift in the diet for mankind.

Wheat as we know it is excluded from the "ancient grain" classification because, aside from heirloom varietals, wheat has been consciously bred and modified since its domestication. While ancient grains are not necessarily more nutritious than any other whole grain, they do attract consumers who want to lower their carbon footprint (no pesticides or fertilizers needed).

Consider swapping your usual bowl of brown rice for nutty-flavored farro, add buckwheat for added nutrition to your weekend pancake recipe, or enjoy the mild sweetness of spelt in a creamy risotto.

For more ways to incorporate these nutritious grains into your everyday diet, check out our roundup of 13 recipes that will have you cooking with everything from sorghum to quinoa.


Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.