Organic Grains
Why they're better

An article by By Lisa Fabian, reprinted from "Taste for Life" magazine

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The bulk of human diet is comprised of grains, and wheat is by far the most popular. Per capita wheat consumption exceeds that of any other single food staple in the U.S. It’s no wonder when you consider all the pastas, breads and cereals that line natural products store shelves and kitchen cabinets. This grain’s popularity is further enhanced by the fact that it can be easily transported, stored, and processed into many of the foods we consume.

Why Organic?

Since wheat and other grains are so common, it makes sense to support organic varieties. Organically grown foods are often higher in nutrients than their conventional counterparts.

Organic is an important choice for the environment, too. When grains are organically grown, farming methods emphasize the health and fertility of the soil since organic agriculture allows no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

Organic production uses biological pest control instead of pesticides. By contrast, conventionally grown grains and flours are fumigated not only in storage but also in transit. Organic grains use alternative methods and more complex shipping schedules to ensure a fresh and untainted product. Choosing organic grains also lowers the risk of contamination from mycotoxins- secondary metabolites produced by fungi that can cause mild to severe effects on health.

Dangers of Genetic Modification

The process of genetic engineering or genetic modification (GM for short) inserts genes from one organism into another. Corn and soybeans have been subjected to this procedure, and now wheat is being targeted as a GM crop.

The rationale to genetically modify wheat is to make it more drought, pest and mildew resistant. But the matter isn’t this simple. GM is an unproven technology with little scientific data addressing possible long-term effects on human and environmental health. Some scientists suspect persons ingesting GM foods risk developing new allergies, an inability to absorb vitamins and minerals, and resistance to antibiotics.

Organic farmers face a very real threat of cross-contamination between GM crops and organic crops through genetic drift. Already GM corn, soybean and canola crops have genetically contaminated neighboring crops.

Efforts by some organic consumer groups have helped to halt the plans for genetically modified wheat, for now at least. In the future, though, things may change. The Swiss company Syngenta is preparing to introduce what will be the world’s first genetically modified wheat seed as early as the next decade.

The majority of American consumers support labeling genetically modified foods. But the only current guarantee that a food is not genetically engineered is the organic label.

Using Organic Grains

Before baking, shop for organic grains to include in your favorite recipe. The following recipes use organically grown grains and organic cereals for healthier versions of family favorites.

 

Fresh Whole Wheat Bread     Episode 4

Ingredients:
2 cups stone ground organic flour
2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 tbls. salt
4 tbls. Organic brown sugar
2 oz. Spectrum - Organic All Vegetable Shortening
1 oz. Organic milk
3 tbls. dry yeast
1 ¾ cups warm water (85º)
1 pat organic butter

Procedure:

  • In a mixing bowl, add flours and 1¼ cups warm water. Retain ½ cup to dissolve yeast. Mix water and yeast. In the mixing bowl, add salt, brown sugar, vegetable shortening, milk and yeast. Mix well
  • If you are using a mixer, use the dough hook attachment on low for 5 min. Or mix by hand until dough pulls away from sides. It should be sticky and elastic. Knead and shape. Place in bowl with a splash of olive oil, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  • Remove dough and punch down. Slice in half. Using one-half, cut into thirds. Roll each out by hand to about 12-18 inches long. Start at one end and braid the dough. Pinch each end together. Do the same procedure with the other half of dough.
  • Grease a large pan (or 2) with butter. Place the braided dough on pan(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Remove plastic wrap and place in oven for 25 min. When done, place bread on cooling racks and brush on melted butter. Slice and serve!
Currant Bran Muffins     Episode 12

Ingredients:
½ cup organic brown sugar
2 oz. Spectrum - Organic All Vegetable Shortening
1 tsp. salt
2 large organic eggs
6 oz. organic vanilla yogurt
2 cups organic wheat bran
1 1/3 cups stone ground organic white flour (pre-sift with baking powder)
2 tbls. baking powder (for flour)
1 oz. molasses, pre-mix with honey
1 oz. organic honey, pre-mix with molasses
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3 oz. dried red currants and/or ½ organic apple diced

Procedure:
  • Pre-heat oven to 425º Butter or oil the muffin pans. In a mixer or by hand with a whisk. Add sugar, vegetable shortening and salt and mix until chunky. Stop and add 1 egg. Mix for 30 seconds. Stop and add the other egg and mix for 1½ more minutes. Be sure to pull down mixture from sides of bowl occasionally. Add vanilla, yogurt and wheat bran. Mix until even consistency. Stop mixing and add pre-mix of molasses and honey. Mix for 2 more minutes. Add flour (with baking powder added), currants and mix until same consistency.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on racks.

Selected sources

A Field Guide to Buying Organic by, Luddene Perry and Dan Schultz
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods (thecampaign.org)
Genetically Altered Foods and Your Health, by Ken Roseboro
Genetic Engineering and Agriculture, Organic Trade Association (ota.org)
Hippy Gourmet Library

 

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