Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spelt and Millet: Ancient Grains for Today's Healthy Diet

When I was growing up, whole wheat flour and rice were exotic options. Now we have a whole range of intriguing choices – buckwheat, spelt, millet, kamut – the list goes on and on. My problem is that I don’t know very much about some of these grains, so I arranged a phone call with Nicole Davis, the Owner/Manager of Daybreak Mill near Estevan.

Daybreak Mill grows and processes approximately 18 different kinds of flour, whole and de-hulled grains, flakes, cereals, and legumes. They are 100% organic. “We want people to have access to healthy, wholesome food,” Nicole explains.

Two of Daybreak’s products – spelt and millet – have been nourishing people around the world for over 9,000 years.

Spelt
Spelt was cultivated by ancient civilizations in Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years. It grows well in poor soil and doesn’t require fertilizer. It’s resistant to frost and the thick husk protects the grain from insects. However, spelt requires more processing than wheat as the hull must be removed.

There are, however, advantages to eating spelt. It has more protein than ordinary wheat and contains a different form of gluten that is easier to digest.

Daybreak has been growing spelt since 2003, and it’s their most popular product. “It has a high moisture content and makes a light, moist loaf,” Nicole says.

They also sell spelt flakes and whole grain. Spelt flour is one of the main ingredients in Daybreak’s Sunrise pancake mix.

Millet 
Millet is a member of the corn family with long, broad leaves. Daybreak grows a very old variety of millet that came from the Ukraine. “We call it Alvin’s Millet,” Nicole says, “after Alvin Scheresky, one of the first organic farmers in North America and the original owner of the farm and mill.”

In North America, millet is primarily used for bird seed, but it’s the sixth most important cereal grain in the world, sustaining more than one third of the world’s population. Millet has a short growing season and grows well in hot, dry conditions. It also stores well, so it’s often set aside in case of famine.

Millet is gluten-free. Its protein content is similar to wheat and corn, and it’s rich in B vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc.

Millet is one of the main ingredients in Daystart cereal, which also contains buckwheat, oat bran, sunflower seeds and brown flax.

Did you know? 
• There are references to both millet and spelt in the Bible (Ezekiel 4.9, Isaiah 28:25).

• In 1850, 94% of the cereal acreage in one region of Germany was planted with spelt. Only 5% was producing wheat for bread.

• Sweet millet porridge is a popular dish in Russia and Germany.

• Millet is fermented to make beer in Taiwan, pombe in East Africa, and a distilled liquor called rakshi in Nepal.

• Daybreak Mill has a wide assortment of processing equipment to handle all its different crops. Millet seeds are much smaller than grains of spelt, so they require a different de-huller. The spelt flakes are processed using an old roller mill.

See also: Daybreak Scheresky Mill

Credit: This article was originally published in SaskMade Marketplace's October newsletter.

Photographs: Courtesy of Daybreak Mill

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