Millet is an important staple grain in North China and India, but it’s not very well known in the U.S. Here we mostly use it as bird feed. The grain kernels are very small, round, and usually ivory colored or yellow, though some varieties are darker. A lack of gluten and a rather bland flavor may account for the unpopularity of this cereal. Millet has a more alkaline pH (and a higher iron content) than other grains which makes it very easy to digest though, so you may want to give it a try. A major advantage of millet is that it swells a great deal when cooked and supplies more servings per pound than any other grain. When cooked like rice millet makes an excellent hot breakfast cereal. It has little gluten of its own, but mixes well with other flours. Adding whole millet kernels to the dough can add a pleasant crunch to your homemade breads.
Though the Scots and the Irish have made a cuisine of oats, it is mostly thought of in the U.S. as a bland breakfast food. It’s rarely found as a whole grain and is usually sold processed in one form or another. Like barley, the oat is a difficult grain to separate from its hull. Besides its longtime role as a breakfast food, oats make an excellent thickener of soups and stews and a filler in meat loafs and casseroles. Probably the second most common use for oats in America is in cookies and granola.
Oatmeal baths, masks, and soap are healthy for skin and good for itches and rashes.
Here’s a list of oats found in the U.S. Rolled and cut oats retain both their bran and their germ.
Oat groats: These are whole oats with the hulls removed. They’re not often found in this form and to be honest really aren’t worth the trouble of grinding them yourself. I have seen them used a hot cereals or in soups though.
Steel cut oats: Sometimes known as Irish, pinhead or porridge oats. They are oat groats cut into chunks with steel blades. They’re not rolled and look like coarse bits of grain. Steel cut oats can be found in many supermarkets and natural food stores. They take longer to cook than rolled oats, but retain more texture. They need oxygen free packaging to be kept at their best for long term storage.
Rolled oats: These are also commonly called old fashioned, thick cut or porridge oats. To produce them, oat groats are steamed and then rolled to flatten. They can generally be found wherever oats are sold. They take slightly longer to cook than do the quick cooking oats, but they retain more flavor, texture and nutrition. This is what most people think of as oatmeal.
Quick cooking rolled oats: These are just steamed oat groats rolled thinner than the old-fashioned kind above so that they will cook faster. They can usually be found right next to the thicker rolled oats.
Instant rolled oats: These are the “just add hot water” or microwave type of oat cereals and are not particularly suited for long term storage. They do, however, have uses in “bug out” and 72-hour food kits for short term crises. I always keep a supply of both on hand.
Whole oats: This is with the hulls still on. They are sold in feed & seed stores and sometimes straight from the farmer who grew them. Unless you’re a horse, you won’t ever need these.
Quinoa is yet another of the grains that is not a true cereal. Its botanical name is Chenopodium quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), and is a relative of the common weed Lambs quarter. The individual kernels are about 1.5-2 mm in size and are shaped rather like small flattened spheres. When quinoa is cooked, the germ of the grain coils into a small “tail” that lends a pleasant crunch when eaten. There are several varieties of quinoa that have color ranging from near white to a dark brown. The larger white varieties are considered to be the best and are the most common.
Rice is the most widely consumed food grain in the world with the U.S. being the leading exporter of this important staple, though we only produce about 1% of the global supply. Most the world’s rice is eaten within five miles of where it was grown.
Much like wheat and corn, rice comes in several varieties, each with different characteristics. They’re typically divided into classes by the length of their kernel grains; short, medium and long.
Rice needs to be stored in a cool and air-tight container. It’s filling and healthy. Water used to cook rice can be saved to drink or use in cooking (it’s high in vitamin B). Rice water is also used to treat diarrhea. Rice can be cooked in clear broth to add flavor. It can also be added to soups. Rice can be cooked many ways: steamed, fried or boiled. It can be made into a hot cereal. Just add vegetables and/or meat make a complete meal. Any spice will add variety (ex.: Spanish rice, curried rice, etc.)
Short grain rice: The short grain variety is a little softer and bit moister when it cooks and tends to stick together more than the longer rices. It has a sweeter, somewhat stronger flavor than long grain rice.
Medium grain rice: The medium grain variety is not very common in the States. It has flavor like the short variety, but with a texture more like long.
Long grain rice: The long grain variety cooks up into a drier, flakier dish than the shorter types and the flavor tends to be blander. It is the most commonly found size of rice on American grocery shelves.
Each of the above can be processed into brown, white, parboiled or converted, and instant rice.
Brown rice: This is whole grain rice with only the hull removed. It retains all the nutrition and has a pleasant nutty flavor. From a nutritional standpoint, it is by far the best, but it has one flaw: The essential oil in the germ is very susceptible to oxidation and soon goes rancid. Thus, brown rice has a shelf life of only about six months unless given special packaging or storage. Freezing or refrigeration will greatly extend this.
Converted rice: Converted rice starts as whole rice still in the hull which undergoes a process of soaking and steaming until it is partially cooked. It is then dried, hulled and polished to remove the bran and germ. The steaming process drives some of the vitamins and minerals from the outer layers into the white inner layers. This makes it more nutritious than polished white rice, but also makes it more expensive. Its storage life is the same as regular white rice.
White rice: This is raw rice that has had its outer layers milled off, taking with it about 10% of its protein, 85% of its fat and 70% of its mineral content. Because so much of the nutrition is lost, white rice sold in the U.S. must be “enriched” with vitamins to partially replace what was removed. It stores very well and is generally the cheapest form of rice to be found in the market place making it a very common storage food.
Instant rice: This type of rice is fully cooked and then dehydrated needing nothing more than the addition of water to reconstitute it. In a pinch, it’s not even necessary to use hot water. Some purest would cringe at adding this to your storage, but I believe in storing what you will eat and going with the simplest things to prepare when in a crisis.
Rye is well known as a bread grain in the U.S. It has dark brown kernels that are longer and thinner than wheat, but less gluten. Rye flours can be found in varying stages of refinement from dark whole grain flour to semi-refined medium to pale fully refined offerings. Bread made from this grain tends to be dense unless gluten is added (often in the form of a lot of wheat flour). German pumpernickel and Russian black bread, made with unrefined rye flour and molasses, are two of the darkest, densest forms of rye bread. Many sourdoughs are built upon a rye base with a resulting interesting, intense flavor.
Don’t forget to check out the recipes made with the grains mentioned here in the Recipes Section!