Ale's Lifestyle Confessions

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    What is Kernza Grain? 

    As our environment becomes more extreme due to climate change, scientists are constantly looking at ways to help make farming more sustainable and beneficial. Kernza, a trademark name for the grain of an intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) has started to become a popular choice. 

    What is Kernza?

    This grain was first developed in 2008 by a group of scientists from the non-profit organisation called The Land Institute. It is relatively similar to the wheat that used to be grown to feed livestock. Through domestication, the scientists were able to transform the grain into something that humans are able to eat. Currently, you can find varieties of Kernza wheat sold in more niche markets, but it has the potential to grow big.

    The Kernza wheatgrass are planted from a single seed and can regrow itself, year after year. This makes it special as a lot of the commercial or industrial crops require farmers to replant it every day. When crops require to be replanted every year, it means that more water, fertiliser and energy is needed to support the growth. In addition, the constant replanting of the crops can also lead to soil degration and habitat destruction over time. 

    Whereas Kernza grains are planted deeply. The roots of the crop can be as long as up to 10 feet below the surface. This allows for a more effective way for it to receive nutrients and water. The roots stay strong and removes soil erosion and fertiliser use. 

    When you harvest the Kernza wheatgrass, you can leave the leaves and stems to be grazed by cattle and continue to grow it for the next harvest. In the most optimal condition, Kernza wheatgrass can actually contain more seeds than the regular wheat head. This can enable farmers to grow sustainability while also being able to make a profit. 

    Why Should You Try Kernza Grains?

    Kernza grains actually is considered to be way better for you than traditional regular wheat grains. It contains around 18 grams of fibre in 100 grams when compared to 10.8 grams of fibre in traditional wheat. Eating fibre rich foods can help you feel fuller and prevent you from overeating. Fibre also helps support your digestion and give bulk to your stools to prevent you from getting constipated. It can help lower your risk of heart disease, cholesterol levels and even control your blood sugar levels. Fibre is essential for you to achieve a healthy diet. 

    100 grams of Kernza grains also contains 19.2 grams of protein. This is around 10 grams more than the traditional wheat. Proteins are made up of chemical blocks called amino acids. There are around 20 different types of amino acids that can link together in different combinations. The amino acids in protein helps your body to build and repair muscles and make hormones and enzymes. 

    Growing Kernza grains are much more sustainable than growing traditional wheat. Since it was found in 2008, researchers have been able to scientifically double the seed yield of Kernza and will continue to further improve the production and quality of Kernza grains. 

    Kernza is considered to be a perennial grain. This means that they can exist for a long time and does not need to be replanted every year. Farmers won’t have to plow the land and plant new seeds every year to grow crops, this can make farming more efficient and help decrease the labour cost for the farmers. 

    Kernza also has much longer roots and therefore helps reinforce the soil, provide stability to the land and prevents the soil from separating and eroding. When traditional crops are harvested, it leads to the soil being exposed and therefore can lead to soil erosion due to rain. Soil erosion can sometimes lead to the loss of fertile land. However, this can also have more far reaching effects. The eroded soil can lead to increased pollution and soil debris into rivers and streams. This can clog the waterways and might cause an impact on the population of marine animals and other species. 

    The annual act of harvest on traditional wheat can also cause the land to be able to hold less water. This will make it harder for the land to hold and store water, leading to an increased risk of flooding. Through planting perennial grains such as Kernza, farmers are able to help reduce the impact of agriculture, decrease soil degradation, reduce soil erosion and loss of the land. 

    What Does It Taste Like?

    Kernza actually tastes like wheat to me. I usually make some pancakes with Kernza flour as it is a quick and simple way to add some fibre and protein into my diet for breakfast. It basically taste like wheat with a little bit of added earthy taste. It has light hints of a sweet and yet a little bit of nutty taste. The taste gives me a sense of like I’m eating a pancake in a cafe and drinking a cup of coffee. 

    You can pretty much use it in anything you use flour for. I mostly just stick with making pancakes, but you can bake muffins and cookies with it too. If you are new to trying out Kernza, you might want to try splitting half of the usual flour used into Kernza flour and using regular flour for the rest. 

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