The megadrought gripping the American West is so severe that it’s become the driest two decades in the region in at least 1,200 years. Scientists know that almost half of the drought’s severity can be attributed to human-caused climate change. They also state that the drought conditions will likely persist for years. To survive and maintain the health of the planet, we need to switch to regeneratively grown food—a technique that can help mitigate and potentially reverse climate change.
Kernza® is the trademark name for a regeneratively grown kind of grain, a wheatgrass (the young grass of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum). Here is everything you need to know about Kernza, a delicious whole grain that can improve your gut health as well as the health of the planet:
This new type of wheat is a perennial (as opposed to an annual) grain.Most agricultural crops are annuals (meaning they must be planted every year). Perennials, however, stay in the ground for many years, which gives them some signiﬁcant environmental advantages. Perennial grains develop deeper root systems than annuals. The deep roots help prevent soil erosion and trap harmful greenhouse gases underground, keeping them out of the atmosphere.
The long, hardy root system helps to anchor the soil, preventing run-oﬀ and nutrient loss. These deep roots (which grow 10 feet into the soil!) can also access water reserves stored much lower down in the water table, providing an increased level of drought-resistance for the crop.
Hearty grain crops, such as Kernza, are generally recognized as having the lowest water requirement compared to fruits, vegetables and especially water-hogging beef. As water becomes a more and more of a limited resource, it behooves farmers to increase production of drought-resistant crops.
Kernza has a sweet, nutty flavor. Cooks typically blend Kernza with an annual wheat flour to make bread. Kernza need not be blended, as it can make up 100% of the flour in quick breads (muffins, pancakes, etc.) or as a pilaf like rice, used in a grain bowl or just tossed into salads. It is also malted, utilized as a base for beer and whiskey.
Nutrition wise, Kernza is a true superfood. A healthy whole grain that’s high in protein, antioxidants, and packs in a huge amount of both cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber and gut-health-promoting insoluble fiber. Compared to regular wheat, Kernza has 18 grams of fiber per 3.5 ounces, versus 11 grams in wheat; and a whooping 19 grams of protein compared to wheat’s 9 grams. Kernza does not require any special storage or handling — and may even have a much longer shelf life than other grains.
Often termed “grains that give back,” why not add some Kernza into your day? Kernza is a sustainable and environmentally friendly food with health-boosting benefits — and the potential to revolutionize farming. You can purchase Kernza, and other regeneratively grown grain products, online or at stores such as Whole Foods Market.