Heirloom Grains: Timeless Natural Food

Goodlifer: Heirloom Grains: Timeless Natural Food

I don’t know enough about the agricultural history of the United States to explain why particular grains and legumes are grown or not grown here. But somewhere along the line, the U.S. became heavily dependent upon corn, soybeans, and wheat. The result? Other grains/legumes tend to be underutilized in this country, which is a shame, given their versatility and nutritional value.

But thanks to both a broadening of culinary horizons and the dedication of small businesses like Timeless Natural Food, the situation is beginning to change.

Timeless Natural Food offers Montana-grown, popular legumes/grains, as well as lesser-known varieties. Their lentils, for instance, come in a veritable rainbow of colors and types, from the beautiful Petite Crimson to Harvest Gold to Black Beluga. Check out their Black Kabuhli Chickpeas, or, my favorite, Purple Prairie Barley (and when they say it’s purple, they’re not kidding!). This barley cooks up to plump, al dente grains of a beautiful hue. Yellow Split Peas and Golden Flax complete the roster.

Timeless Natural Food Petite Crimson, Harvest Gold & Black Beluga lentils, all 100% organic.

Timeless Natural Food Petite Crimson, Harvest Gold & Black Beluga lentils, all 100% organic.

Everything they sell here is certified organic, produced by family farmers who care about their land and crops. The company also provides meaningful employment for 15 to 20 developmentally disabled adults (who label and package the products) and participates in the nationally-acclaimed annual “Ag Month” program at Meadowlark School, promoting sustainable and organic agriculture to 4th graders and their parents. Co-founder, CEO & General Manager David Oien is a third-generation Montana farmer who, after obtaining a college degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies, returned to the family farm in 1976, converting it to organic. An avid supporter of renewable energy, Oien also built a passive solar house and rehabbed a 30s-era wind power generator. (The website features a whole section about Timeless’ sustainability strategy.)

Timeless Natural Food Du Puy Style, Green & Pardina lentils, all 100% organic.

Timeless Natural Food Du Puy Style, Green & Pardina lentils, all 100% organic.

I find that many Americans simply don’t know how to prepare a legume or grain that’s a bit different. But, just as you’d use one type of apple in making a pie where another wouldn’t have the right texture, there are significant variations between, for instance, types of lentils (the Harvest Gold lentils cook in 5 to 10 minutes, a much shorter time than that required for Green Lentils).

If you’re willing to try something new (and if you are, I applaud you; too many Americans are in a food rut), you’ll find some recipes right on the Timeless Natural Food website (one for African Black Chickpea, Lentil & Squash Stew can be found below), where you can also buy a cookbook with more formulations using their products.

The Pea and Lentil Cookbook features dozens of pea, lentil, and chickpea recipes for dips, salads, soup, entrees, breads and desserts — helpful for those of us not yet familiar with some varieties of grains and legumes.

The Pea and Lentil Cookbook features dozens of pea, lentil, and chickpea recipes for dips, salads, soup, entrees, breads and desserts — helpful for those of us not yet familiar with some varieties of grains and legumes.

Much of the rest of the world has depended on these legumes and grains as dietary staples for centuries, if not longer (making them indeed “timeless”!). My guess is that these other cultures might just know something that we don’t. Any reliable source of nutrition information will enlighten you regarding the health benefits of eating lentils and their ilk. Better still, these legumes/grains are inexpensive compared to many other foods, and they can be used to create delicious salads, soups, and much more. Visit the website to find out if there is a store near you, otherwise online ordering is available.

Timeless Natural Food Black Kabuli Chick Peas & Purple Prairie Barley, both 100% organic.

Timeless Natural Food Black Kabuli Chick Peas & Purple Prairie Barley, both 100% organic.

African Black Chickpea, Lentil & Squash Stew
Serves 8 (plan ahead, this recipe takes approximately 8 hours)

Ingredients
3/4 cup Black Kabuli Chickpeas
2 1/2 pounds kabocha squash, or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cups Petite Crimson lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Methods/steps
Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain when ready to use.

Combine the soaked chickpeas, squash, carrots, onion, lentils, broth, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Put on the lid and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 1/2 hours.

Stir in lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

Top photo: Udaipur Spice Market in Rajasthan, India by Dey, Creative Commons

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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