Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Finally, Kernza

I first wrote about the perennial wheat grass called Kernza a couple of years ago, but since then I have not managed to eat any foods made with it.

Until this year's State Fair, when the Birchwood Cafe made eclairs with it:

The Kernza shell was filled with a sweet corn pudding, and that's a blueberry glaze on the top.

It was very good as long as you weren't expecting it to be a dessert. The glaze was tart and the pudding was slightly sweet. The Kernza shell was good — not quite as light as a white flour eclair, of course, but it was moist and I think lighter than a whole wheat one would be, if there is such a thing.

My first bite was kind of a shock because I was expecting it to be sweeter. But once I caught on, I liked it better with each bite.

Then in the horticulture building, I checked out the display from the Forever Green Initiative, the program at the University of Minnesota that's working on Kernza. Here's what the dried plants look like:

Kernza is a marketing name for this improved intermediate wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium. It's distantly related to wheat, but because it's a perennial instead of an annual, there's much less tilling, seed-buying, planting, and fertilizing for the farmer to do.

And here's what the roots of intermediate wheat grass look like (right), compared to those of annual wheat (left):

That's 12’ of roots, which hold the soil against erosion, build soil health, and soak up water in heavy rainfalls. All the things we need as we face climate change.

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