Perennial Grains Start Appearing on Grocery Store Shelves
Kernza, a perennial alternative to wheat, has a lot of potential.
“Daddy, you never eat cereal,” said my youngest the other day, surprised to see me stepping away from my usual breakfast fare.
“My love, this isn’t just any old cereal,” I responded, mysteriously.
Let me explain: Sometime around 2008, I saw Wes Jackson, co-founder of The Land Institute, give a keynote presentation at a sustainable agriculture conference in South Carolina. The topic of that presentation was perennial grains. And Jackson zeroed in on one particular grain—Kernza—which the Land Institute was developing as a perennial alternative to wheat.
The potential, he argued, was amazing:
- It could prevent soil erosion
- It could reduce the need for agricultural chemicals
- It could reduce the need for fossil fuel-intensive tilling and replanting
- It could sequester vast amounts of carbon
Jackson also wowed us with what appears to be somewhat of a Land Institute party trick—displaying a real-size comparison between the root system of annual wheat, and that of Kernza, side-by-side. Here’s what that looks like on Twitter:
It’s not hard to see how full commercialization would result in significantly more carbon going straight underground. Yet despite all that promise, Jackson tempered his talk at the time with a sobering reality: Kernza was at least several decades away from commercial deployment.
Fast forward just over a decade, however, and things appear to be changing. Katherine has already written about how Patagonia Provisions is now making beer from Kernza, and the list of commercial collaborations on the Kernza website (yes, it has its own website) includes bakeries and cafes, restauranteurs, breweries, and at least one company selling flour, waffle mix and raw grains direct to the consumer. Now it also includes Cascadian Farm breakfast cereals.