Perennial wheat is an ecologist’s dream. Soon it may be what’s for dinner.
It didn’t look like much: Just a little bag of brown grains. I whizzed them in the blender to make flour, then cooked up a batch of pancakes. They looked like pancakes. And tasted like them, too — though did I perhaps detect a hint of malt? I looked over at my 4-year-old, a precision instrument when it comes to observing (and rejecting) new flavors. But there she was, wolfing them down without complaint. Now my question was: Could this little seed help save the planet?
The grain was Kernza, a new breed of wheat. Unlike the usual varieties, it is perennial, which means it grows year-round rather than being sown each spring. That matters because over time, the plant develops a deep, dense root system that helps to build healthy soil and to keep carbon in the soil, a counter to climate change. No wonder perennial grains have long been the holy grail for a certain set of agroecologists (visionaries or eco-weenies, depending on your perspective). Now here was Kernza in my kitchen. And, it turns out, in other places, too.
Patagonia Provisions, a new division of the outdoor gear company, this week releases the first commercial product made with Kernza, Long Root Ale. The Perennial, a new restaurant in San Francisco, is serving it, along with its house-made Kernza bread and crackers and a deliciously toasty Kernza ice cream. In Minneapolis, close to a large Kernza test plot, chefs and food artisans are using Kernza in tortillas, muffins, pasta and more. Minnesota-based General Mills is also evaluating the grain. …