It’s Whole Grains Month. Do you know where your whole grains are?
As everybody settles into the routines of work and school, it’s a good time to make a packable, portable wheat berry salad that celebrates the harvest. Sweet, tender squash and crisp apples make a starring appearance in this easy Wheat Berry, Squash and Apple Salad, ready to bring for lunch or serve for dinner.
Whole Grains Month is an annual reminder to all of us that the best way to eat our breads, pastas, rice and other grain-based foods is when the item is not processed. Every little step we take toward swapping a refined food with a whole one is good for our health.
If you usually buy white bread, try a new whole-wheat loaf. If you snack on potato chips, switch to popcorn and you’ll be eating a whole grain. Take a look at your cupboard and switch one product to a whole-grain version the next time you shop.
Salads are a simple way to get whole grains on the table.
We live in the “wheat belt,” a growing region that extends from Alberta, Canada, down to Texas. With Minneapolis as the “Mill City,” we have a local connection to our wheat berries. Wheat berries are grains of hard winter wheat, with all the bran and germ intact, so you get all the fiber and nutrients. Natural foods groceries and stores with a good selection of grains will sell them.
If you want to explore the world of wheat, you can go beyond the standard red winter wheat and try some of the other varieties. Spelt, farro, kamut, Einkorn and other “ancient” or “heritage” wheats all offer nuances of flavor and texture that you might enjoy.
The famed Honeycrisp apple is perfect with wheat berries, with a crunch and sweetness that rival the textural punch of the grains. In this recipe, I minced part of the apple to incorporate into the dressing along with some finely minced walnuts. It’s a little step that makes a difference. The tiny bits of apple and walnut cling to the grains, bringing more of a cohesive flavor to each bite. You’ll still add some larger chunks of apple and walnut for crunch.
The fall harvest of squash is here, too. For some visual drama, I picked a squat, heavy buttercup about 4 inches tall. When peeled and sliced in wedges, it roasts to a golden brown crustiness, filled with a creamy interior. You can use a small acorn, sweet dumpling or other winter squash, too.
Eating seasonal produce with whole grains is a crunchy, savory way to care for yourself and your family.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.