Plant of the Month Grains

Plant of the Month – Grains

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Sigh, I was wr….. Not exactly right….

You know how you’ve been telling people stuff for almost 30 years and no one’s ever corrected you and finally you get around to trying it and……

Grains have been quite a common food item across many cultures, high in carbohydrates and protein, easy to store for long periods and relatively easy to prepare, grains have provided breads, porridge, beer (which was used as an early method of purifying water, the alcohol content was lower than most beers today but high enough to kill off any bugs).

Mostly when we think of grains we think of grasses but for this column we’re looking at grasses and other plants whose seeds can be used in a similar manner. 

Grass grains: 

Not all grasses are created equally, of the 12,000 or so species of grass in the world only a dozen or so have made it into agricultural production the others being too small, too difficult to process or harvest or in some other way just not being suitable.

Of the Australian grasses most fall into the too hard category, whether from sequential ripening where the seeds ripen only a few at a time or the seeds being difficult to separate from the husks and other attachments. Despite it’s promotion in the otherwise highly readable Dark Emu, Kangaroo Grass fits into the difficult to harvest and clean category so wouldn’t be one of the ones I’d be looking for for grain. 

Native Millets/Panics Panicum decompositum P. effusum, despite the small seeds of about 0.5mm diameter the Millets easily make up for it being easy to harvest and process, when the seeds are ripe the heads break off and are blown away landing against trees, fences, and other structures and while they can be a fire hazard are easy to rake up. A few good hits will release the seeds and a little winnowing will clear away the husks. A friend is helping out on the research into this and tells me the resultant flour is a yellowish colour and tastes alright cooked up.

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Though small, Panicum seeds are easily harvested and cleaned (photo Hunter LLS, hand model, Me)

Love Grasses Eragrostis Sp (also known as Woolybutt in Central Australia), in the same genus as Tef, smaller seeds than the panics but similarly easy to collect and process.

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