Last month’s Good Food Festival and Conference at UIC Forum drew local foodies from across the food supply chain. At this annual event, Hazzard Free Farms from Pecatonica, Ill., did a presentation on “ancient grains,” which are grains described as having been grown naturally for centuries without human intervention or manipulation.
Among such ancient grains are relatively unknown types of farro, oats, and corn.
The folks at Hazzard Free grow and sell many of these now-obscure products because they’re committed to defending species at risk for extinction. Biodiversity is important: having a large pool of diverse plants, whether edible or not, helps maintain planetary health and vitality. In addition, some of this stuff is very tasty.
Corn is commonly grown around the world, and although most of us Midwesterners eat sweet yellow corn, there are many types of corn, including Hopi Blue and Floriana Red Flint (which is frequently used as decoration for Thanksgiving).
One classic — and extremely easy — dish you can make with any coarse cornmeal is polenta. There’s no actual difference between polenta and grits: Italians eat it by one name, and those in the Southern U.S. by another. I’m Italian, so we eat polenta, and we just started using Floriana Red Flint cornmeal:
1. Boil 3 cups of water.
2. Slowly stir 1 cup of cornmeal into 1 cup cold water and slowly add to the boiling water; bring back to boil.
3. Reduce heat to low boil; cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t clump.
Eat with butter and salt. For a more deluxe version, add chili and cheese or Italian sausage.