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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native Indian Rice Grass cultivation as food source

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Saturday - September 30, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Native Indian Rice Grass cultivation as food source
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi! I'm a student at UT and I ran across a grass while doing some reseach, native to Utah and Arizona, called Indian Ricegrass. It was used as a famine plant among native communities, however, it was never really used as a primary source of food. All of the sources that I have found indicates that it's a hardy plant, with larger seeds than many wild grasses and high protein levels. Why was this plant never domesticated for agricultural use?

ANSWER:

Indian Rice Grass (Achnatherum hymenoides), native to California, the Rocky Mountain states, midwestern, southwestern and northwestern United States and western Canada, is being cultivated and is recommended by the U. S. Department of Agriculture for use as a feed for livestock and wildlife and as a reclamation crop for disturbed areas. Improved selected cultivar seeds are available for purchase.

Flour made from Indian rice grass grains is gluten free. Gluten-free flour is essential for people suffering from celiac disease or are otherwise gluten intolerant. The Indian rice grass has the advantage over other gluten-free flours (such as those made from rice, beans, potatoes, or corn) in that it is high in protein, high in fiber and makes very flavorful baked goods. An article, Value Added Corner: Amazing Grains!, in the USDA magazine, Rural Cooperatives (Volume 71, number 3, July/August 2004) describes the formation, with research and support from Montana State University and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, of a grower-owned cooperative that now "produces, processes, packages, markets and distributes a gluten-free flour made from Indian rice grass. The cooperative also supplies state-certified native grass seed for private and federal land reclamation projects." Amazing Grains Grower Cooperative now sells an all-purpose flour blend and a baking flour supplement under its brand name "Montina" which can be found in stores in 40 of the 50 states.

 

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