Ingredient: Wheat germ
I know what you’re thinking: really, wheat germ? What could she possibly be making that we’ll want to eat that includes wheat germ? She must have confused 2012 with 1972. Why not strawberries or some other gorgeous spring crop?
Farmer’s market opens soon, very soon, and I promise that the voluptuous parade will be back in the Main Street Kitchen soon too. For now, we’ve got granules like anise, sumac…and, yes, wheat germ.
I haven’t used wheat germ before, and when I cracked open a jar I thought it looked a lot like bulghur. But they’re not the same thing. Cracked wheat is whole wheat that is split apart into pieces. Wheat germ is one tiny part of the wheat berry, but that tiny part packs a serious nutritional punch. It has more protein than most meats (28%), contains more potassium and iron than any other food, and also is loaded with riboflavin, calcium, zinc, magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B1, B3, and E.
If that doesn’t make you want to eat wheat germ by the spoonful (and it tastes pretty good, nutty and rather sweet), then the homemade granola bars we’re making this week will. These are going to be our very own, DIY, super-satisfying power bars. Of course, you could skip the wheat germ. But only the gluten-free among us have good reason to leave it out. As long as we’re eating granola instead of little donuts for a snack or breaky, we might as well go the full distance, don’t you think?
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Nutritionally speaking, the germ is the business center of the wheat kernel. High in lipids, it should be kept in a cold dark place to inhibit rancidity. Buy it fresh and use it within a month. It’s perishable nature is what’s responsible for many people’s aversion to whole wheat bread. When fresh it is sweet, nutty and utterly delicious. Unfortunately, many well meaning but uninformed bakers and bulk food stores (think college town food co-ops circa 1980) have not stored their flour and germ away from light and heat or have kept too much on hand. People have come to confuse the scent of rancid flour with the scent of whole wheat bread, one of the many injustices of the marketplace.
When we see the word “enriched flour” on an ingredient label it means that the miller has mixed a nutrient package into white flour to replace the missing nutritional value of the germ and the bran that have been sifted out. This is mandated by the FDA. But it’s up to the baker or cook to add back the missing flavor!
Bam! Thanks for the great information, Greg, especially on keeping wheat germ fresh and our confusion with rancid with whole wheat. I’m going to have to try your whole wheat bread and be converted…
I have used wheat germ for a long time. I put it in my homemade granola. I make a healthy version of granola (is there is such a duck)…and the wheat germ and bran add good fiber to it.