Steiner’s Grain of the Day

A different grain for each day is part of the Waldorf Kindergarten and connected to the cosmic origins of the days of the week.   A different grain a day fits in with the nourishing weekly rhythm the kindergarten thrives on.   The most common listing of grains I have seen is the following, taken from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book:

Sunday (Sun): Wheat

Monday (Moon):  Rice

Tuesday (Mars):  Barley

Wednesday (Mercury);  Millet

Thursday (Jupiter):  Rye

Friday (Venus):  Oats

Saturday (Saturn):  Corn

Waldorf teachers and those who cook with whole grains attribute different properties to different grains.  According to The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book, wheat is often seen as a harmonizer of the organ systems, rice is seen as acting on the digestive system, barley is seen as strengthening to the connective ligements due to a high silica content and also seen to be soothing to the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines, millet is seen to have warming properties, rye nourishes the head and bones, oats loosens stiffness and increases stamina and resistance to disease, and corn stimulates the metabolism in muscles.

People often ask me what grains we work with in our homes, and how we work with them.  We do not work with wheat much at all.  Rice I tend to cook as either cream of rice for breakfast, coconut cinnamon rice with raisins for snack or just plain old rice with dinner.  Barley I enjoy most in a soup or cooked in place of any recipe that calls for rice.  Typically I cook millet as a breakfast porridge in the crockpot overnight with almond milk.  Millet is rather low in calcium and almond milk just seems to go fairly well with the millet to balance it all out.  I have tried rye in bread, but have found it difficult to work with this grain much.  There is a recipe in one of my raw food “un” cookbooks for a long tailed rye salad, so maybe i will try that next.  Oats I tend toward scottish oatmeal, steel-cut oats or making something with oat flour.

Grains can be a touchy thing for many people.  Many of these grains (wheat, barley, rye, cross-contaminated oats) have gluten in them.  There was just an interesting article in the December/January 2009 issue of the  magazine “Living Without: the magazine for people with allergies and food sensitivities”  (see for further information about this wonderful magazine!).  The magazine interviewed Peter HR Green, MD and director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and author of Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic.  Dr. Green states in the article, “Wheat has only been domesticated in the last 10, 000 years. Our digestive systems can’t fully chop up gluten, the protein in wheat.  We’re left with large molecules of up to 30 amino acids that can be absorbed into the intestinal lining (probably during gastrointestinal infections) and that interact with the immune system, causing celiac disease in genetically predisposed individuals.  We evolved to eat meat.  Our enzymes digest meat protein fully into single amino acids or molecules of 2 to 3 amino acids that are readily absorbed.” (I am so sorry to my vegan friends, these are his words, not mine!)

They asked Dr. Green if he thought everyone should limit gluten consumption and he answered, “No, not necessarily.  But many people who don’t have celiac disease feel better not eating wheat and it may be because it’s poorly digested.”  He adds in answer to a different question, “Some people may feel better on a gluten-free diet.  If they don’t test positive for celiac disease, they may still be gluten sensitive.  They may feel better avoiding gluten, or just wheat.  They may not need as strict a gluten-free diet, just limited.”

But at any rate, I thought it was interesting.  Steiner was so into agriculture and the creation of biodynamic cultivation methods, and I wonder what he would say about today’s surge of folks who are gluten-sensitive and/or celiac disease positive.  I have often joked that The Standard American Diet for many people is Wheat, Soy, Cow and Chicken.  Behind that not so good joke, however, is my wonder at what we are doing to our health by eating such a limited diet.

So, I guess this is the long way of saying I think Steiner’s idea of rotating grains through our diet was a good one.  I seem to have gluten sensitivity and can only eat about a half cup portion or less of a grain each day and still feel good, but I do try and follow Steiner’s rotations.  I love the warming properties of my millet.  The other grain that intrigues me, not one of Steiner’s, is the little Ethiopian grain called teff.  Teff is high in calcium, protein and fiber.  I will let you all know as I experiment with it.

Proponents of Nourishing Traditions will point out that most of these grains, except rice, need to be soaked overnight in order to inactivate the enzyme inhibitors present in grains and inhibit the presence of phytic acid, present in grains and causes the decreased absorption of important minerals.  You can do the soaking of grains just by simply covering the grains with warm water and adding a tablespoon of lemon juice, yogurt, kefir or whey and then rinsing the grains before cooking the next day.

Maybe this will inspire you to try some different whole grains, and to think about the diversity of the things you do eat.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

24 thoughts on “Steiner’s Grain of the Day

  1. I would love to know how you do the millet and almond milk porridge in the crock pot. We like millet a lot but haven’t found too many recipes for it, and this sounds yummy! I think we have some almond milk too that I bought a while back on sale, but I should check its expiration date…

    I recently found puffed millet and my ten month old like it.

    Have you done anything with quinoa? I have experimented a little with it. I wish there were more common recipes that call for a variety of grains beyond wheat.

    • Put 1 cup millet in pot or pressure cooker. Add 5 cups of water. Boil/pressure cook for 20 minutes. Stir and eat. Add nut or rice milk as desired or dried fruit.

      Can also dry roast 1 cup of millet until golden and smells buttery, then add 2 1/2 cups water and simmer for 20 minutes. Then fluff up with fork. Cooks exactly like quinoa and can substitute for any recipe that call for quinoa. It’s much cheaper and grows in USA. Millet is very high in silica which is fantastic for your joints, nails, and hair.

  2. I like the sound of the coconut cinnamon rice! Dd loves porridge or rice pudding for breakfast (although rice pudding takes some planning due to the length of cooking required).

    I really have to cut down on wheat, I know I suffer on it, as does my mother and my grandfather was a coeliac, but I do love home-baked bread!

    I like rye bread, but my children aren’t so keen, it is rather ‘strong-tasting’.

  3. Erin-
    As far as millet in the crock pot goes, I use two cups of almond milk and a cup of water to one cup of millet. My crock pot tends to cook fast and leave me with no liquid left in there by morning, so you may need to experiment with the liquid ratio. I bet coconut milk would work nicely as well. From there you can add whatever you would like – raisins, currants, cinnamon. Yummy! I am still playing with it and how we like it best, so I will keep you updated as I figure it out!

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  5. Hi Carrie – I would love to know how your teff experimentation is going. I recently worked with a holistic nutritionist who gave me a fantastic recipe for cocoa/carob teff. My son loves it. I am still trying to figure out where it fits into the week grain-wise and I am curious what properties it holds and how it nourishes our bodies and spirits. I’m guessing that the native grain of Ethiopia was not on Steiner’s radar despite how ancient it is!

  6. just ordered the kindergarten snack book and came across this page in the process – i need a crockpot! the millet porridge with almond milk sounds lovely, i make it on the hob with rice milk for supper sometimes, but having it ready for breakfast sounds even better.
    have you tried kamut grain? i believe its an ancient wheat, we eat it like rice, it has a really nutty flavour and takes 60-90 mins to cook. we also use the flour to make bread.
    we’ve recently been experimenting with rye flour in our twice-weekly banana loaf – we make it with canola oil instead of butter and use either half kamut or spelt flour with the rye. also tried it with barley malt syrup when we ran out of agave and it disappeared really quickly…
    what a great website, had a look a while ago via the christopherus forum-shame DS’s nap won’t last much longer!

  7. Hi! Thanks for this. I’m trying to figure out more about Steiner’s grain of the day and color of the day, and this is the only internet info I have found. Thank you. I am a follower of the recommendations set forth by Nourishing Traditions and the Weston A. Price Foundation. We still do grains including wheat, but I fix them in concordance with their recommendations. We don’t do grains everyday. our curriculum we use (Little Acorn) now provides a menu for the grains and colors of the day. I have been curious as to the whys of this part of Waldorf. They didn’t seem to do it in our Parent/Child class.

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  9. My partner is Polish and he loves traditionally cooked buckwheat, and we also like Quinoa both of which are more familiar to me than millet. So I use those in a rotation instead. Actually, I had a bad experience at a vegan dinner party years ago with a dry millet loaf LOL!

    Is it the rotation Steiner considered most important do you think? Or that one eats the grains that grow in one’s own region? (He may not have been familiar with quinoa?)
    We like polenta, barley in soup or as a pilaf/risotto, rye in bread, rice and couscous & bulghar wheat.

    I am not overly concerned about all this but just rather curious about the widespread following of a rotation that only included seven of the world’s myriad grains…
    Is one encouraged to somehow work out which day to fit in the substitute grains?

    Haven’t managed to find an adequate explanation of all of this as yet, thought you might know where to look …

  10. Rose – Baking Bread by Warren Lee Cohen says other varieties of wheat include – Spelt, Kamut, Durum, Emmer wheat and Einkorn.

    Triticale is a cross–hybridisation between wheat and rye.”

    Quinoa is not mentioned.

    The grains are specifically related to the planet for the particular day. Quite simply other grains are not. That does not mean you can’t incorporate them though!

    This is a lovely book – with lots of ideas, stories, blessings, info and recipes.

  11. Hi Carrie,
    I am trying to sort out how i do the grain of the day for our family thanks for this post – I have a quesition….So you eat the grain of the day, but is it ok in that same day to eat other grains?? or is this destroying the benifit we are getting from the whole grain a day thing? e.g Tue = barley salad for dinner…but we would eat oat or rice porridge for breakfast
    Any thoughts??

    Anna B 🙂

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  14. Does anyone know where Steiner came up with this whole “Grain of the Day” thing? DId he make it up himself or did he actually learn it from an esoteric tradition?

    • HI MP,
      I believe it was actually teachers within Waldorf Education who did the work to correspond grains to the planets and cosmos…There is no one definitive source in terms of “this grain on this day” as far as I know..although Rudolf Steiner did obviously write extensively on agriculture, bees, biodynamic preparation of the soil and nutrition as well. Nutrition is not my area of expertise, I think you could work with the Waldorf Kindergarten snack books that talk about the grains and the day, and also “COoking for the Love of the World” available here:
      Many blessings,

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  16. Thank you for this. I would just like to point out that other esoteric traditions would switch Oats and Barley on this list so that Oats would go with Mars and Barley with Venus. Oats are not usually associated with the calm, peaceful qualities of Venus. Here is a little on that:

    “Ancient people realised that OATS were the grain associated with Mars, the red planet, the planet of aggressiveness, passion and war. Not that eating oats will make one belligerent – compared to the amount of red meat gobbled every year by the average American, oats are a rather tame, pacifistic affair! However, it is a truth still practiced at many breakfast tables that oats are a grain of choice to warm one up on a cold and blustery winter day. Anyone who has travelled to England or Scotland knows that oats play an important part in the standard diet of those cold, damp lands – and why? Because oats give that extra zing to the metabolism that warms the toes and fingers. Horsemen, too, know to be careful not to overfeed their mounts with oats, since too many will make their steeds rambunctious.”

    • I don’t know if this is the case in this situation, but sometimes a food with an opposing effect on the body to balance out the planet’s effect is called for. For instance, oats might be used on the Venus day because the oats would balance out the calmer Venus energies, while barley counters the aggressiveness of Mars.

  17. Dear Carrie,
    thank you for this. Have you any thoughts as to where Kamut Spelt and Teff might fit on the planetary days of the week? Might any of them be a good wheat substitute?
    thank you

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