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 www.LivingWithout.com 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.