Wheat By Any Other Name

Gluten-free salad featuring buckwheat, strawberries, and kale.

Food trends come and food trends go, but I’m thinking the trend toward vegetables and whole grains is going to stick. I love that restaurants are switching their menus to feature these foods. As a gluten-free diner, I’m happy that quinoa has become common on menus (though I hope other gluten-free grains join the trend!). And, as a gluten-free diner, I think it’s time to talk about the grains showing up on menus that *aren’t* gluten free.

We know that our diet requires us to avoid foods containing wheat, barley, and rye. In the United States, foods with wheat must be disclosed on labels. Barley and rye are not required disclosures. They are not common enough ingredients in this country, though they still cause problems.

Wheat, however, has many names, and when you review a menu, it can be disguised under less well-known names. Like many grains, wheat has many varieties, and cooks are using them with abandon. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s easy to make a mistake. Likewise, certain products, like wheat germ, are commonly used in Vitamin E oils (who knew?), which can cause problems for celiacs if accidentally ingested. It cannot be absorbed through the skin.

So, here are some other terms / varieties of wheat you should know and avoid:

  • Bulgur — A type of wheat. Bulgur wheat is common in Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh.
  • Cracked Wheat — Cracked wheat is often used in cereals or salads.
  • Dinkle — Dinkle is also known as spelt, and is often used in flour form. It is often treated like whole wheat in recipes.
  • Durum — Durum is a wheat high in protein and gluten. Pastas often use durum for these reasons. Semonlina is the endosperm of durum.
  • Einkorn — Einkorn is one of the so-called ancient grains, but is, pure and simple, wheat.
  • Emmer — Emmer is also a wheat grain, sometimes known as farro (which shows up on menus of restaurants).
  • Farina — Usually served as a breakfast cereal, such as in Cream of Wheat.
  • Farro — Wheat grain, often made from emmer. I see farro in restaurants that feature grain salads, so be aware!
  • Freekeh (also spelled farik or frikeh) — A green wheat, common in the Middle East.
  • Frumento/Frumenti — Wheat.
  • Graham Flour — Made from wheat.
  • Khorasan Wheat — Khorasan, or Oriental, wheat is also known by the trademarked name Kamut.
  • Semolina — A flour made from the endosperm of durum wheat.
  • Spelt — Also known as dinkel or hulled wheat.
  • Triticale — Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye. Avoid it. Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye. It has lots of protein and fiber. It’s also absolutely, positively not gluten free. It is used in animal feed, and some commercial human food products.
  • Vital Wheat Gluten — This pretty much says it all!
  • Wheat Germ — Made from wheat.
  • Wheat Germ Oil — Contains gluten; often found in personal care products.
  • Wheat Grass — On its own, wheat grass is gluten free. Gluten is contained in the grain (seeds) of wheat. If there are absolutely no seeds contained in the wheat grass, it is safe. This is very difficult to ascertain when wheat grass is an ingredient in other products (such as a filler in vitamins).
  • Whole Wheat — Probably goes without saying, but whole wheat is wheat.

Tip of the Week

After writing all about wheat, I want to caution you about vinegar. Specifically, malt vinegar. Malted products have a high chance of being made from barley, and malt vinegar is almost always made from barley. There are other great vinegars to enjoy, so if you cannot absolutely identify your malt vinegar as gluten free, avoid it!

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

After writing about all the unsafe grains in the wheat family, I want to highlight one that is absolutely, positively safe, despite its name: buckwheat. Buckwheat is *not* wheat, and it’s completely gluten free. And, it’s one of my favorite gluten-free ingredients.

Like other grains, buckhwheat cooks like rice in about fifteen minutes on the stove. It has a nutty taste that can be made richer by toasting the grains before cooking. It also has a firm mouth-feel — I like my grains, like my pastas, when they aren’t cooked to mush, and it takes a lot of neglect to cook buckwheat to mush. I love it on its own, tossed with a vinaigrette and some roasted veggies for a simple grain salad, in flour form, and, oh, again, on its own by the spoonful. Whenever I need a grain as a side dish, I turn to buckwheat.

It’s also perfect in a salad, including the fruit-and-grain salad below. You can mix and match ingredients to suit your taste and the season, but the buckwheat adds a solid, substantial texture to the dish. It’s also an unexpected ingredient, leading to lots of discussion about alternate grains for those following a gluten-free diet, or those looking to explore new foods!

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