New year, new grains to try.
Jimmy Red Geechee Boy grits from South Carolina
Edisto Island, South Carolina, has a long and storied agricultural history dating from Colonial times. Agriculture still thrives on the island midway between Charleston and Beaufort. Betsy and Greg Johnsmans are farmers, but they also are millers, grinding corn into meal, flour and grits. They named their business for Raymond L. Tumbleston, a farmer known on the island as “Geechie Boy.” (“Geechee” and “Gullah” are the names of islanders of West African descent in Georgia and South Carolina.) The Johnsmans mill heirloom corn and produce blue grits, guinea flint grits, Jimmy Red grits, speckled grits and the traditional yellow and white varieties. Our favorite: coarse grits milled from Jimmy Red corn, with ears that turn a deep red as they mature. Did you see the mention in Garden & Gun about their grits and South City Kitchen’s smoked tomato-poblano gravy?
Grits range from $5.95 to $12 per 24-ounce bag. Available at geechieboymill.com.
Popcorn rice from Louisiana’s Baker Farms
Roy Baker of Baker Farms in Gueydan, Louisiana, grows the rice, cleans it, sends it to be milled, and, when it comes back, he bags the rice and then sews up the cotton bag and sells those bags full of gourmet popcorn rice. He’ll tell you it’s a one-man operation, and, truly, it is. Baker is growing Della 2, a popcorn rice variety developed by Louisiana State University to combine the popcorn-like flavor of Della, an old variety with great flavor but not-so-great growing habits, and Cypress, a once widely grown commercial variety. The result is a rice so flavorful that Baker said even the fields smell like popcorn when the rice is growing. It’s a long grain rice that cooks like any other, and, yes, it does indeed smell like popcorn.
$4.95 per 2-pound bag. They also make rice flour, rice mixes, hot sauce and fish fry. Available at campbellfarms.com.
Freekeh? It may be new to you, but it’s an ancient grain. Freekeh (pronounce it “free-kah”) is the name for young, green wheat berries roasted and then cracked, so they’ll cook more quickly than whole wheat berries. It’s a high-fiber whole grain — exactly what you’re thinking you need to add to your diet for the new year. The cooked grains have a wonderful chew, and substantial whole grain flavor. Use it anywhere you’d use rice, including as a hot cereal with a little maple or cane syrup. You cook the freekeh in boiling salted water with a little olive oil, which makes it perfect, hot or cold, in grain bowls. Pereg is a 112-year-old family-owned company selling a wide variety of grains and spices.
$5.99 per 16-ounce bag. Available at the Spicy Peach, the Kosher Gourmet and at pereg-gourmet.com.
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