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Why is Puple Corn Purple?
When you think of eating corn off a cob, yellow and white probably come to mind first - however there are so many more varieties of corn that exist, having different flavors, shapes, and color. (insert image) How did corn get to be that way?
As plant, animal and fungal species reproduce they pass genes from one generation to the next in their DNA. DNA, the blueprint of life, often mutates and creates different combinations that result in different features, such as a change in color or shape, creating different “strains” or types of the same species. These different traits that result from breeding can be selected, or deliberately chosen, to occur again and again as new generations form. The corn we eat today looks and tastes vastly different than it did 100 years ago, due to human agricultural practices and this process of selective breeding.
Pigmentation, or the color something has, is a trait that is more easily detectable without needing to harvest the plant. Purple pigmentation of plant species can be attributed to the presence of anthocyanins. Having purple variations of plants, such as cabbages, or corn in this case, is beneficial for the plant as it more resistant to the negative effects of UV light radiation. As purple corn grows, the husks surrounding the kernels is also purple in color and also contains anthocyanins. This means that the corn can grow to a healthier and fuller plant in comparison to conventional corn, since it can better resist UV radiation, and reduces the risk of discoloration or deterioration as it grows out in a field.
The Anthocyanin content in purple corn is literally OFF THE CHARTS! This graphic comparison of purple corn to other reddish/ purple pigmented fruits demonstrates how the purple color of our cereal is straight from nature, no artificial additives.
Our Purple Corn: Fun to Eat, AND Good for You!
We work with Farmer Scott Johnson’s in Dakota County, Minnesota, as a source of our purple corn from the US. His lavender fields stretch as far as you can see, full of organic, non-gmo purple corn that has descended from an ancient Inca variety. Beyond its stunning appearance, we learned that purple corn is packed with more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than modern yellow corn.
Farmer Scott works closely with Suntava—the first company to grow, promote and market purple corn in North America. Suntava carefully selects a small group of dedicated farmers like Scott to help ensure the quality, purity, and ongoing nutritional value of purple corn. Suntava has been working diligently to grow our high antioxidant purple corn in various areas of the US- including Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Pennsylvania, and plan to expand their growing areas in the years to come.
Purple corn is not only beautiful to look at – it’s really good for you. In addition to giving these plants their beautiful purple color, the anthocyanins they contain provide a host of health benefits including providing a powerful dose of antioxidant protection. Its naturally sweet flavor makes our Purple Corn flakes taste slightly sweeter than our other flavors. All the fun with just one simple ingredient - and who doesn’t want to eat purple for breakfast?
Purple is Cool, but What Does it Mean?
Anthocyanins are also an indicator of antioxidants, which help slow the oxidation process within your body. Just as rust affects bicycles over time and use, think of oxidization as “biological rust” in regards to our bodies. How can we best prevent rust from developing and how can we repair things that have already rusted? Just like properly storing a bicycle after use, and cleaning and repairing it as needed, our bodies need to be cared for properly to be at our best! Antioxidants are able to reduce and slow down the oxidation rate of your body. By eating whole grains and naturally colorful foods, you can optimize your antioxidant intake, and help reduce the negative impact that stress has on your body. Ounce for ounce purple corn delivers twice the antioxidants as blueberries. So dig into a bowl of our purple corn flakes!
A Holistic Way to Source our Food
Agriculture in its more recent history has a record for being one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, as it is energy intensive, requires lots of land, and has been a motivator for habitat destruction, creating less diverse ecosystems on land and even in our soils. This can be attributed to exponential population growth worldwide, which was only possible due to modern agriculture advances, meaning more food means more people; yet, we continue to face the problem of how to feed the world with healthy food? The land that grows monocultures, or one type of crop, season after season will eventually have nutrient deficient soil. It will no longer have the minerals needed to grow an abundant harvest. Think of it as the flavor of your chewing gum dissipating as you’re chewing. The first few bites were delicious but after a few minutes of constant chewing, it’s tacky and flavorless, soon to be thrown out. That once fertile land is treated as a wasteland, as it no longer can support the rigorous growing of conventional farming. In order to address this environmental catastrophe, why biodynamic farming practices came to be.
So What is Biodynamic?
Demeter Association Inc is a nonprofit that provides Biodynamic Certification, which calls farms to a higher potential, to consider how every part of their practice has a larger environmental impact, from where they source food for their cattle, to what goes into fertilizer for crops, and how to effectively deal with waste that comes. By taking this holistic approach to farming, it is more economical for farmers in the long run but also promotes the longevity of the land in which these farms depend on. The health of soil is vital in providing food for generations to come. As articulated in their motto, “Heal the Planet through agriculture”, the Demeter Association sees agriculture as a tool to a more ecologically equitable food system and to revolutionize the current agricultural narrative.
What Recevies Biodynamic Certification?
The Demeter Association give Biodynamic Certification to whole farms that treat their farm as a whole organism, meaning all inputs and byproducts are accounted for. Just like being responsible for a pet, feeding it healthy, and cleaning up after its messes, farmers must take into consideration how they manage the waste produced by farming practices (manure, non-edible foliage, ect.) and how to potentially reintegrate it back into their farm. Products can also receive Biodynamic Certification when they meet Demeter Processing Standards, “to ensure an unbroken chain of accountability from the farm to the finished product, and deliver a product that allows for the integrity and purity of the agricultural ingredients to define it” (Demeter-USA.org).
We gladly source our Biodynamic wheat from Fred Kirschenmann, a North Dakota farmer who’s been organic since 1976, and uses his farm as a revolutionary teaching tool. The cycling of nutrients and holistic farming practices on his farm creates a unique ecosystem that takes in waste, via compost and other methods, such as greywater cycling, and helps produce some of the best crops around! Find out more about Fred here!
A Step Past Organic
While organic farming practices are beneficial in reducing the amount of biological harm that occurs during the energy intensive process of conventional farming and agriculture, it does not address the longevity of the soil in the way that biodynamic farming practices does. Organic certification primarily focuses on the lack of additional synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Read more about what constitutes organic practices from the USDA website.
Demeter’s Biodynamic Certification requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms and viewing the farm as a living “holistic organism”. After being certified, it guarantees high quality food products to consumers and ensures that the food being produced is helping ecological preservation as opposed to ecological detriment.
Back to the Root’s Biodynamic Cinnamon Clusters are the first cereal in the US to be certified Biodynamic. Join us in advocating for a more ecologically diverse tomorrow by digging into a bowl of our Biodynamic Cinnamon Clusters!
All About Cocoa!
The cacao tree grows in tropical climates and the history of its consumption is over 2000 years old! Each Cacao tree can grow around 150 fruits annually and inside each of these pods are roughly 30 cocoa beans, which are dried, fermented and sorted. Then they are cleaned, roasted and crushed into a powder, which then can be processed into the sweet chocolate bars we are used to eating to being used as cocoa powder in baked treats.
Cocoa Consumption's Larger Impact
Each year, the average American consumes over 9.5 pounds of chocolate. All these chocolate candies, mochas, syrups and other desserts require cocoa grown from around the world, from Central and South America, to Coastal West Africa to Southeast Asia, cacao trees grow in these regions with a tropical climate, along the equator. Your hot cocoa might have traveled farther than you would on a typical vacation!
However sourcing ingredients from around the world to be consumed in the United States has a toll on the environment. Deforestation to grow cocoa trees because of its high consumption worldwide is a threat to tropical ecosystems and the abundance of life in these places. To transport cocoa product overseas means relying on giant cargo ships that use fossil fuels to power them as tut across the ocean, not even to mention the machines that must be powered to process and mix the cocoa into chocolates, and other foods that use cocoa as an ingredient. So how can we reduce the overall negative environmental impact that results from our cocoa consumption?
Cocoa from the Caribbean - From Bean to Bowl
At Back to the Roots, we do our best to reduce our ecological footprint as much as possible; since cocoa cannot grow in the US, we looked to source from our neighbors in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic has the ideal climate for cacao trees to grow, and we’ve been able to partner with a certified organic, fair trade cooperative Asociacion Cacao Cultores Juan Cruz de Guaranal. The Dominican Republic has had a history of cocoa production, but in more recent years has become competitive with world cocoa supply. Dubbed the “world’s cocoa capital” the cocoa from the Dominican Republic has great flavor and stays fresh, especially since it doesn’t travel as far as cocoa sourced from other continents.
It is important to source fair trade when purchasing ingredients not from the United States, as it promotes safe, healthy working conditions, protects the environment, enables transparency, and empowers communities to build strong, thriving businesses.
Cocoa vs. Chocolate
As we mentioned earlier, cocoa powder is derived from cacao beans. The major difference between cocoa powder and chocolate is the absence of cocoa butter. The chocolates you eat during Halloween or as any other treat also has lots of sugar and milk or cream added to make the rich melting flavor that many of us love. However, cocoa powder is not as sweet as chocolates, as nothing is added to the beans when they are ground into a fine powder. The flavors are sharp and intense in comparison to chocolate, especially since the cocoa we use in our recipe isn’t processed with alkali, which means you are getting the fullest cocoa flavor possible. Our Cocoa Clusters are lightly sweetened with organic Floridian cane sugar, and after your first spoonful, you’ll notice the vibrant cocoa flavor in our clusters.
A Better Way to Eat Beans
It’s weird to think of chocolate as a bean, since we usually think of it as a treat! Back to the Roots’ Cocoa Clusters is our way of keeping the integrity of cocoa flavor and stoneground deliciousness delivered as a healthy choice for breakfast. Packed with tons of fiber, and a multitude of vitamins and minerals, from Vitamins A, B, C, D, E to Iron and Magnesium, this wholesome breakfast is a treat both parents and children can get behind!
The Difference with Organic
Conventional farming practices rely on various and sometimes extensively used pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to grow food at a large scale. However, using these additives can pollute waters, promote monocultures which depletes species variation and chemical residues affect people who harvest and consume these crops, as well as are expensive for farmers to use even though yields aren’t even always better, and have significant downsides. By supporting organic farming practices and consuming organic foods, we can be assured that there is less harm to the hands that feed us, the land that nurtures us, and the foods we consume, which is why Back to the Roots is a member of the Organic Trade Association.
Organic certification is defined by the USDA (united States Department of Agriculture) as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.” This covers a wide range of on-farm practices, which is why Back to the Roots visits and creates direct relationships with all of our suppliers so we can first-person validate that we’re getting the best product - from the people who grow it and to the land and the environment it’s grown on, to the people who trust us to fill their spoons full of delicious cereal flakes.
Farms can be certified organic as well as products if ingredients are sourced from organic farms. At Back to the Roots, we make sure that all the ingredients in our cereal are truly organic, so you can start off your day deliciously and reducing your environmental footprint.
Why California Whole Wheat?
We have a wonderful relationship with the Lhose Farms, a fourth generation farming family located in Glenn, California. They’ve been organically certified since 2009, and utilize dry land farming practices to grow the delicious organic whole wheat we use in our cereal! As they shared with us, they key to farming is time: when to harvest, listening to your soil’s needs, and understanding the timing of seasons in your area. All these factors are important to consider, especially when farming organically.
Ted and Jake are the fourth generation father-son duo that are committed to organic farming practices, nutrient cycling of their soil, and low water consuming farming practices that grow our whole wheat. They shared that “organic farming takes patience however, using farming as a tool to conserve the ground will reward you back; if you abuse it and take all the nutrients out, other generations will suffer too.” Some problems that result from nutrient deficient soil is erosion and lack of ability to retain water. So treating your farm as a whole system, that uses organic waste, such as weeds, as compost for better wheat growth, creates an environment that dramatically reduces it’s ecological impact.
Dry land farming refers to the process in which the crops growing aren’t relying on intensive irrigation practices to yield full crops. The top layer of soil is turned to aerate the soil and mitigate weed growth, while retaining moisture and cycling the nutrients weeds or native grasses used to grow back into the soil. This turning process occurs in the springtime, when the weeds have grown and are lush and green, but not woody. The weeds are more easily able to degrade into compost as the field sits aerated over the summer. By having a compost and nutrient-rich soil, it holds water very efficiently. When the seeds are sown in the fall, they do not require additional watering. Dry land farming relies on the health of the soil to retain water from occasional rainfall, as well as a nutrient dense soil that can continue to feed the wheat as it grows. Because there is no intensive irrigation needed, the hazards from runoff are reduced greatly, and the soil can continue to absorb as much moisture as possible.
After growing the wheat for a year and harvesting the following late spring to early summer the field must lie fallow, meaning untouched and not having other crops sown, for a minimum of 5 years, and a maximum of 8. This allows adequate time for the soil to regain nutrients, and build itself up after the most recent harvest. Instead of overworking the soil, it is treated with care and will produce an abundant harvest the next time around.
The climate in California can be difficult for wheat, and climate change is making those issues even more significant - good soil management practices through organic helps make the farm better able to weather the economic hazards of drought (a reality in California), as well as greater temperature variability and other unpredictable weather events. It is important to depend on organic farming practices that remediate the soil, allowing it to retain maximum moisture and are less water dependent.
Whole Wheat, Wholesome Goodness
Compared to refined or even whole wheat flour, our 100% stoneground whole wheat has more nutrients and more taste - the same way wine has “terroir” - a taste of the land, so does our wheat. The stoneground way of milling wheat keeps the entire grain intact, preserving the integrity of the whole grain. Stoneground wheat has been traced back to the third century B.C.! No reconstitution, or separation of the wheat kernel, is involved. Nothing is added, nothing is removed.
So dig into a bowl of Back to the Roots Organic Frosted Flakes, and experience the flavor of California sunshine!