Feathered hair, macrame, Charlie’s Angles, and wheat germ: These are a few of my lasting memories of the 1970’s.
I can still see myself now, walking around the natural foods store in our town with my mom (complete with feathered hair and macrame bag—her, not me) as she stocked up on natural peanut butter, dense, seedy bread, and wheat germ. The carob-y smell of that tiny store was enough to keep me away from all of those things for years—these were the days before Whole Foods, after all—but I’ve come around. And so have healthy packaged foods.
Though wheat germ is still in need of a modern make-over, I’ve come to love it as much as the many natural nut butters and healthy sliced breads that are available at the more civilized health food stores that I shop at now. Because, as it turns out, wheat germ is seriously good-for-you stuff that’s very easy to include in every family’s diet (provided you’re not avoiding gluten, of course).
Here’s the low down on why you should be eating wheat germ , plus 5 wheat germ recipes to get you started.
Top: Orange Cranberry Wheat Germ Muffins at Citron Limette | Baked Oatmeal Bites at One Hungry Mama | Homemade Greek Yogurt with blood oranges and Almond Granola at The View From Great Island
What wheat germ is, and why it’s so good for you.
Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat grain. That means that it germinates to form wheat grass (get it: germinates). When wheat is processed to make white flour, the germ is removed. In fact, it’s considered waste, which is a shame given that it’s the most nutritious part of the entire wheat kernel.
Wheat germ contains an astounding 23 nutrients, more per ounce than any other vegetable or grain! It is also very high in protein, fiber, an excellent source of folic acid (great for you pregnant mamas), and contains Omega-3 fatty acides and a phytonutrient called L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant that withstands cooking temperatures. And my favorite thing about wheat germ: It’s packed with vitamin E to help give you glowing skin!
Where to find wheat germ and how to store it.
You can find wheat germ in most supermarkets and natural food stores raw or toasted, sold in jars or in bulk. Because of its unsaturated fat content, wheat germ can go rancid (just like flax seeds). Unopened it can last up to a year on shelves. Opened containers should be stored in the fridge, sealed tight, for up to 9 months. You can also freeze wheat germ and pull out portions as you need them (think pine nuts). If you’re unsure if your wheat germ is good, use your nose: It should smell nutty. If you detect a musty odor (think that 70’s health food store), it’s no good.
How to use wheat germ, including 5 recipes to get you started.
Wheat germ is super versatile, with a mild, nutty flavor that’s easy to add to everything from baked goods to yogurt to meatballs to breading. In fact, you can substitute wheat germ for breadcrumbs, or mix the two together, in almost any recipe. (This is an especially great thing to do when making toddler meals or finger foods.) Here are a few recipes to get your started, but don’t be limited by them. At the very least, you can wheat germ as you do flax seeds.
It’s not uncommon to see cracker recipes that call for wheat germ, at least as an optional ingredient, but I love how these Wheat Germ Parmesan Crackers at Weelicious make this nutritious ingredient primary. These are a delicious nibble that make an especially healthy toddler finger food or addition to your bigger kid’s school lunch.
If you like the idea of crackers, but want to make something slightly sweet rather than savory, this simple recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers at Kitchen Heals Soul is the ticket. Wheat germ is perfect for this recipe because it not only adds nutrients, but also gives graham crackers a nutty taste that they need. In fact, wheat germ is a great way to achieve spot on flavor when you don’t have graham flour.
I wasn’t kidding when I said that you should sprinkle wheat germ on your yogurt—liberally! If you end up loving that as much as I do, this recipe for Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt with blood oranges and Almond Granola at The View From Great Island will help you take it a step further. You can follow this simple recipe for making Greek-style yogurt at home (so much easier than you might expect!), or buy yogurt at the store and focus on making the wheat-germ packed Almond Granola, which is also great with milk.
I love baking with wheat germ and cannot wait to whip up a batch of these Orange Cranberry Wheat Germ Muffins at Citron Limette. The combination of orange and cranberry is one of my favorites, and these also have flax seed, giving them even more good-for-you power. In fact, these make great breakfast muffins, as well as a snack time treat.
Wheat germ is just one of the ingredients that gives these make-ahead Baked Oatmeal Bites that we included in our round up of great make ahead breakfasts their super power. Simply throw wheat germ and a handful of other healthy ingredients into a bowl, mix, bake and freeze to have these on hand for a quick, on-the-go breakfast that you can feel great about feeding your family. So much better than a cereal bar!