Growing Gluten-Free Grains in the Garden



 Linda in her home grain garden.

Linda Simon, RD, was a retired personal chef, registered dietitian, and recipe developer. She passed away in 2012 and is remembered for her love of food, cooking and gardening.

At a recent organic and local food conference, I learned about small grain growing and the idea of trying to grow grains in my garden had me searching for advice on the web. I discovered fellow gluten-free blogger, Linda Simon had not only tried it, she'd shared her experience and photos. I asked Linda to join me here to give other gluten-free gardeners advice on what worked from planting, to harvesting, to eating her homegrown, gluten-free grains.

Do you know anyone else who has grown any gluten free grains in their backyard garden? No? Neither did we. That didn’t stop us. In 2009 we planted amaranth, sorghum, teff, and flax. There were some successes and some we will not repeat.

Even though we have not planted most of these again, we enjoyed trying them. We knew our grains were organic and they were not contaminated with wheat. We are in Zone 5, on the Rock Prairie in Wisconsin. This is some of the most fertile land on the planet. Our garden has deep, rich, dark soil. My husband composts and improves it even more. Most things grow so well it seems we often have to stand back, to simply get out of the way of the rapidly growing plants.

Our usual summer high temperatures are 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. But 2009 was one of the coolest summers ever. And July was the coldest ever recorded here, with an average temperature of only 65.7 degrees. 2009 was also the wettest. We sang “Rain, Rain, Go Away," spring, summer, and fall. Some storms dumped 2 to 4 inches of rain in a day. Some months had more than 6 total inches of rain.

But the grains grew anyway, and we delighted in watching them.

Meagan Raindrop McAleese
2/22/2013 1:59:24 AM

I am trying all 4 of these and several more in Canada Zone 3 this year. But I have a greenhouse and a hoophouse and I work in a high rise with floor to ceiling windows to germinate things. And I figure why not. Anyhow I wanted to let you know that when looking up sorghum syrop mills, supposedly manual clothes ringers work well. Lehmans has a good one. I'm going to try squeezing mine when I harvest it!Loved your article. Thanks, Meagan

Melissa, GlutenFreeForGood
4/18/2011 8:57:43 PM

Wow, I loved reading this post. I find farming and gardening incredibly interesting, even though I've pretty much given up on actually growing anything other than a few herbs and tomatoes. FYI, the word "teff" means "lost" in the Amharic language of Ethiopia because the grain is so small (as Linda describes) that it blows away and is lost. Great stuff here at Mother Earth News and I'm thrilled they've added a gluten-free feature to the site. Thanks! Melissa

Cheryl Harris
4/11/2011 11:24:44 PM

Thanks for the introduction to Linda! Love the garden pictures too. I grew a few grains because I was curious. I grew amaranth (hated it, it choked my tomatoes because it was so big!) and I grow buckwheat every year, which I love because it keeps me from mulching. I've tried corn 3X, too, but that doesn't quite count. If we move somewhere big enough I'll try some of the others.

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