Using perennial grains to whet appetites

Martinelli’s Little Italy owner Tony Dong, of Salina, is stoked to put these Kernza products to work during the Kernza4Kansas event over Earth Day weekend. (Photo by Tim Unruh.)

Kernza will star for Earth Day weekend at restaurants, breweries and other gathering places across much of Kansas.

Food maestros, from short-order cooks to chefs and brewers, have endeavored to dazzle the tastebuds of diners with the nutty-tasting grain in a number of dishes and beverages.

“We’re letting the restaurants do what they do best, which is to cook delicious food with Kernza, Friday through Monday, according to their hours,” said James Bowden, a Saline County farmer-rancher, former researcher at The Land Institute and an advocate of the new grain.

Kernza won praise from the likes of Tony Dong, owner of Martinelli’s Little Italy in downtown Salina. Pictured above, Martinelli’s Little Italy owner is stoked to put these Kernza products to work during the Kernza4Kansas event over Earth Day weekend. (Photo by Tim Unruh.)

“It’s very easy to cook with, just like you would rice. It tastes very much like a wild rice, farro, an ancient African grain, or pearled barley,” he said. “People really like it and the stories behind it. You need to try different things, and this is very different.”

Earth Day weekend recipe

Dong has a recipe in mind for customers during Earth Day weekend.

“We’re going to use whole grain Kernza, cook it up, toss in sun-dried tomatoes, butter, garlic, a little parsley and grill some salmon with a sweet bourbon marinade,” he said. “It’s excellent.”

Martinelli’s servers will talk up the dish to diners, while promotional cards are displayed at every table.

Brewery on board

Three Rings Brewery in McPherson is eager to take part in the promotion, said Brian Smith, co-owner with son and partner Ian Smith.

“It’s kind of nice to get in on the ground floor of something that new in the agricultural arena,” he said. “We have sold beer in the past made with Kernza, and we’ll make another Kernza beer. It adds an interesting kind of nutty spice taste. You can tell it’s just not made with regular wheat.”

Previous beers with Kernza have been popular at Three Rings.

“When you put something new in the tap, it goes quickly,” Brian Smith said.

James Bowden, left, a Saline County farmer-rancher, and Kyle Banman, brewer at The Farm & The Odd Fellows in Minneapolis, Kansas, toast the upcoming Kernza4Kansas event, with glasses of “10 Foot Roots” Kernza beer. The beverage is exclusive to The Farm & Odd Fellows. (Photo by Anna Andersson.)

The Farm and The Odd Fellows in Minneapolis, Minnesota, plans to feature its second batch of Kernza beer, named 10 Foot Roots, said Brewer Kyle Banman. It debuted April 19.

The recipe was brewed for the first time in fall 2023.

“It’s kind of a golden, Kolsch-style German ale,” he said. “It got a really nice reception early on. It provides a unique, spice-like flavor, like rye, but enhanced.”

The beer is named after the immense root system that the perennial plant develops.

Armed with table tents and other promotional materials with a link to, event leaders will stop by some restaurants to tout Kernza. Bowden will visit YaYa’s Euro Bistro, 251 S. Santa Fe, from 5 to 7 p.m. April 19.

Photographer’s visit

Famed National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson of Lindsborg will visit Irrigation Ales at 7 p.m. April 20 in Courtland. Bowden will visit The Farm and Odd Fellows in Minneapolis that afternoon and later join Richardson in Courtland.

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“(Richardson) took the iconic Kernza root photos,” Bowden said.

Kathryn Turner, lead scientist in crop protection and genetics at The Land Institute, will preside at Martinelli’s, and Bowden will visit Barolo Grill, 112 S. Santa Fe, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 20.

Talking up Kernza in food could translate into adding demand, which can spark more acres to be planted in these parts, Bowden said.

“You can’t just have a raw product,”said Brandon Schlautman of Sustain-A-Grain.

Kernza products from Sustain-A-Grain will be offered at a discount during Earth Day weekend at Prairieland Market, 205 E. Walnut in Salina, and by visiting