Other Specialty Crops

A variety of other crops are grown in the four-state region in smaller quantities. Termed "specialty crops", these commodities are raised to meet the needs of niche markets. They are often grown under contract for a specific end-use.

AMARANTH -- There has been a renewed interest in recent years in the use of amaranth for human consumption. Amaranth can be used as a grain or as a vegetable. The grain is high in protein (approximately16%), with nearly twice the lysine content of wheat. It is used for breakfast cereals, as gruel, or as a cooking ingredient. It is often milled into flour for baking, or blended with other flours to increase the protein quality. The leaves of some amaranth species are cooked for use as a vegetable.

BUCKWHEAT -- Botanically, buckwheat is not a cereal but a dry fruit with similar uses to cereal. Most buckwheat used in the United States is milled into flour, which is blended with the flour of other grains to make pancakes. Ethnic dishes made with buckwheat include soba noodles and kasha. Other applications include breakfast cereals, biscuits and breads, poultry dressing, source of honey, source of medicines, and animal feeds. Buckwheat grain is highly nutritious being a rich source of protein, minerals and fat. It also contains bioflavonoids (vitamin P and rutin among them), which are known to aid in reducing capillary fragility and sparing vitamin C.

MILLET -- The kernels of this cereal grain are small, round to oval in shape, and vary in color from cream to orange to brown. The most common types of millet grown in the northern Plains are proso millet and foxtail millet. Proso, also called grain millet or hog millet, is the only millet grown in the U.S. as a grain crop. It is primarily used for livestock feed or birdseed purposes. It is sometimes incorporated into baked products such as breads. White and red-colored varieties are grown in the region. Foxtail is grown primarily for hay for livestock. Pearl and Japanese millets are occasionally grown in the region as a forage crop for livestock.

CRAMBE -- Crambe is an oil seed crop grown primarily as a source of industrial oil. The oil is high in erucic acid (50-60%) and is a complement to petroleum products used by U.S. industries. Crambe oil is a excellent lubricant with good stability to high temperatures and pressures, yet remains fluid at lower temperatures. Hydrogenated crambe oil shows potential in the manufacture of specialty waxes. Derivatives of erucic acid are used for various chemical applications such as processing aids, surfactants, plasticizers, anti-foaming agents, antistatics, fixatives in perfumes, and corrosion inhibitors. The crambe meal can be used as a protein supplement for beef cattle.

FIELD PEAS -- Field pea is a pulse (legume) crop. Also known as dry pea, it is marketed as a dry, shelled product for either human or animal use. Protein isolates and fiber products derived from field peas show potential for various food applications including meat emulsions, beverages, and bakery products. They exhibit excellent whipping ability and foam stability compared to soybean controls. Peas are also used in some processed foods such as soups, and farmers also produce them for livestock feed, both for forage and seed.

LENTILS -- Lentils are also a pulse (legume) crop which are high in protein (22-35%). They are good supplements in animal feeds because of their high protein/carbohydrate content. Although very few consumers in the U.S. are aware of lentils, they are utilized worldwide for human consumption as a cooked vegetable in soups, stews and salads. Approximately 70% of the U.S. production is exported.

MUSTARD -- (Brown, Oriental, Yellow) Yellow mustard is the predominant type of mustard raised in the U.S. It is most commonly used for table ("hotdog") mustard. It is also used in mayonnaise and pickles and functions as a bonding agent in processed meat products. Brown and Oriental mustards are used for oil and spices, and in the manufacture of "hot" table mustard which is often served in Chinese restaurants.

SAFFLOWER -- Safflower is grown for its premium quality oil. The safflower produced in the northern Great Plains is very low in saturated fatty acids compared to other vegetable oils. Other favorable qualities include a high iodine value, light yellow color and pleasant taste. Two types of safflower cultivars exist; those that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic) and those that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic). Oil from the high linoleic types is used primarily for edible oil products such as salad oils and soft margarines, and as a non-yellowing industrial oil in paints and varnishes. Oil from the high oleic varieties can be used as a blending oil or as a substitute for olive oil, a heat stable cooking oil to fry foods such as french fries and potato chips, or as a diesel fuel substitute. It is also used in infant food formulations, cosmetics and in sprayed food coating. The meal, which is about 24% protein and high in fiber, is used as a protein supplement for livestock and poultry.

TRITICALE -- This man-made cereal was developed by crossing wheat and rye. Most triticale is still used for livestock feed although there is considerable interest in its use for human consumption. Triticale is high in protein with an amino acid composition preferable to wheat. It is milled into flour for bakery products such as bread, cookies, tortillas, cakes and other soft wheat type products since triticale performs similar to a soft wheat. Products made with triticale possess a distinctive flavor.