Varieties of high-protein, gluten-free canary seeds are safe for human consumption and there are opportunities for farmers to grow and market what used to be just for the birds.
Canary seeds have traditionally been used in bird seed for caged and wild birds. Since 2016 however, new varieties of de-hulled canary seeds have been approved for human use by government regulatory agencies. The glabrous, or de-hulled seeds are high in protein and gluten-free, and can be used whole on breads or in health food bars, or ground into flour for cakes and cookies.
Kevin Hursh, executive director of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan, said the market has been slow to develop and there is not yet a de-hulled product readily available to the public.
Hursh said there is a lot of interest in new and healthy food options and a new, yellow variety of the de-hulled seed has been developed that is more palatable and esthetically-pleasing.
“It has a number of favourable attributes so we’re hoping that it finds a place in the human food market,” Hursh told paNOW.
“It’s very early days … and it’ll all depend on food companies and food ingredient companies and consumers how quickly this can develop.”
Canary seeds are similar to wheat, oats and barley. Dr. Elsayed Abdelaal helped research and develop the glabrous varieties of the seeds for human consumption. He told paNOW that the new varieties of canary seed are hairless, and do not contain the tiny, itchy hairs that can cause skin and eye irritations to producers.
Canada produces most of the world’s canary seed supply, with the majority – 90 per cent – coming from Saskatchewan, Dr. Abdelaal added.
“So, now in addition to this single seed market for birds, there are other opportunities,” Dr. Abdelaal said.
“Hairless canary seed is a true cereal (crop), and it does hold promise for Canadian farmers, producers and the food industry in general.”
Hursh said the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan has been working to develop recipes using the glabrous variety of canary seed, and a new Saskatchewan company is now on board to manufacture a de-hulled product for market.
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