Cigi Research Gives Bird’s Eye View of Canaryseed as a Food Ingredient


The world’s bird population might one day be sharing their supply of canaryseed with people as Cigi research conducted on behalf of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan (CDCS) revealed the crop’s potential as a viable ingredient in food products for human consumption.

Canada is the world’s number one producer and exporter of canaryseed which is currently used almost exclusively as birdseed. However, industry members have been taking steps to investigate its human food uses with the CDCS engaging Cigi and others to develop and test the use of whole grain canaryseed flours and whole seeds.

“Recent advances in breeding have resulted in the development of hairless cultivars,” says Dr. Linda Malcolmson, Research Scientist who directed the work done at Cigi. “Removing the hairs significantly opened up the potential for using canaryseed for human consumption since the hairs are highly irritating when they come into contact with human skin or lungs.”

“We used both yellow and brown glaborous (hairless) canaryseed as an ingredient in the processing of number of products at Cigi after it was dehulled at the University of Saskatchewan,” says Gina Boux, Technician, Pulses and Special Crops. “Whole grain canaryseed flour was prepared with our hammermill and analyzed for colour, protein, ash, moisture, starch, and dietary fibre. Then the flours were evaluated in products that included pan bread, tortillas, crackers, muffins, snack bars and pasta.”

Whole grain canaryseed flour replaced refined wheat flour normally used in processing at levels ranging from between 25 to 50 percent, depending on the product, she says, adding that compared to wheat canaryseed is higher in protein and thiamine and contains more essential minerals such as calcium, iron , phosphorus and magnesium. For pasta the canaryseed flour was substituted for durum semolina at 25 percent. Each product was then compared to the original. All products except for muffins were tested using standard commercial formulations and were prepared at Cigi in the pilot bakery and pilot pasta plant. The muffins were prepared with a standard household size recipe and tested in the food quality laboratory. In addition, whole seeds were substituted 100 percent for other seed toppings used for products such as buns and crackers, and to replace sesame seeds in snaps, cereal and fruit bars.

“There has been limited research done on canaryseed for human consumption so this gave us more of a ‘birds eye’ view of its potential,” Gina says. “Overall, yellow canaryseed had more visual appeal than brown in products such as pan breads, tortillas and crackers, and the roasted seed tasted better than unroasted, as in the production of canaryseed snaps. The canaryseed worked well as a substitute topping though it was a bit softer in texture and milder intaste than sesame seeds.”

Partial substitution of canaryseed flour for durum semolina in pasta required minimal ingredient or processing changes and results were acceptable, resulting in a slightly firmer texture when cooked compared to the control spaghetti, she says.

Cigi’s research concluded that Canadian glaborous brown and yellow canaryseed can be processed into flour or roasted as a whole seed to produce a wide variety of bakery, pasta and snack-based products with few adjustments needed in processing. Canaryseed was also found to have a neutral flavour and did not appear to negatively affect the texture when used as either a flour or whole seed.

Linda adds that although this stage of research is complete, Cigi looks forward to the possibility of more work with canaryseed in future. The project was funded by CDCS and Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan through the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan program.

For more information:

Article originally published in e-publication, Summer 2010.