Today commemorates 83 years of being able to buy, sell and drink beer. What better day to talk about WHEAT and its role in sustenance and sustainability. According to the Brewers Association, at the end of 2015, there were over 4,000 craft breweries in the United States, some varietals by these local brew masters include wheat. Although most breweries incorporate barley, wheat beer is brewed with a larger proportion of wheat, compared to the amount of malted barley included in the mix. Wheat is considered a specialty grain and can create different flavors and levels of complexity in the beer. A beer made from malted wheat is characterized by its pale color and subtle lager-like flavor.
Cultivated for over 6,000 years, wheat is the world’s largest cereal-grass crop. It is a pantry staple and is second only to rice. Wheat contains high levels of gluten, the protein that provides elasticity during bread-making. The 3 major types of wheat are hard, soft and durum.
Hard – very high in protein and mills to a flour rich in gluten. If baking yeast breads, this is your best bet.
Soft – is lower in gluten and protein but works good in biscuits and cakes.
Durum – although high in gluten is not good for baking. Typically, it is ground into semolina flour used in making pasta.
In the United States, wheat is categorized by the time of year it is sown; spring wheat and winter wheat. Winter wheat is typically sown in the fall and cultivated in early spring. Spring wheat is sown in the spring, grown throughout summer, but cultivated in the fall.
In North Carolina, hard red winter wheat grows well in the sandy soil, close to the coast. It is popular with millers because it is easier to sell for bread makers. Although lower in yields, it provides good flavor.
The bran is the rough outer covering, has very little nutritional value but plenty of fiber. During milling, the bran is removed from the kernel. It is sold separately and used to add flavor and fiber to baked goods. The germ is the embryo of the plant. It is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and proteins. It has a nutty flavor and is very oily, causing it to go rancid rather quickly. The endosperm is the majority of the kernel. It is full of starch, protein, niacin and iron. It is the primary source of many wheat flours. In addition to flour, wheat is available in other forms including wheat berries, cracked wheat and bulghur wheat.
Carter Farms in Eagle Springs, NC has advice for homestead cultivators interested in growing wheat:
Wheat is grown in almost every state in America and 50% of our production is exported to other countries. According to Wheat Production Council, in the United States, 36% percent is consumed domestically by humans, 50% is exported, 10% is used for livestock feed, and 4% is used for seedlings. In 2013, Monsanto GENETICALLY MODIFIED WHEAT in Oregon to tolerate weed killer treatments, which has never been been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This caused several lawsuits and a disruption in wheat exportation. Genetically modified products are of a great concern to consumers and critics because of the unknown health risks of consuming such products and if GMO products are necessary to meet the world food demand. Farmers, the FDA, scientists and consumers cannot agree on whether such GMO products should be labeled and the long-term impact on such products being integrated in the food, fuel and pharmaceutical industries where wheat is used.