Information about Grains: Wheat

About wheat, information about the grains, production, history and uses, nutritional value


Along with rice, it is one of the 2 most important grain crops in the world, and was the 1st to be cultivated. The U.S.S.R. is the leading grower, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Other large producers include Argentina, India, Turkey, Pakistan, China, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and West Germany. Most of the wheat produced is milled into flour. Pasta is made from a variety of wheat called durum, which also gives us semolina, the name given to the hard grains which are left when the fine flour has been sieved. Bulghur is another form of wheat grown in the Near East. It cooks into a light, fluffy grain and is used in the making of the traditional dish called couscous.

Whole wheat, like other whole grains that contain the germ, is a complete protein. It contains important minerals and vitamins, particularly E and the B complex. When wheat is milled into white flour, the bran and wheat germ are lost, and what is left is mainly starch. This is what we know as white bread. The wheat germ can be used on its own as a cereal, or added to bread, cakes, and other baked goods. Keep wheat germ in the refrigerator to keep it from turning rancid. Whole wheat can be steamed unground. It may take 3 to 4 hours, but it has a delightful chewy texture. Cracked wheat cooks much more quickly and can be used as a rice substitute. Flaked wheat can be used in granola or made into a porridge. Bran, another milling by-product, can be added to bread and cereals. All wheat contains phytin, a phosphorus compound which interferes with the body's utilization of important nutrients such as calcium and iron. For this reason, some people feel that wheat products should not be eaten at all; but the value of the powerhouse of protein, vitamins, and minerals contained in whole wheat probably outweighs any disadvantage.

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