Grains are both an essential part of a healthy diet and a basic staple as an emergency food. Mankind has been harvesting grain for thousands of years. There have been archeological digs dating back to 9000 B.C. that have found evidence of the use of grains. For many cultures, grains are a dietary staple.
If you were ever looking for one source that could be a survival food, it would be wheat. Wheat is not only a nutty-tasting grain that makes wonderful bread and muffins; you can also use wheat as a meat substitute, a vegetable, and a source of vitamin C and antioxidants. That is why wheat should be part of your family’s long-term food storage plan.
You can store whole-kernel grain for a long time in a dry, cool area, but once you grind it, you should store it in your refrigerator because the oil in the kernel can spoil and the flour can turn rancid. Wheat is classified in three ways—the season of growth (winter or spring), whether it has a soft or hard kernel, and whether the bran layer is colored red or white. Generally, hard wheat is higher in protein and can store longer than soft wheat, although soft wheat is the wheat of choice for pastry flour.
When you purchase wheat you should buy it from a reputable mill. The protein count should be no less than 12 to 14 percent and the moisture count should be under 10 percent. Make sure you store your wheat in a cool location in tightly sealed containers.
Wheat can be used in a variety of ways:
Cooked unground wheat
Cooked unground wheat
To get the goodness from the whole grain, you can add boiling water and whole-kernel wheat to a thermos and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the wheat will have swelled to double in bulk and softened. You can eat it like a hot breakfast cereal with honey, dried fruit, and milk. You can also use wheat as a meat substitute in a casserole. Just make sure you add additional water and allow the casserole to bake until the wheat is tender.
Bulgur is white or red, hard or soft whole-wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried, slightly scoured, cracked, and sifted for sizing. The result is par-cooked cracked wheat. Bulgur may be sold as a pilaf or tabouli mix and may be called tabouli wheat. In stores, bulgur can be found near the pasta, rice, or hot cereal, or in a specialty food aisle.
When you are going to use wheat for flour, you need a grain mill. An electric mill makes the job easier; however, it is wise to also purchase a hand mill in case of emergencies. Whole-wheat flour has more nutrients, protein, and fiber than bleached white flour. It can be substituted for part or all of the all-purpose flour in most recipes. You should experiment with your favorite recipes by substituting more whole-wheat flour for all-purpose each time. Because whole-wheat flour is denser, if you are going to replace the all-purpose flour completely, use ⅞ cup whole-wheat in place of 1 cup white. If you grind the wheat coarsely, you have cracked wheat. Cracked wheat can be used as a hot cereal and can be added to bread recipes to give the bread a nuttier taste.
All-purpose flour is white flour milled from hard wheats or a blend of hard and soft wheats. It gives the best results for many kinds of products, including some yeast breads, quick breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, and noodles. All-purpose flour is usually enriched and may be bleached or unbleached. Bleaching will not affect nutrient value. Different brands will vary in performance. Protein varies from 8 to 11 percent.
Gluten is the protein substance left when the starch has been taken out of the wheat. Gluten is often used as a meat substitute and can be flavored to taste like meat, fish, or poultry. Gluten is made by grinding the wheat, adding water to form a dough, and kneading and rinsing the dough to wash away the starch. Gluten is rich in protein just like beef, but it doesn’t have any of the animal fat and the cholesterol. It is a great meat substitute, especially in casseroles.
Seitan (say-TAHN) is made from gluten. Known as seitan in Japan, kofu in China, and wheat meat (gluten) in the United States, seitan is a low-fat, high-protein, firm-textured meat substitute. It has been eaten in China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the Middle East for thousands of years. Gluten is often referred to in Chinese restaurants as “Buddha food,” because of the claim that it was developed by pacifist, vegetarian Buddhist monks as a meat substitute.
As water is introduced, enzyme inhibitors are disabled and the seed explodes to life. Germination unfolds, and enzymes trigger elaborate biochemical changes. Proteins break into amino acids. Water-soluble vitamins such as B complex and vitamin C are created. Fats and carbohydrates are converted into simple sugars… . Through the miracle of germination, thiamin increases five-fold and niacin content doubles. Vitamin C, E, and carotene increase. In fact, the vitamin C content becomes as rich as tomatoes.
When you “sow” wheat, just like you would any seed, the plant that grows looks like regular grass you would find on any lawn in the Midwest. But wheatgrass is not just any grass. You can grind wheatgrass to make a juice that contains chlorophyll, ninety minerals, and vitamins A, B complex, C, E, and K. Wheatgrass is extremely rich in protein, and contains seventeen amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Wheatgrass helps to build your immune system and maintain a good metabolism. Although the most popular way to use wheatgrass is to turn it into juice, it can also be used in salads.
Barley can be purchased in two forms: pearl barley, which has had the hull removed and has been polished; and pot or hulled barley, which has been processed, but not as much as pearled barley. The hulled barley retains more of the nutritious germ and bran. But, just as with wheat, the oils in the germ can spoil over time, so hulled barley does not keep as well or as long as pearled barley. Whole barley is commonly used to add thickness to soups and stews.
Barley is one of the most ancient of cultivated grains. Grains found in pits and pyramids in Egypt indicate that barley was cultivated there more than 5,000 years ago. The most ancient glyph or pictograph found for barley dates from about 3000 B.C. Numerous references to barley and beer are found in the earliest Egyptian and Sumerian writings.
Corn is the largest grain crop in the United States, but the majority is used for animal feed or sold to food processors to make corn sweeteners. Corn can be purchased as kernels or ground (cornmeal), but the kernels will last longer in storage. Popcorn can either be used for snacking or it can be ground into a meal, but you should check with your mill manufacturer to be sure that your mill will grind popcorn.
Millet is less known in the United States, but is a staple grain in North China and India. The grain kernels are small, round, and usually ivory colored or yellow. When cooked like rice, millet makes an excellent breakfast cereal. Millet mixes well with other flours and adds a pleasant crunch when you add it to your homemade breads.
New evidence suggests that millet was being consumed in western China as early as 5900 B.C. Analysis of dog and pig bones show that both were fed a millet-rich diet, and their human masters were very likely eating the same.
Although most people often think of oats or oatmeal as a breakfast food, it is much more versatile than just porridge. Oats make an excellent thickener of soups and stews and good fillers in meatloafs and casseroles. Cookies, granola, and granola bars are the next most typical ways oatmeal is used. All oats are processed to at least some extent before you can use them. The most common way to purchase oats is as rolled oats, which have been cut and rolled using special equipment; however, you also can purchase oat groats, which are the whole oat with the hulls removed, and steel cut oats, which are groats that have been cut into smaller pieces with steel blades. Both take longer to cook that traditional rolled oats, but they add fiber and nutrients in the trade.
Rice is the staple in the diet for much of the world. It produces more food energy per acre than other cereal grains, and is second only to wheat in importance as a food cereal and in terms of protein per acre produced. Rice is classified in two ways: the way the grain is processed and the length of the grain. The processing methods affect the nutritional value of the rice:
Brown rice is the whole grain with only the hull removed. Brown rice keeps all of the nutrition of the grain and has a nutty flavor. It’s the best choice as far as nutrition is concerned. However, the oil in the rice germ can become rancid, so brown rice only has a shelf life of about six months. There are distributors who can provide special packaging that seals the rice for long-term storage. However, once opened, the rice needs to be used within six months.
Converted rice is soaked, steamed, and partially cooked before it is dried, hulled, and polished to remove the bran and the germ. It is more nutritious than polished white rice, and its storage life is the same as regular white rice.
White rice has had its outer layers milled off. This process takes about 10 percent of the protein and most of the fat and mineral content. That’s why white rice sold in the United States has to be “enriched” with vitamins to partially replace what was lost through processing. White rice has a long shelf life as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place.
Instant rice is fully cooked and then dehydrated, so all you need to do is reconstitute it. Instant rice has fewer calories and carbohydrates and less protein than does regular rice.
Rice grain length is classified in these three ways:
Short grain rice is softer and moister when it cooks and tends to stick together. It is a little sweeter and has a stronger flavor than long grain rice.
Medium grain rice has a flavor similar to the short grain, but with a texture closer to long grain.
Long grain rice cooks up dried and flakier. The flavor is blander than short grain. It is the most common rice found in grocery stores.
In Japan and Indonesia, rice has its own god. The Chinese devote a whole day of their New Year celebration to the crop. In some Asian cultures, rice is considered a link between heaven and earth. The people of India believe rice is important to fertility, which explains the long-standing tradition of throwing rice at a wedding.
Rye has dark brown kernels that are longer and thinner than wheat kernels, but it also has less gluten and less protein. The flavor of rye flour is richer than wheat and, although you might associate rye with pumpernickel or black bread, it can be found in versions ranging from dark whole-grain flour to a lighter, more processed flour.
Although sorghum might be more familiar in the United States as a cousin to molasses, it is actually a principal cereal grain in South Africa. The small, round brown seeds can be cooked and used like rice or as a hot cereal. Although sorghum is low in gluten, the seeds can be milled into flour and mixed with higher-gluten flours for use in baking, or used alone for flat breads, pancakes, or cookies.