Wheat, a specie of cereal grass widely-cultivated for its seed, is an edible grain which is highly-nutritious and a universally staple food. Wheat has been widely-grown and harvested for over seven centuries, in many countries around the world. It is the oldest and most prime edible cereal grains. Wheat has several species; they together belong to the genus Triticum and make up the family Poaceae.
The most common and widely grown species is Triticumaestivum, which is used to make bread. Other varieties such as T. durum, also known as durum wheat, is used to make pasta, and T. compactum, also known as club wheat, is used to make flour for baking. Wheat is also commonly used in industries to make malt, gluten, alcohol, starch, etc.
Aside from these, some ancient grains of wheat include:
- Spelt: It doesn’t contain gluten and is a great alternative for high-gluten wheat.
- Emmer: This type of grain is high in antioxidants.
- Einkorn: It is high in protein and has the highest amount of lutein.
- Kamut: It originated in Egypt and has a high amount of vitamin E.
Wheat is the second most-produced grain in the world, corn being the first. Recently, the global demand for wheat has been increased because it has a unique viscoelastic property to it. This is due to the adhesive properties present in gluten proteins, which facilitate the production of processed foods.
Nutritional Facts about Wheat
Wheat is an excellent source of carbohydrates; it provides many essential nutrients and dietary fiber to the human body. It is also known as a vegetable protein, having a protein content of about 13%. But, it does not supply essential amino acids.
Wheat contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phytochemicals, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, and minor amounts of vitamin A. It is best to eat wheat with bran to get maximum benefits.
Cultivation and Processing
Wheat can be produced in many different types of soils and climates. Cereal farming and cereal processing are the two processes involved in the cultivation and processing of wheat grain.
Types of Wheat
Wheat comes in many different types; depending on the type of variety, protein contents, kernel colors, hardness, and shape may be different. The misconception that all flours are the same is very misleading. In reality, there is a wide range of wheat grains that can be milled to produce different kinds of flour. They make very subtle changes to the final product.
These flours help in basic home cooking, from producing bread to making the finest most exquisite pasta. They provide maximum nutrition and flavor. Knowing the types of wheat will assist you in choosing the right type for your cooking needs.
The main varieties depend upon two primary categories based on their growing season: summer wheat and winter wheat. The subcategories are discussed below.
Every variety of red wheat has a distinct flavor and color. It is said that red wheat has a richer and nuttier taste as compared to other white flours. All varieties of this wheat are a key ingredient in baking, and hard wheat can also be stored for long term use.
- Hard Red Winter Wheat
It is the most important and common type of wheat produced in the United States. This type of wheat has very moderate characteristics and is grown in snow-covered regions and extremely low temperatures. It has a very high protein content of 10.5% and a bitter taste. Moreover, it is mainly used in commercial mills for products like all-purpose flour, cereals, and flatbreads.
This wheat is also popularly used in grain mills; the flour is used to make pan loaves and noodles.
- Hard Red Spring Wheat
It is grown mostly in northern states and southern Canada. This type of wheat is grown in hot, dry climates. It has a high protein content of 13.5% and is the hardest grain to grind. It has a major amount of gluten, which makes it an excellent choice to use in food products like bagels, croissants, and pizza crusts. It is of fairly high quality as compared to other wheat.
Many bakers tend to add a small amount of spring wheat to their products; this increases the protein content of the food and acts as a mixing agent.
- Soft Red Winter Wheat
As the name suggests, it is soft and easy to grind, which makes it a great choice for people with small grinding mills. This type of wheat has major baking properties. It is low in protein and is widely used as a suitable ingredient in baked goods such as cakes, cookies, pastries, pasta, etc.
White wheat is considered to be a fairly new wheat variety.
- Hard White Winter Wheat
It is a very popular and slightly bitter variety of wheat; however, it is less bitter than hard red winter wheat. It has a neutral or slightly sweet taste. It is the most preferred type of wheat for regular use. Many people say that it helps in making store-bought white bread at home. It has a low protein content and is used to make softer loaves of bread like pan loaves.
- Soft White Spring Wheat
This type of wheat is grown mostly in California. It is a sweeter and softer kind of wheat. It is very low in protein and gluten, which makes it a great gluten-free option. Moreover, soft white spring wheat is used mainly in Asian cooking for making cakes and noodles. But some bakers also use it for pastries because of its sweet flavor and light color.
Many people still don’t fully grasp the qualities of this other wheat variety.
- Durum Wheat
This type of wheat is mainly grown in North Dakota and has the highest protein content. It is used to make high-quality pasta and noodles. Durum Wheat is used in pasta produced in Italy. It also has a low amount of gluten.
Uses of Wheat
Many people associate wheat with only food products, but it also has a lot of alternative uses, and its products can be used in a variety of ways. The major uses of wheat are discussed below.
The demand for wheat mainly comes from human consumption. Wheat is mostly milled into flour, which is then used to make a variety of foods. It is healthy and a staple food product because it contains many vitamins and minerals. Wheat has a major use in the food manufacturing industry.
Starch helps as food thickener and stabilizer. Besides this, it is used to make a wide variety of foods, from sweet to savory in many diverse forms.
Starch extracted from wheat is used to increase the strength of paper. It is also used as a medium to avoid sticking while the paper is manufactured. Starch is also used in sheet formation and pressing. Paper manufacturing industries produce over 5 billion pounds of starch each year.
Wheat gluten is a major ingredient used in making hard-shelled capsules. Other than this, starch is a major excipient used in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used as a diluent, disintegrant, glidant, lubricant, and a binder.
Wheat starch helps create adhesives used on the back of postage stamps. It also helps in the manufacturing of white glue. White powdered starched is cooked to make a viscous glue, which is used for sticking and binding purposes.
Wheat germ is rich in vitamin E. It is a by-product of many grinding mills that produce flour. Wheat germ oil is also used alongside other essential oils. When used in bases for soap, making the resulting product is soft and conditioning. It also lathers really nicely.
Starch-based bioethanol fuels are quite common as they utilize wheat and corn as a feedstock. Weed straw is also being tested as a potential feedstock for 2nd generation bioethanol.
Hydrolyzed wheat proteins are used in cosmetic emulsions to help homogenize and stabilize the product. Wheat germ is also used in creams and other skincare and hair care products.
Wheat is the most important food grain source for humans. It is grown on more land area than any other crops. Wheat has great significance, and knowing more about it will help you utilize it better in your daily lives.
We hope that this guide helps in giving you a broader outlook on the different types of wheat, along with all its various uses and products, other than food.