What is Wheat?

Wheat (713 million tonnes) is the third most produced cereal after maize (1016 million tonnes) and rice (745 million tonnes) as per 2013 statistics. The top 5 growing countries are China, USA, India, Russia and France (FAO statistics 1995)

The commercially cultivated wheats are, the common wheat or bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L), Durum wheat or macaroni or pasta wheat (Tritium durum Desf.) and Spelt wheat (Triticum spelta L.).

Hard Wheat Kernel myfavoritepastime.com

Wheat can have soft or hard grains, and the colour of the bran can be white of red.

Durum wheat is the hardest of all wheat grains. It’s processed into semolina, a coarse flour used to make Pasta and Couscous.

Planting of wheat can be done in fall or spring.

Winter wheat: is planted in fall when it germinates and starts growing then it lies dormant during the winter season and revives growth in spring. It’s harvested in early summer.

Spring Wheat: is planted in the spring and harvested in the late summer.

In general hard white wheat is milled into bread and all-purpose flour and soft white wheat is milled into flour suitable for cakes, crackers, cookies and pastries. The different wheats are usually blended depending on the type of flour and the gluten content required.

By Copyright © 2007 David Monniaux [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr], from Wikimedia Commons

1. The Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

Also known as Bread wheat. About 95% of the cultivated wheat is common wheat. (WIKI). The bulk of the common wheat produced  is milled into white flour. (The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition)

Wheat flour is used to make breads, crackers, biscuits, pancakes, pies, pastries, cakes, sauces, muesli and breakfast cereals.

2. Durum Wheat (Triticum durum Desf.) 

Durum wheat is also known as Pasta wheat or Macaroni wheat. The word durum in Latin means hard and this species is the hardest of all wheat. It’s mainly used for making pasta, couscous and bulgur. Durum kernel has a yellow endosperm, which gives pasta its pale yellow color.

It is the predominant wheat grown in the Middle East. (WIKI)

3. Spelt Wheat (Triticum spelta L.)

By Aalang [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons
Also known as dinkel or hulled wheat because it has a tough hull (husk) enclosing the grain. This hull must be removed before the grains are milled. This requires extra time. effort and labour.

Spelt wheat has been cultivated since 5000 BCE and is closely related to common wheat.

It requires less fertilizer and has currently found a new market as a health food.



Use of Wheat

The bulk of the common wheat produced, is processed into white flour. White flour is used to make  bread (also chapati, naan, pizza, flat breads etc) and cakes, pastry, muffins, breakfast cereal.

Durum wheat is ground into a coarse flour called semolina used to make pasta and couscous. It’s the hardest of all wheats and has a yellow endosperm.

Compared to other grains, wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food. It has a higher protein content (up to 15%) than maize (corn) and rice. Rice has the lowest protein content.

As human food, wheat is second to rice because corn (maize) is also used for animal feed.

Also see: Spelt Wheat, Emmer, Farro, Einkorn, Kamut®, Durum Wheat.

Classification of Wheat in the USA (FAO statistics 1995)

The wheat grown in the USA is classified based on planting season, hardness of the grain, and the colour of the grain.

Basically, the grain can be hard or soft and be red or white in colour. The colour refers to the bran layer of the wheat. The wheat can be planted in winter or in spring.

  • Hard Red Winter Wheat: has red hard grains and is planted in fall and harvested in the spring in the Great Plains winter wheat region. It comprises 38% of wheat grown)
  • Hard Red Spring Wheat: has red hard grains and is  planted in the spring and harvested in the late summer in the Great plains Spring Wheat Region. (It comprises 22% of wheat grown)
  • Soft Red Winter Wheat: has red soft grains and is planted in fall and harvested in the spring in the East Wheat region. (It comprises 5% of wheat grown)
  • White Wheat: has white grains and is planted in the West and East Wheat region. It comprises 21% of wheat grown)
  • Durum Wheat: has the hardest of grains and is planted in the Great Plains spring wheat (also in West wheat) regions. It comprises 15% of wheat grown)


Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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