What is Common Wheat?

Triticum aestivum L.

By Rasbak [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Common wheat is also known as Bread wheat.

About 95 percent of the cultivated wheat is common wheat. There are about 5,000 cultivars of bread wheat in current use.

Bread wheat is cultivated in every continent except Antarctica.

China and India are the largest producers of bread wheat, nearly all of which is destined for their domestic markets.

Unlike the tetraploid, durum wheat, common wheat is a hexaploid species resulting from hybridization between a domesticated tetraploid wheat, probably T. diccocum or T. durum and a goat grass, Aegilops tauschii (squarossa).

It has six sets of chromosomes (4 sets from the domesticated tetraploid and 2 from the goat grass).

Summer and winter wheat?

Two main groups of wheat have been developed:

  • Spring or summer wheat – sown in spring and harvested in late summer
  • Winter wheat – sown in autumn and harvested in early summer
  • A third group, known as facultative or intermediate wheat, can be grown under a wider range of environmental conditions and combines characteristics of the other two groups.

Culinary Use of Common (Bread) Wheat

The bulk of common wheat is milled into flour which is is used to make breads, crackers, biscuits, pancakes, pies, pastries, cakes, sauces, muesli and breakfast cereals.

The wheat kernel or grain can be germinated and dried to create malt. Malt is used to make malted beverages like beer and other malted products.

The wheat kernel is also crushed into smaller pieces to form what is marketed as cracked wheat. Cracked wheat can be boiled or cooked like rice or added to stews and soups.

The wheat kernel can also be steamed under high temperatures to cook it, then dried, crushed and de-branned to create what is marketed as bulgur wheat. Bulgar wheat is pre-cooked and dried cracked wheat. It can be rehydrated by soaking in boiling water for about 15 minutes. It’s much easier to use compared to cracked, uncooked wheat.

After milling of wheat, the outer bran that encloses the grain is separated and marketed as wheat bran. Wheat bran contains starch, protein, vitamins and minerals, and its soluble dietary fibres are good for the digestive system.

Wheat bran is used to enrich bread and breakfast cereals and foods such as borscht soup in eastern Europe.

Wheat can be refined into starch or wheatgerm oil.  It can also be refined into Vital wheat gluten (the proteins that make it sticky).  Vital wheat gluten is used in baking to enhance the gluten especially in products that mix wheat flour with other flours.

Wheat is also used to make beer and as animal fodder.

Why is common wheat good for bread?

Common wheat protein content ranges from 10% in some soft wheat with high starch content to 15% in hard wheat. It also has strong and elastic gluten, which is necessary for rising of bread.

Brief Notes on Taxonomy: Explanation, based on traditional classification by Dorofeevet all 1979.


Author: Liz

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

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