Sunday, 8 March 2015

What's Wheat Gotta Do With It? (Part 2)

A Brief History of Wheat

Wheat existed back even in 10,000 BC. Farmers planted on land that is now known as the 'Fertile Crescent'. This place is an area situated on a crescent-shape strip of land located to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. It is stretched across the Levant region (Israel, Lebanon and Syria) and around the edges of the Tarus and Zagros mountains. Archeologists have found wheat in pits which date back to 8,000 years ago.

The 'Fertile Crescent' had regular rainfall. This made it suitable for planting grains. Emmer and einkorn were two of the ancient grains which were planted.

(click on LINK for a detailed history of wheat)

Einkorn & Emmer

Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) is knows as 'Mother Wheat'.

This ancient grain has higher concentration of beta carotene and lutein in comparison with modern wheat.

Einkorn is a diploid (a species which has two complete sets of chromosomes, one from each parent) which has 14 (2x7) chromosomes.

*Compared to modern wheat, ancient grains had lower amounts of gluten. And they had higher amounts of protein. They also had higher amounts of fibre than modern wheat. (*click on LINK)

Einkorn somehow mated with some other types of grass and the result was emmer, which has 28 (4x7) chromosomes. Emmer (Triticum dicoccum) is a tetraploid (a species which has four homologous (four times the basic set) sets of chromosomes).

*Emmer has 40% more protein than today's modern wheat (click on LINK). Emmer is the wheat which was referred in the Bible.

Today's modern wheat (Triticum durum) is a hexaploid (a species which has six homologous sets of chromosomes) which has 42 (6x7) chromosomes.

Click on LINK to read more on Einkorn wheat.
Click on LINK-Emmer to read more on Emmer wheat.

The Introduction of Modern Wheat - The Green Revolution

In the 1960s, modern wheat was introduced to the world and that changed the biology of wheat. An agronomist by the name of Norman Borlaug, pioneered the development of the dwarf wheat. Millions of people were dying from starvation. Borlaug crossed bred all sorts of grass with wheat and came up with the modern wheat which saved a billion people. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and was lauded for saving humankind.

The modern wheat is known as the dwarf wheat which is a high-yield type. It has very large seed heads and strong, short stalks which could bear the extra weight. One stalk could yield so much more grain than the ancient einkorn or emmer. *Also the short stalks are imperative for the high levels of chemical fertilisers. If not the stalks would grow too high and collapse on the fields and this would hinder the modern techniques of harvesting. (*taken from HERE)

To read more, click on GREEN REVOLUTION.

The Preparation of the Modern Wheat Flour

High extraction flour is traditionally milled flour which does not remove all the bran and the germ. The bran and the germ are where the good stuff are.

High extraction flour is done by first soaking the grains (some for 24 hours), then dried and then finally grinding them. 

*Modern mass-produced wheat have their bran and germ removed for stability and longer-lasting effect so that it does not go rancid fast. The fatty acids which are in the bran and germ are the ones that go rancid fast. (*taken from HERE) Thus, for the flours to have a long-shelf-lifespan and stability, the nutritional parts are stripped from the grains.

Click on WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHEAT to read more about how the modern wheat is planted, extracted and prepared.

Wheat Trivia

1. Gluten, which is derived from wheat is used in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used in the manufacturing of capsules.

2. *At least 80% of wheat is carbohydrate. (taken from HERE)

3. ***The Egyptians were the first people to bake whole loaves of bread (they used yeast too!) 5000 years ago!

4. ***At about 200 BC, the Romans used animal power to grind wheat.

5. ***At 85 BC, watermills were introduced to Asia Minor. This enabled mass wheat growing and production.

6. ***The Great Fire of London (2nd September 1666), originated in the King's Baker shop on Pudding Lane.

(***taken from HERE)

Click on LINK to read more about early farming.

For a more detailed history of wheat, click on LINK.

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