Blog, Keeping it Simple

Keeping It Simple: Wheat Basics

This is the first of a series of Keep-It-Simple Shortcuts™ (K.I.S.S.).

I’ve tried to reduce the mass of information available in the world of conventional wisdom to that which is specifically effective and useful for those desiring to become prepared. These shortcuts are the results of more than 36 years of living in this mode, and previous to that, living in a family that practiced what is shared herein.

Wheat––the Basic Grain

Wheat is referred to as the staff of life because it is the most widely grown and consumed grain in the world. Wheat is utilized in many forms by different cultures, but the form of wheat most widely used is flour––whether for pastas, breads or other baked goods. Flours are available from the minimally processed whole-wheat flours, such as graham and bread flour to the highly-processed white flours, unbleached or bleached, such as bread, pastry, cake, all-purpose, self-rising, and semolina flour.

Perhaps less known are other types of wheat forms available for our use. Among them are the unprocessed forms of whole-grain wheat. These include whole or cracked kernels of the wheat berries. Slightly more processed forms include bulgur, couscous, wheat germ, wheat bran, rolled and flaked wheat (similar to oatmeal) and the wheat meals. The most recognized forms are the higher processed forms, such as farina, semolina, and white flour.

With such a wide range of uses, wheat is considered by many experts to be one of the most basic food storage items. It is certainly easy to store and has high value in the daily diet. Wheat can be prepared easily in an extremely wide variety of dishes––from breakfast cereals to breads to main dishes to desserts.

Wheat is also very nutritious, containing high amounts of protein, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. When sprouted, vitamins A and C are also present in increased amounts.

As interest in wheat storage and in-home storage and utilization has increased, equipment for in-home processing and food technology for its use and enjoyment have kept pace with the demand. Commercial resources for producing, milling, storing, grinding and preparing wheat have increased at ever-lower costs. Grinders, grinding mills, storage containers, widespread delivery systems, and availability are working for the wheat devotée.

This chapter contains many helpful ideas for storing and preserving whole-wheat grains. The following chapters have recipes for utilizing wheat from whole kernel to white flour. Virtually every form of preparing wheat in-home is covered.

By the way, here is an early warning message––don’t try to start a whole-wheat diet all at once! You would suffer digestive problems an antacid won’t resolve! The normal digestive system cannot adapt immediately to the extreme dietary change a diet of whole wheat would cause. Small children would probably have digestive and elimination problems when commencing a high-level wheat consumption diet.

A diet with a few ounces per day of processed flour products is a far cry from a diet of cracked whole-wheat cereal at breakfast, whole-wheat bread sandwiches for lunch, then a wheat sprout salad, a whole-wheat bulgur casserole, some more whole-wheat bread and a wheat-based dessert at dinner! Living on basic foods is a lifestyle unto itself.

Wheat causes allergic reactions in some people, and a whole-wheat diet will be very difficult for them. Many persons, who at lower levels of wheat intake may not be aware of their allergy to wheat, may discover their latent sensitivity when they ingest more wheat more often.

If you aren’t using whole-wheat food daily, start utilizing it at some meal soon. Get accustomed to whole-wheat foods by using some whole-wheat flour in white flour recipes the family already likes. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, start on the next one. Eventually you’ll be able to utilize whole-wheat flour exclusively, when flour is required in a recipe. Then, and only then, are you ready to use only your own wheat flour produced in-home, including all those delightful whole-wheat casseroles you’ll create!

Let reason prevail––start now in your goal of utilizing wheat in every form. Break into the whole-wheat lifestyle with a gentle, guiding effort. Don’t wait for a cataclysm––you’ll have more than one serious problem with which to deal!

Basic Storage Guidelines

Listed below are his suggested criteria for purchasing, treating, and preserving bulk whole wheat:

  • Variety
  • Protein content
  • Moisture content
  • Quantity
  • Containers
  • Storage techniques

Purchasing Whole Wheat

varieties to buy include Dark Hard Winter, Spring Wheat, Dark Turkey Red, and Montana White Wheat because they store best. Grain should be cleaned for human consumption and free from all foreign matter possible. Buy Grade #1 for food storage. Always buy the best grade(s) available––the quality of your results in cooking, baking and realizing the full health benefits whole wheat offers depends on your choice of grain!

Protein content should be 13% or higher. There are wheat varieties available to the consumer with as much as 18% protein.

Moisture content should not exceed 10% in the grain. This will inhibit microbial infiltration and insect infestation.

Quantity to buy varies according to age, weight, size, sex and appetite of each person.

Note:

When buying whole-wheat flour from the store, buy it only if it has been refrigerated. Be sure to keep it refrigerated until utilized. Even these precautions will not prevent loss of the essential vitamins and minerals.

Containers for Storing Whole Wheat

Use crush-proof, waterproof, and moisture-proof containers. All food storage products must be protected to prevent infiltration, infestation, and contamination. The better the container fulfills these requirements, the better condition your stored wheat will be when needed.

Store wheat in round cans. When storing wheat in square cans, allow several inches open space on all sides of the cans to allow air to circulate more freely.

A round, 5-gallon metal bucket, enamel-coated interior, with an airtight lid and waterproof seal is the best option for storing bulk whole wheat. They are generally available from restaurant suppliers, barrel, container, or used-container dealers. This type container will hold approximately 35 pounds of wheat, and is convenient for both transporting and long-term storage purposes. These containers will stack safely, allow better ventilation, protect the contents, and utilize less storage space.

A 5-gallon polyethylene bucket with tight-fitting lid and waterproof seal is a good alternative to the metal can––these are normally available at the same businesses as metal cans. Same caution as to container’s previous contents applies.

Caution:

Attention to previous contents of any used container is important. Make sure no chemicals, odorous food, or non-food products were stored in food containers.

Always use a heavy-duty, food-grade, sealable, plastic liner in any container for bulk wheat. With any container, a food-grade plastic liner is necessary to prevent infiltration of contaminants, infestation, and moisture.

Properly processed, treated, pre-packed, and factory-sealed wheat can be purchased from reputable mills and food storage dealers. Commercially sealed wheat usually re­quires neither turning nor aerating when properly stored.

Basic Storage Techniques

There are a few critical things about bulk wheat storage we bring to your awareness. Properly stored wheat will store indefinitely. Improperly stored wheat will neither store for very long, due to spoilage nor have any food value left when used, even if it doesn’t spoil.

Temperature Range

Temperature range for storing bulk wheat is 45°–65°F. Edible and sproutable wheat was discovered in the pyramids after centuries of storage. Wheat will keep indefinitely when properly stored. However, since ideal storage conditions are difficult to maintain, always rotate stored wheat. Use older wheat first and replace it annually with new wheat at harvest times, when prices are generally lower.

Moisture Protection

Always store wheat in a dry environment. Bulk wheat must be kept dry to prevent infestation and contamination. Moisture provides a growth environment for molds, bacteria, and a multitude of bugs.

Wheat in containers draws moisture, so take precautions to protect stored wheat from exposure to high humidity and high temperatures. Use boards or wooden platforms under metal cans to prevent bottoms of cans from touching or being in direct contact with concrete, earth, or any moisture-conducting surface. The bulk wheat draws moisture, so must be isolated by the wood and air buffer to prevent spoiling.

Ventilation

Leave air space around stored wheat containers. Ventilation is necessary because the ambient air provides a buffer zone for the stored wheat as it gains and loses heat.

When storing wheat in square cans, allow several inches open space on all sides of the cans to allow adequate ventilation. Wheat stored in square cans and stacked too closely together does not allow the heat generated to escape. The increased temperatures cause sweating inside the containers.

Use boards or wooden platforms under all storage containers, especially metal cans, to prevent bottoms from rusting.

Light

Avoid storing wheat in bright light or sunlight. Some light will discourage molds from growing in small containers.

Treating Wheat for Controlling Pests

There are a number of methods to treat wheat intended for long-term storage. The following are the best methods overall I’ve found over the past 36 years. However, you choose the method best suited for your specific situation. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

The following methods seem to be the best overall in controlling pests. Generally, grains are very durable and safe for storage if kept in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Heating Treatment Method

The heating method has the advantage of killing all forms of animal life in stored wheat. The disadvantage is that it will also kill the wheat when overheated or left in the oven too long! Ordinarily, most grain is storable upon purchase––it requires a combination of appropriate temperature, moisture, and light for the bugs to activate.

Basic heating method: pour infested wheat in shallow baking pan to depth of 1/2“. Place in preheated 150°F oven for only 15–20 min. Wheat will scorch if it gets too hot for too long. Oven door may be left open to allow moisture and heat to escape.

Organic Treatment Method

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an organic method to eliminate the hungry little critters feeding freely on your storage supply. It will rid the container of all living bug and critter life. This organic treatment is not harmful to man or animals. It’s also very cheap and simple to use. Use only DE that is food grade––usually available at natural and whole food grocery stores, health food stores, and nurseries. Do not use the DE for swimming pools and spas! Never!

Basic organic method: for each 5 gal. container, put in 11/4 C. diatomaceous earth (DE), shake vigorously or roll container until all the wheat grains are dusted with powder. To use wheat after treatment, rinse grain before using, then blot the grain dry with a towel, utilizing a massaging action to wipe off powder.

Assure that the grain is completely dry before grinding! Or use it with the dust on it––it’s an organic compound.

Local Area Guidance

Local County Extension Service agents will have additional information on the best storage techniques and details for your geographical area.

What Not to Do with Storage Wheat

Here’s a short list of things to avoid when storing bulk wheat––or when storing any food products:

  • Do not pack wheat tightly into any storage space that is not optimal for storage.
  • Do not store wheat directly on dirt or cement floors, as wheat draws moisture from these surfaces.
  • Do not store wheat in a container which holds more than 2 bushels or 100 lb. Large containers are difficult to move and any infiltration, infestation, spoilage, or exposure would contaminate the entire contents.
  • Do not store wheat near:

– hot or cold water pipes, heating ducts, or steam pipes

– washing machine or clothes dryer (vented or not)

– where laundry is hung to dry

  • Do not store wheat in any of these locations:

– an unheated garage or non-insulated space

– a basement or underground space not completely dry

– any uninhabitable space (The unbreakable rule: Food is life––store it where you live!)

  • Do not put chemicals, salt, spearmint chewing gum, or herbs (such as bay leaf, laurel leaf, rose petals, or other home remedies) in wheat when storing it.
  • Do not use aluminum garbage cans for wheat storage––an airtight seal is generally impossible to achieve.
  • Always use food-grade plastic liners––garbage bags are not designed for storing edible food. Do not use garbage bags for foods––they contain pesticides not intended for human consumption.

Grinding Wheat

If you store wheat in bulk, you certainly must have access to a wheat grinder. There are many models on the market, both hand-operated and electric models. The electric models are great for quick results, but quite expensive, fairly noisy, and often create a lot of flour dust in the kitchen. It makes good sense to have a hand-operated, foot- or bicycle-powered model available for use before purchasing an expensive electric model. The more a wheat grinder is utilized, the better it grinds the wheat into flour––the grinding surfaces literally grind themselves to a perfect fit.

Storing ground wheat: keep ground whole wheat and all types of fresh-ground or commercially-ground (store-bought) flours in the refrigerator or in an equally cool, dry lace. Refrigeration at 0°F will extend shelf life of ground wheat by approximately 6 months.

Grind only enough wheat for use within 1 week. Natural whole-wheat flour has practically no food value when left at room temperature for a few days.

Next: Special Aspects of Wheat Storage––making your own wheat sugar, how to make yeast-to-sourdough recipe conversions, and how to make gluten (wheatmeat) in your own kitchen.