Wheat is ubiquitious in our culture in the food culture of North America as well as other regions around the world. Bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, Cakes, and muffins just begin to describe the list of foods made with this grain.
Wheat is generally classified as being either spring or winter wheat. Within these two groups, the wheat can be further defined as being either hard or soft, depending upon the grain's texture. The colors of the grains of wheat are white or red with reflections of amber.
Wheat, in its natural unrefined state, features a host of important nutrients. Therefore, to receive benefit from the wholesomeness of wheat you need to choose wheat products made from whole wheat flour rather than those that are refined and stripped of their natural goodness.
The genus name for wheat, from which all wheat species are derived, is Triticum.
Wheat is one of the world's most important food crops. It is believed that wild relatives of wheat first grew in the Middle East. Wheat was one of the first plants to be cultivated. It was grown about 11,000 years ago.
Enormous changes in people's lives occurred because of wheat being grown. People began growing their own food and no longer needed to wander in search of food. Permanent settlements were established because wheat provided people with a stable food supply. Soon people grew enough wheat to feed people from other lands. Once there was extra wheat available, trade between various cultures developed.
By 4,000 B.C. wheat farming had spread to Asia, Europe and North Africa. New species of wheat developed because early farmers probably selected kernels from their best wheat plants to use as seeds for planting the following year's crop. That way, only the best wheat qualities were passed from one generation to the next. Soon wheat became an important world wide crop.
 How Wheat Is Grown
Wheat grows in a variety of Climate and Soil. Suitable weather and proper soil are needed to produce a healthy wheat crop. Wheat farmers must use high-quality seed that is free from disease to produce high yields. Farmers also must plant and harvest the wheat at the correct time. They must protect the growing crop from damage caused by disease and pests.
Wheat likes to be grown in fairly dry and mild climates. Weather conditions influence when wheat is planted. Winter wheat is planted from September to November. It is planted a few inches deep in narrow channels called furrows. Snow fills the furrows and protects the plants from the cold. Spring wheat is planted from early March to mid-April. It has a shorter growing period than winter wheat.
The steps for growing wheat are much the same throughout the world. However, wheat farms are different in size and levels of mechanization (work done by machinery). In many non-industrial countries, wheat farmers use animals to pull their plow across their fields. They also may plant and harvest their crop by hand. In industrialized countries, nearly all the wheat is grown on large farms and is harvested with the help of tractors and specialized machinery.
Wheat farmers prepare their fields by plowing the soil. This breaks up the surface of the soil and allows moisture to soak into the ground where it is stored for the next crop. Plowing the field also buries weeds that have grown in the damp soils.
A tractor-drawn machine called a drill is used to plant wheat seed. Long narrow channels (furrows) are dug by the drill. At the same time, it drops seeds into the furrows and covers them with soil. Fertilizer can also be dropped into the furrow along with the seed.
While the wheat is growing, farmers must protect it from diseases, insect pests, and weeds. Rust is the most destructive wheat disease. Rust is a fungus that grows on the wheat plant and produces small, rust-colored spots on the leaves and stems. Insects damage about ten percent of the United States wheat crop every year. Grasshoppers and locusts are two of the more than one hundred insects that attack wheat plants. Weeds rob the wheat plants of the moisture and nourishment they need.
 Where Wheat Is Grown?
More of the earth's surface is covered by wheat than any other food crop. The leading wheat producing countries are China, the Soviet Union, the United States, India, and Canada. The world's farmers grow enough wheat every year to fill a freight train stretching around the world two and one-half times.
In the United States, the two major types of wheat grown are spring wheat and winter wheat. Spring wheat is mainly grown in the northern Great Plains states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. Winter wheat is grown from the southern Great Plains states (Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma) through the Eastern United States (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia). California has also become a winter wheat producing state.
 Harvesting and Marketing Wheat
Because bad weather can damage the wheat crop, farmers use huge machines called combines to cut the stalks and separate the kernels from the rest of the plant.
After the harvest, most farmers haul their wheat in trucks to a country grain elevator for storage. The grain from each truck is emptied into a pit. A conveyer belt then picks up the grain, and carries it to the top of the elevator. The grain is then dumped into a tall storage bin. The grain is dried and cleaned. Workers give one of six grades to the wheat, based on its weight and its quality. Wheat is sold based on its grade.
Wheat then travels by truck or railroad boxcar to an elevator located in a large grain market or shipping center. If the grain is to be exported, the United States Department of Agriculture inspects and grades it.
Some wheat is then loaded onto ships for export. In other words, the wheat is sent to other countries. Trucks, railroad cars, or barges carry the remainder of the wheat to mills for grinding into flour. The rest is shipped off to other processors to be used in animal feed or other industrial products. Some wheat is bought directly from farmers, or buyers may purchase wheat already in storage.
 Kinds of Wheat
There are several types of wheat, but they all fall into two main categories. These two categories are spring wheat and winter wheat. Wheat is grouped by its growing season. There are about thirty species of wheat, but only three are common in the United States. These three are:
Durum wheat is used in many pasta products because the wheat holds together when made into a paste. It is a spring wheat and grows in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and southern Canada.
This is also called "bread wheat" and is the most widely grown type of wheat. It can be either a spring or winter wheat. In the United States, it is grown on the prairies.
It can be either a spring or Winter wheat and it is closely related to the common wheat. In the United States, it is grown in the Pacific Northwest.
 How to Select and Store
Wheat flour, berries and bulgur are generally available prepackaged as well as in bulk containers. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing these wheat products are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure their maximal freshness. Whether purchasing these products in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture present.
Look for wheat germ that is packaged in sealed containers (especially those that are vacuum packaged) as they will be more protected from potential oxidation and rancidity.
Wheat berries should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place. The optimal way to store wheat products such as flour, bulgur, bran and germ is in an airtight container in the refrigerator as the cooler temperature will help to prevent them from becoming rancid.
 How to Use Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is inexpensive and can be easily incorporated into the diet. Toasted wheat germ, because of its texture and nutty, slightly sweet flavor is usually preferred over raw wheat germ for use in recipes or sprinkling on food. Toasted wheat germ can be added to:
Breakfast cereals Oatmeal Pancake and waffle mixes Smoothies Yogurt Breads and muffin mixes Cottage Cheese Homemade Protein bars Casseroles
Toasted wheat germ can also be used as a substitute for bread crumbs in many recipes.
 Cooking Tips
- The simplest yet tasteful whole wheat preparation comprises of sandwiches of the whole wheat bread. They are good for health and also taste delicious.
- Another delicious and appetizing breakfast choice is to have wheat flakes. They are similar to rolled oats and can be prepared as hot breakfast cereal.
- You can opt for sprouted wheat berries in vegetable and grain salads. This would make way for yummy eating option.
- Instead of using refined grain, you can opt for whole wheat pita breads as the crust for making pizzas.
- For those who are in love with pasta, try the whole wheat pasta treat. They are available in different types, such as spaghetti, spirals and penne and would suit your recipe needs perfectly.
 Health Benefits Of Eating Whole Wheat
- Whole wheat reduces the risk of Heart disease by decreasing cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood coagulation.
- A diet that is rich in whole wheat consumption reduces the risk of Cancer amongst people. The dietary fiber present in it plays an important role in the prevention of Cancer.
- Whole wheat products prove to be an extremely rich source of the Mineral, Selenium.
- Daily intake of whole wheat products ensures an overall increase in health and decrease in Obesity.
- Rich in nutrients, whole wheat provides consumers a feeling of fullness, thereby reducing the risk of overeating.
- For figure-conscious folks, whole wheat comes as a boon. Gaining weight is inversely proportional to consuming whole wheat. As per a study conducted, women who consumed whole wheat products are less likely to gain weight than those who consumed refined grains.
- Consumption of whole wheat reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, thereby preventing visceral Obesity or the "apple shaped" body, low levels of protective HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure.
- In contrast to the refined grains, whole wheat consumption does not have harmful effects on your body, i.e. no weight gain and no risk of insulin resistance.
- For those people who are prone to allergic reactions, whole wheat consumption can lead to allergies, such as skin rash, hives, itching, and eczema. Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat or tingling sensation in the mouth can also be seen.
- Another concern is the presence of oxalate in whole wheat. These are the naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals and human beings. High concentration of oxalates in body fluids can crystallize, thereby causing health problems.