There are Many Varieties of Wheat
Wheat is an important grain in many of our daily diets and in our food storages. It contains most of the nutrients we need to live on and it can be stored for very long periods of time. What many people may not know is that there are many varieties of wheat. Each variety is used for different purposes and some have stronger flavors than others.
There are 3 major groups of wheat: Hard, soft, and durham wheat. In each of these varieties, winter and spring wheats can be grown.
Hard wheats have smaller, harder kernals and are preferred for yeast breads because of their higher protein and gluten content. A high protein/gluten content is important in bread-making because gluten is what allows the bread dough to stretch and hold itself together while rising. 14% protein is the ideal pecentage of wheat for making bread. Most hard wheats contain between 12 and 16% protein. Protein content depends on growing conditions and farming methods.
Hard wheat comes in the traditional red or the newer white wheat. Red wheat contains tannin in the bran layer, which gives it it’s darker color and distinct wheat flavor. White wheat has a lighter color, flavor, and texture because it contains no tannic acid in the bran. It also produces a spongier, lighter loaf of bread, which is why some people prefer it to the red variety.
Soft wheat contains a softer kernal and between 9-11% protein. It also comes in red or white. This type of wheat is ideal for making pastries and quick breads such as waffles, pancakes, bisuits, and cakes since a high gluten content is not needed with the leavening agents used in these baked goods.
Durham wheat kernals are bigger than the hard and soft varieties of wheat. The kernals are also shaped a little differently and they contain a very hard, high protein. This is the wrong type of protein to form a good gluten, so duram wheat is great for making pastas.
Each variety of wheat discussed above can be broken down into winter or sping wheat. Winter wheat is planted in the fall and begins growing before winter sets in. When winter does come, it kills the top of the wheat, but when spring arrives, it begins growing again. This wheat can be harvested earlier in the year than spring wheat.
Spring wheat is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. In general, it has a higher protein and lower moisture content than winter wheat.
In buying and using wheat, it’s important to keep in mind what it will be used for and what your taste preferrences are. This will help you in your decision of what type and color to buy. If you do a lot of baking, it may be good to keep several varieties on hand. If you don’t know what you like, try buying small amounts of different kinds so you can find out what you like best.
*Information in this article was taken from “Wheat, Oats, and Macaroni” LDS Cannery April 6, 2004 and Kneadfulthingsnow.com April 2009 Newsletter, Issue 1.