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Two weeks ago I went on a Wheat Safari! I was invited, along with a group of dietitians from across the country, to learn how wheat products make it to our table– from farm to fork, or in our case, from farm to freshly baked pretzels!
The day began in Manhattan, Kansas about 2 hours outside of Kansas City. The state of Kansas is a prime spot for growing the hardy winter wheat that is harvested and shipped to mills across the country.
The grain is planted in the fall but harvested in the spring to make the flour that is used in thousands of products like bread, cereal and pasta . I’m a California girl so it was fun to see the golden wheat fields instead of the strawberry farms and avocado groves found near my home. And here are a few things that I learned.
Did you know that wheat begins it’s life as soft green grass? Actually it’s the type of wheat grass you may have seen at juice shops. Funny, this was a “a ha” moment for me. Somehow I never really connected the two plants. Wheat grass is often enjoyed by health enthusiasts. This wheat grass only lasts a few weeks in the fall, then when the snow hits it goes dormant until the spring when it regrows into the golden yellow wheat fields you see here.
The wheat berries you see here in this hand below is the whole grain. It’s the wheat seed. This is what is brought to the mill, ground up and made into the flour that makes your bread or cereal. Most flour is made into refined white flour where the mill removes the outer bran shell and the inside germ. I personally like to use whole grain flour and products for the extra fiber and nutritional value that comes from the “whole seed” or the bran and the germ.
Did you know what eating whole grain wheat is similar in nutritional value to eating whole fruits and vegetables? The whole grain contains phytonutrients that may help protect us from heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc . If you would like to read more about this go the www.wholegrainscouncil.org website for the latest research on the health benefits of whole grains.
And here was another a-ha moment for me. Whole wheat berries! You can cook the whole wheat seed or also called whole wheat berry just like brown rice and make it into a tasty, really healthy salad. Try this recipe I made last week. Wheat Berry Salad.
After the farm tour, we visted a mill to see how the wheat is ground into flour and then we went straight to a bakery to learn how to make all kinds of freshly baked pretzels.
Our two day Safari was a eye-opening adventure. The take-away for me was the amount of energy and effort that goes into making the products wheat products like bread, pretzels and pasta! I really am grateful to the farmers, millers, and bakers that bring me the foods that I love. And I’ll never take for granted the food that hits my table again. Heidi
Now seriously try this recipe, its soooo good! Wheat Berry Salad