Hard White Wheat History and Origin

Hard white wheat is probably the wheat you are most familiar with. It is a strain of modern wheat and is great for those who want to use whole grain but prefer their baked goods lighter in color.

It has been called the newest U.S class of wheat and has been around since only the late 1990s. Not exactly what you’d call an ancient grain, but its cousins go way back.

This particular class of wheat was first developed specifically for Asian noodle and steamed bread markets but has a wide range of uses.

Varieties of wheat have been around for 10,000years. They grew naturally and even hybridized naturally. The original varieties including einkorn and later emmer and spelt, were much taller, lower yielding and more difficult to harvest.

At some point in the middle of the 19th century, breeders realized that they could manipulate which characteristics of the grain continued by selecting specific ears with those qualities. They specifically would select the best ears in terms of stocks that had higher yield and had a stock that was shorter and stiffer.

During this time, bread bakers were also pushing for higher protein content.

Around the year 1900, there began to be an emphasis on cross breeding to get specific results, such as increased protein AND high yield. The Sustainable Food Trust describes the process this way: “A key part of wheat genetics is that the plant is self-pollinating, meaning the pollen from the anthers falls onto the stigma within the same flower. To cross varieties, breeders must remove the male anther part of a wheat flower before it produces pollen, then once the stigma has matured, introduce pollen from the plant they wish to cross the wheat with. This process, known as hybridization, produces a first-generation F1 plant that will be a genetic cross of the parents. However, the next generation, an F2, will have huge diversity because of the large number of genotypes created by the hybridization process. To produce a stable variety, multiple generations of self-pollination and careful selection of plants is required.”

Then came the Green Revolution. You may have heard of Norman Borlaug. He spearheaded this movement to create these varieties of wheat that have become what we know as modern wheat. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts to end world hunger.

Modern wheat gets a bad rap, and there are reasons for this. The hybridization created something our bodies weren’t prepared to handle and now there is a big rise in gluten related issues. To be fair, it has gone a long way to assisting with world hunger since it yields so much more than the ancient grains.

Modern wheat has a lot of gluten and is not as nutrient dense as other ancient grains, but it still has a lot of nutrients and can make some very beautiful breads. It’s not our go-to for health reasons, but if you can handle it, there may be a place for it in your diet.

Even though its not an ancient grain, it is a very popular grain and one we want to make available directly to our customers so that’s why we offer Organic Hard White Wheat Berries for purchase on our website. You can click here to see the details. It is locally grown and excellent for baking.

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