Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wheat

Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a grass, originally from the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (784 million tons) and rice (651 million tons). Globally,

wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having a higher protein content than either maize (corn) or rice,

the other major cereals. In terms of total production tonnages used for food, it is currently second to rice as the main human food crop, and ahead of maize, after allowing for maize's more extensive use in animal feeds.
Wheat was a key factor enabling the emergence of city-based societies at the start

of civilization because it was one of the first crops that could be easily cultivated on a large scale, and had the additional advantage of yielding a harvest that provides long-term storage of food. Wheat is a factor in contributing to city-states in the Fertile Crescent including the Babylonian and Assyrian empires.

Wheat grain is a staple food used to make flour for leavened, flat and steamed breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, breakfast cereal, pasta, noodles, couscous and for fermentation to make beer, other alcoholic beverages, or biofuel.

Wheat is planted to a limited extent as a forage crop for livestock, and its straw can be used as a construction material for roofing thatch. The husk of the grain, separated when milling white flour, is bran. Wheat germ is the embryo portion of the wheat kernel. It is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, and is sustained by the larger, starch storage region of the kernel—the endosperm.

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