Wheat is a cereal grain and is grown on more land area than any other commercial food. World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. Globally, wheat is the leading source of vegetal protein in human food, having a higher protein content than the other major cereals maize (corn) and rice. 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.
There are many types of wheat. Growing season, such as winter wheat vs. spring wheat. Bread wheat protein content ranges from 10% in some soft wheats with high starch contents, to 15% in hard wheats. Grain color (red, white or amber). Many wheat varieties are reddish-brown due to phenolic compounds present in the bran layer which are transformed to pigments by browning enzymes. White wheats have a lower content of phenolics and browning enzymes, and are generally less astringent in taste than red wheats. The yellowish color of durum wheat and semolina flour made from it is due to a carotenoid pigment called lutein, which can be oxidized to a colorless form by enzymes present in the grain. Durum – The only tetraploid form of wheat widely used today, and the second most widely cultivated wheat.
Classes used in the United States:
- Durum – Very hard, translucent, light-colored grain used to make semolina flour for pasta & bulghur; high in protein, specifically, gluten protein.
- Hard Red Spring – Hard, brownish, high-protein wheat used for bread and hard baked goods. Bread Flour and high-gluten flours are commonly made from hard red spring wheat.
- Hard Red Winter – Hard, brownish, mellow high-protein wheat used for bread, hard baked goods and as an adjunct in other flours to increase protein in pastry flour for pie crusts. Some brands of unbleached all-purpose flours are commonly made from hard red winter wheat alone. One variety is known as “turkey red wheat”, and was brought to Kansas by Mennonite immigrants from Russia.
- Soft Red Winter – Soft, low-protein wheat used for cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, and muffins. Cake flour, pastry flour, and some self-rising flours with baking powder and salt added, for example, are made from soft red winter wheat.
- Hard White – Hard, light-colored, opaque, chalky, medium-protein wheat planted in dry, temperate areas. Used for bread and brewing.
- Soft White – Soft, light-colored, very low protein wheat grown in temperate moist areas. Used for pie crusts and pastry. Pastry flour, for example, is sometimes made from soft white winter wheat.
Red wheats may need bleaching; therefore, white wheats usually command higher prices than red wheats on the commodities market.