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There is a debate among homesteaders about which form you should store your wheat in – whole berries or ground flour. One camp touts the many uses of raw berries while the other side praises the immediate use of the prepared flour. So which is better?
There is no real right answer. As with so many other things in life, it comes down to your personal preferences and factors such as cost, storage, and versatility. However, in this article, you’ll see that there are more advantages to storing wheat berries.
When it comes to cost comparisons, the wheat berries are far more economical than buying ground flour. It is a small amount of work to grind the flour yourself. When you combine this with how long the berries will last, it is easy to justify the larger storage needs for the whole wheat.
One of the largest costs associated with using whole wheat berries is a grain grinder. There are many styles and price ranges on the market. You want to choose a well-built grinder designed specifically for grains. Cheaper versions or methods may seem like a bargain, but if you have to replace them more than once or add extra processing steps, you won’t have saved anything.
Wheat berries can be stored for decades while flour has a limited shelf life in comparison. The flour loses nutrients and shelf life as soon as the wheat is cracked open and exposed to air. The oil in the cracked wheat kernel interacts with the oxygen which can cause the flour to become rancid fairly quickly – within months.
Researchers celebrated when wheat berries found in Egyptian pyramids sprouted after 2000 years. The key to the amazing longevity is the storage – constant, cooler temperatures along with airtight containers.
Each of the modern systems below has both good and bad things going for it. You might choose based on things such as cost, security, and portability. No matter which method you pick, the wheat should be in a cool location away from direct sunlight.
- Mylar bags – These are efficient, lightweight, and portable. Their downfall is the high cost and susceptibility to rodents.
- Double bags – Many grains come in their own double bags, often made of cloth. While this method has been in use for centuries, it does not keep the bugs out of your grain.
- Glass jars – Smaller amounts of wheat berries can be stored in glass jars. These are best when it is being used on a regular basis.
- Metal cans – Tin cans are still a popular way of storing grain for some areas. They have a few issues though as the cans will rust in humid climates. They need an opener and the grain can take on a “tinny” smell (it will dissipate after the grain is in the open air for a while).
- Barrels – Large barrels are often used for grain storage in bigger bulk quantities. While usually rodent-proof, the largest issue is portability. If you have to leave in a hurry, your barrels aren’t going with you.
- 5-gallon buckets – Food grade 5-gallon buckets can be found for free at many bakeries and grocers. They stack well and are easily moved from one place to another. The only real issues with these buckets are that they can be hard to open and rodents can chew through them.
- Oxygen absorbers – These are exactly what they sound like – they absorb air and moisture. Added to any of the above methods, they help retain freshness and viability. (It is probably a waste of money in the double bag method as it isn’t airtight.)
While the ground flour allows you to create dishes right away, the whole wheat berries can be used in other ways. They are a versatile foodstuff that can be boiled and eaten like oatmeal. You can pop them like popcorn, use them instead of rice, and utilize them as a filler in meatloaf and other dishes.
Nutritionally speaking, the berries are a better choice per serving as they retain their value. Just ¼ cup of uncooked wheat berries provides healthy doses of fiber, iron, and potassium. The serving contains about 150 calories and over 30 grams of carbohydrates – both necessary for keeping those energy levels up. Fresh wheat sprouts are an excellent source of iron, several vitamins (A, C, and D), and minerals such as calcium.
Because the grain is still whole, it can also be planted to provide more produce – for you and your livestock. One pound of wheat berries can turn into about seven pounds of fodder for your animals. It is a simple and inexpensive way to ensure you’ll have plenty of food for everyone and everything.
Hopefully this article has helped clear up some of the questions you might have had regarding the benefits of storing wheat berries instead of ground flour. We would love to hear any of your experiences with or thoughts on the subject.
About the Author: Julie Dees is a freelance writer who also happens to be a real, lifelong cowgirl. She enjoys writing about her animals, gardening, homesteading, and just about anything related to the outdoor life. She can be contacted at TheCowGirlWrites.com.