Dark hard winter, Spring, Dark Turkey Red and Montana White. Wheat is a dynamic grain with a wide range of uses– hence it is regarded as one of the most basic
and essential food storage items by many experts, including James Talmadge Stevens, author of the family preparedness book Making the Best of the Basics.
Wheat has extraordinary nutritional value, containing high amounts of protein, calcium, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. Even a single wheat berry can be a power-packed kernel of vitamins all by itself as a sprout.
In the handbook, Stevens quotes another food storage expert, a Mr. Zabriskie
on the best methods of wheat storage. The following is a slightly condensed version of that information.
- Protein Content– Should be 13 percent of higher.
- Moisture Content– Should not exceed 10% in the grain. This will inhibit bacteria and insect infestation.
- Containers– Use crush-proof, waterproof and moisture-proof containers. Store wheat in round cans. (Some also use long grain sacks that hang from the ceiling, tied off at the end. The movement of the grain as it is uses discourages insects.) The best storage can is made of metal with an enamel-coated interior and a waterproof seal. The alternative is 5-gallon polyethylene bucket with a tight-fitting lid and waterproof seal. Always use a heavy duty, food-grade, sealable plastic liner to prevent contaminants, infestation and moisture. Commercially sealed wheat should not need turning when properly stored.
- Storage techniques– Wheat should be stored in a cool dry environment away from bright light. The temperature of the storage area should be between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Protect from high humidity and high temperatures. Use boards or wooden platforms under metal cans to prevent them from touching concrete, earth or any moisture conducting surface, which can cause rusting.
- Leave air space around containers. Ventilation provides a buffer zone for the wheat as it gains and loses heat. If you are already storing wheat in square containers, allow several inches of apace between cans to prevent increased temperatures and sweating inside the containers.
- Fumigation techniques– For those new to storing wheat, be advised that before wheat is stored in its containers, it must be fumigated in order to destroy weevil eggs and other microorganisms living in the wheat. The handbook listed the following options:
- Dry Ice– Carbon dioxide released from evaporating dry ice will kill all insect life in the container. Place the ice in the top of the bucket with waxed paper separating the ice from the wheat. Press lid down gently, leaving a small outlet for escaping air. After 20 or 30 minutes, check to see if the ice has evaporated by closing the lid. If the lid bulges, loosen and wait another five minutes before checking again. The container can be sealed once all the ice has evaporated.
- Freezing– The freezer will kill all live bugs over an extended period of time. This method is simple, but not foolproof because the eggs are not usually killed by freezing. The handbook suggests refreezing after 30 days to ensure that any eggs hatched since the last treatment are destroyed. To freeze wheat use a chest-type freezer, not the freezer section of a refrigerator– for 72 hours at zero degrees or lower.
- Heating– The heating method will kill all infestations, however, if done incorrectly, it will damage the wheat. Pour wheat up to half an inch deep in a shallow baking pan and place in a preheated 150-degree oven for only 15-20 minutes. Oven door may be left open to allow moisture and heat to escape.
- Organic– Diatomaceous earth is an organic method to rid wheat of "critters" yet it is not harmful to man or animals. It is also inexpensive and easy to use.
- For each 5-gallon container, put in one and a quarter cups of
diatomaceous earth and roll the container until all the wheat grains are dusted. To use wheat after treatment, rinse and blot dry the grain– but remember that it is not necessary, as it is an organic material and harmless to humans.
Ed. Note: This article was adapted from The Beehive
News, Las Vegas, NV. Originally written by Karen Hale. Many of these suggestions can also be applied to other forms of grain. Grains and legumes should form the base of any food storage program. Rotate– (prepare and eat ) regularly for best storage results.