Wheat is the all-time nutritional plant. It is also the most timeless of all foods, since unlike all other sources of nourishment, wheat grains can last almost indefinitely when properly stored. Considered the world’s most important grain crop, wheat has nourished our animals and us for thousands of years.
Wheat grows on more land area worldwide than any other crop and provides 40-60% of the available energy and protein in developing countries. In total world production, wheat comes a close third after rice and corn. It copes with harsh environments, and grows mostly in windy areas that are too arid and cold for rice and corn. A global wheat failure would be a catastrophe few nations could survive.
When we see the word "wheat,” we think of bread. Yet while this most versatile of grains can be used in infinite ways, its key purpose is to feed humans. But wheat is also regarded as a sacred grain because since ancient times, whole populations have believed that this wondrous grain holds the secret of life and death.
History of Wheat
The Land of Israel lies in the wheat belt – the region that first created the flour and bread culture and made it into a universal food.
Ten thousand years ago, wheat was just one of many ordinary grasses growing in the Fertile Crescent. Originally self-propagating, these wild grasses eventually became dependent on humans for cultivation.
In Egypt around 1000 BCE, inventive thinkers (believed by some to be Jewish slaves) isolated yeast and used the culture to make bread. Development of a new strain of wheat enabled preparation of refined white flour, resulting in the first truly modern bread.
Since Roman times, rulers have kept tight control over wheat production, recognizing its political power. The Romans, for example, nationalized their baking industry. A millennium and a half later, persistent bread famines were one of the causes of the French Revolution, prompting Marie Antoinette’s famous remark, “Let them eat cake!” In France and many other countries today, the weight and price of bread is regulated by the state.
Symbolisms of Wheat
Bread is traditionally associated with spirituality and the afterlife. In antiquity, bread-making was a symbol of procreation, with the rising and baking process paralleling conception, pregnancy, and childbirth.
In the Bible, wheat and bread symbolize the earth’s abundance. When the Israelites crossed the desert, God sent them manna from heaven as a sign of His generosity, instead of bread. Manna prefigures the Christian Eucharist.
In the New Testament parable of the good seed and the bad seed, bread symbolizes eternal life. In John 6:51, Jesus declares, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever…”
The ancient Hittites held that soldiers served bread were protected from impotence, and that leavened bread prevented epidemics. In Belgium during the Middle Ages, bread kneaded on Christmas Eve was thought to protect the home against lightning. In Russia, a saltcellar placed on a loaf of bread is presented to a young couple by one of the mothers.In many regions today, wedding guests give newlyweds bread and salt to wish them health and prosperity.
Wheat – Health & Nutrition
Wheat is rich in valuable proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Due to its exceptional nutritional value and versatility, bread is nearly perfect for human nourishment and is one of the earth’s most loved and widespread foods.
Wheat germ oil strengthens the body and increases longevity. Wheat germ is especially rich in Vitamin E, and is valued for its antioxidant effects. A natural preservative, wheat germ oil also contains Vitamins A and D.
Wheat germ oil is effective in treating skin irritations, including dryness and cracking. When applied on the skin together with a carrier oil, it improves blood circulation and helps rejuvenate skin cells damaged by the sun.
Juice made from wheatgrass - the young grass of the common wheat plant - provides vital nourishment and extra energy as well as neutralizing toxins. It contains nearly 70% chlorophyll and is a rich source of vitamins A, B, and C, and many minerals such as calcium and iron. The chlorophyll in wheat grass juice helps to purify the blood and rebuild body tissue.
Wheat – Fun Facts
World leaders in wheat production are China, India, the United States, France, and Russia (in that order).
A family of four can live for ten years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat.
The per capita consumption of wheat in the United States exceeds that of any other single food staple.
Bread is a common symbol of reproduction. In France, a young woman pregnant before marriage was said to have "borrowed a loaf from the batch." In England, "a bun in the oven" refers to a woman's pregnancy. In Sweden, when a daughter is born, it is customary to prepare a flat round bread pierced with a hole; the bread is eaten the day she gets married.
For centuries, Christians have made the sign of the cross on the crust of a loaf of bread before cutting it.
In nine seconds, a combine can harvest enough wheat to make about seventy loaves of bread.