Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wheat- Part Two

After cutting the stalks and drying the wheat heads, I realized that the process of removing the chaff was going to take a long time. The wheat had long tentacles. These were used by the plant to slide pollen down to fertilize the kernels. When it dried, the tentacle had ridges that would snag clothing or fur to help distribute the seed to new locations. This tentacle also had irritation qualities so that if you ate the seeds with the tentacle attached, you would have "distress". So the process must involve removing this part.
Thrashing/Threshing would be the way to remove stems and tentacles and free the heads for more processing. I found that I could break off these tentacles and stem parts by hand pretty quickly. This left just the heads to deal with- De-hulling.

De-hulling is where the real difficulty began. We don't have any equipment for doing this efficiently. A bird would squeeze the seed with its beak and the seed would slide out into the bird's mouth. I could squeeze the seed with my fingernail and do the same thing. Seed after seed, thousands of seeds. Millions of seeds. I tried rolling them, squishing them, beating them with a stick, stomping them, and at last I came to realize that I was not going to be able to find a way with my limited resources to extract the seed kernel from the hull- except by fingers.

To my husband I say, we will buy processed seeds and grind our wheat from them. As much as I loved the idea of growing wheat, I cannot process enough in a day to add to a pot of soup. We would be better to feed the seed to a chicken and then eat the chicken or the eggs.

I was able to grow two pounds of wheat in my little bed. In theory, two pounds of bread. But in reality, about 1/2 has been extracted from the hull and it may take me the rest of the year to extract the balance. This cannot be the staff of life. In the absence of slavery, there is no way ancient humans could rely on this product for daily food.

After some research, I found that many other home growers experienced this same problem with little or no success. In the modern world, wheat has been developed that has a weaker hull so that it is easier to  process. Apparently, Emmer is not the right wheat for easy de-hulling.

I have decided to enjoy the last of this process while I can, because I may never grow wheat again. Been there, hulled it, not going back to that. And while we are on the subject- Give a big YES! for the cotton gin. Picking out those seeds is another mindless adventure.