By Ashley Sander
Grains, such as barley, oats, rice, cornmeal and wheat, are the Harvest of the Month for March. There are two subgroups of grain products: those made of whole grains and those made of refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, bran, endosperm, and germ, which allows more nutrient density.
The outer layer, bran, contains insoluble fiber, B vitamins, trace minerals, phytochemicals, and protein. The endosperm, or center of grain, contains carbohydrates, protein, and soluble fiber. The innermost center is oily and contains Vitamin E and B, healthy fats, proteins and trace minerals. Including whole grains as part of a balanced diet is associated with lower body weight and a reduce risk of diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
The process of refining grains to make flour and other products removes the fiber and some of the nutrients. Considering that, at least half of the grains in a person’s diet should be whole grains. Whole grain sources grown in Montana include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, whole corn, and hulled barley. Although most refined grains are enriched, the nutrients are added back following processing, they are lacking in the fiber of the original whole grain.
Wheat can be classified in many different ways, such as the season that it is grown in, color, and hardness. For example, winter wheat is typically planted in the fall and harvested during spring or summer depending on conditions. Spring wheat accounts for over half of Montana’s wheat production, making it the most common type in Montana. Kamut, which is an ancient variety of wheat, is also grown in Montana.
Montana is the third top producer of wheat and barley, and the seventeenth for oats. Grains are measured in bushels; one bushel is approximately eight gallons of dry crops. A single bushel of wheat usually weighs about 60 pounds. In 2013, wheat production in Montana had a value of over $1.3 billion which included 203,070,000 bushels overall! This month keep in mind that whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet!