WHEAT (see Color Page opposite 676). The pre-eminence of wheat, in other than Asiatic countries, is attributable chiefly to the fact that, in the universally desired form of bread, it is more generally acceptable than any other grain. Its superiority in that respect is due to its comparatively large content of gliadin (see GLUTEN) .
Wheat has been cultivated since the earliest ages—it was the main crop even in the days of ancient Egypt and Palestine. To-day, the United States produces and consumes greater quantities than any other country in the world. Russia stands next in the list of producers. The plant is an annual or biennial, flourishing in sub tropical regions yet capable of enduring the unusually severe winters so often experi enced in Northern Europe and the northwestern part of this continent. It requires, however, a mean temperature of at least 55° Fahr. for three or four months of the year.
Owing to the different climates in which it is produced, the cultivated varieties are very numerous and new kinds are continually presenting themselves, many of which are held in high estimation in certain districts. The chief types are known as Hard, Semi-Hard and Soft, Red, White and Durum, or "Macaroni," with sub-di visions into Bearded and Unbearded. The "hardness" and "softness" depend on (1) the variety, (2) the length of time taken to reach maturity, and (3) the amount of gluten developed. Any kind may be Spring or Winter, according to the sowing time.
The grain consists of a starchy kernel, composed of minute cells containing the glutenous proteids and the starch granules, wrapped in five coats or layers, which constitute the Bran. The three thin outside layers are called the "skin"; the fourth, known as the "testa," contains the greater part of the coloring matter of the bran. These four outer coats together constitute about 5% of the weight of the whole grain. The fifth inner and thickest coat (constituting about 8% of the weight of the
whole grain) is known as the "cereal" or "aleurone" layer. The varying proportions in which the bran is included in the flour represent the differences in Graham, Whole Wheat and other similar breads (see BREADS).
A good milling wheat will yield from 75% to 80% of fine flour, of which perhaps three-fourths will be Patent and the remainder of lower grades.
Because of its importance for food purposes, wheat has attained great prominence in the political and commercial worlds. In the former, it has even held the reins of power, created- parties, developed partisanship and decided the issues of parliamen tary or congressional strife. In the latter, it has proved an attractive source of specu lation and an objective point for financial ambition. It has been the compeer of gold in the race for gain, and has given and removed fortunes in a day. The principal produce exchanges throughout the civilized world resound with the noisy clamor of "bulls" and "bears," as the fluctuating prices of the grain are clicked by the telegraph and confusedly echoed among the excited throng. Corners have been created and ruin forced almost in the twinkling of an eye by the capricious determination of a favored few struggling for the sole possession of this precious grain. Too plain language cannot be used against this pernicious practice and it is devoutly to be hoped that proper legislation upon the subject may yet remedy the evil.
Rolled TVheat is milled in much the same way as Rolled Oats (see OATMEAL). Cracked Wheat corresponds to old-fashioned Oatmeal.
Puffed Wheat is prepared in the same way as Puffed Rice (see article on RICE).