Part 10

Our Daily Bread – little grains feed the world

Whether mash, bread or beer: they are staple foods, animal feed and deliver the raw material for energy or technical products. The fatty oil in their embryos is found as seed oil in dressing and their straw is spread as bedding in stalls.

Wheat, barley, rye and oats as well as rice, corn and millet belong to the grass family. A grain, or caryopsis, is a typical fruit of the Poaceae family with the seed coat fused to the fruit wall. Caryopses contain starch and protein in various compositions. The protein of some species is called gluten. It is mainly significant for baking qualities.

“Our” most important grain species did not come from Europe originally, but rather from the near East. Approximately 10,000 years ago, humans began the systematic cultivation of cereals. Einkorn and emmer were probably the first cultivated grasses. Since then, the appearance and characteristics of the grasses have been radically changed by human interventions, such as selection, crossing and other breeding techniques.