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When I was a child, I lived on a farm where we grew
wheat. Every summer, the harvest crews would come with
their big combines and cut the wheat.
I remember riding in the box at the top, where the harvested
wheat was carried through a tall tube like a giraffeâ€™s
neck. The heavier kernels would fall into the box, while the
wind would blow the lighter chaff away.
It was hot and dirty up there, and the chaff would itch when
it caught in my collar, but I had a wonderful view, and I was
able to gather a few kernels and chew them, filling my mouth
with the doughy, nutty fresh wheat taste.
I still like whole wheat--bread, crackers, cereals, pita and
The Chinese Emporer Huang
Di (above) and the god Houji
The ancient Chinese even gave
the sacred grains their own god,
Cereal grains are grasses, cultivated
for their edible seeds, which include
an endosperm, germ and bran.
The five most important grains today
are corn, rice, wheat, barley, and oats.
Wheat was one of the five sacred grains or crops
that were recognized in ancient China. Huang Di,
the Yellow Emperor, the legendary ruler, cultural hero
and general, tamed the Yellow River with dikes and
canals, developed acupuncture, studied medicine,
astrology and martial arts, and first encouraged the
Chinese to grow cereal grains.
The five sacred grains were listed in Fah ShÃªn-chihâ
€™s text on farming, the Fah ShÃªn-chih Shu, around
2800 BCE. There are various versions of the five
crops represented on the list, but basically they include
soybeans, rice, wheat, proso millet and foxtail millet.
Corn is America's largest field crop. Most is grown in the
North Central U.S. A single U.S. farmer provides food for
129 people a year, 97 in the U.S. and 32 overseas.
The second largest crop in worldwide production, rice is
the most important staple food in East and Southern Asia,
the Middle East, Latin America and the West Indies. The
best rice comes from fields that have been flooded.
Wheat is the oldest grain crop, having been cultivated
over 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Golden
stalks of wheat are associated with harvest in the U.S.
A versatile cereal grain that is high in maltose, barley is
used for sweetening, and in beer and soups. It was
originally cultivated in Ethiopia and South East Asia.
Oats are the third most important grain crop in the
U.S. and are grown extensively in Europe. Originally
from Asia, it is used for breakfast food and in oat
Whole grains contain the germ,
endospern and bran, in contrast with
refined grains, which retain only the
According to the Mayo Clinic, whole
grains are better for you than refined
grains, which have more calories and
less protein, fiber and nutrients by
Five Important Grains