Storing wheat berries

50kg wheat berries in sacks.

Storing wheat berries safely so the bugs will not attack the grain is so important for the home baker.

You simply cannot purchase 100% whole meal because the fatty acids go rancid within three days of being milled. So you have to grind the grain yourself if you are serious about the nutrition of your bread.

In the photo below you can see the wheat berries in the background, our 100 percent grain that I have just ground on the left and the counterfeit wholemeal on the right that purports to be the real thing.

Whole grain wheat flour compared with the counterfeit refined grain.
  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Panera bread menu recipe
  3. Storing wheat berries

Just like you would not build a beautiful home on a piece of ground right next to a highway or in a broken down neighbourhood, so you should not bake your bread with inferior ingredients; that means milling your own wheat berries.

And, of course, you must also then store the grain safely from weevils and moisture before it goes into the grinder.

I learned this lesson the hard way. To my horror I once opened my sack of wheat berries only to find that it was infested with weevils.

The whole 50kg went to the chickens; they of course were delighted with both the grain and the insects.

There are three great enemies; weevils, air and moisture that may allow a fungus called Aspergillus to flourish. It produces a very nasty substance called an aflatoxin that will cause tumours in our livers to develop. 

Warm and humid conditions are to be avoided at all costs.

It is best to mill only as much flour as you need to bake with. It is said you can store it for three days, a week in the fridge and a month when frozen, but it will have deteriorated.

I need 400 grams for a loaf of bread so that is how much I mill; no ground flour is stored.

Storing wheat berries

Storing wheat berries in buckets after freezing.

Storing wheat berries without using dangerous chemicals like Phostoxin to fumigate it is important.

  • A deep freeze set on its coldest setting.
  • Large, heavy duty food-grade plastic bags.
  • 25 litre buckets with a sealable lid.

Modus operandi

  1. If your wheat is dirty you may want to filter it through a coarse wire gauze to remove the chaff and dust from the fields.
  2. Place a large plastic bag into a bucket with an airtight lid.
  3. Scoop the wheat berries into the plastic bag, filling the bucket, remove as much air as possible, fold the neck over and tie it tightly with twine.
  4. Remove the bags of wheat berries from the bucket and fit them into the freezer for at least a week; no harm in going longer.
  5. Then pack these bags as tightly as possible into the plastic buckets and seal immediately.

Tips

Your really want the plastic bags to fill the buckets, so experiment with how much wheat you want to put into them.

If you have a large enough freezer then put the whole bucket in.

An alternative is to use some smaller bags; the idea is to fill the bucket to the brim to keep as much air out as possible.

Do this on a day when the humidity is very low; moisture and air are the two great enemies.

Store the buckets in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.


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Freezing the wheat berries for at least a week will sterilise them and kill the weevils and their eggs.

Storing them first in plastic bags and then in buckets acts as a double insulation to prevent a secondary infection by bugs and mice after freezing.

It also keeps the moisture out. If the wheat berries look the slightest bit mouldy, discard them. Do not be tempted to use them; aflatoxin is one of the most potent causes of malignant liver disease.

Sitophilus granarius, the grain weevil, knows a good thing when he sees it; wheat berries are good food for us, but also for chickens, cattle and the bugs.

She bores her way into the grain of wheat, eating it as she goes, and then lays an egg inside the kernel.

The egg hatches and the larva grows inside the grain of wheat, feeding on the highly nutritious food, eventually emerging as an adult weevil.

They will then mate and lay more eggs in the wheat berries.

The weevil's eggs may be laid in the field but often the inoculation is in the granary.

It is not called granary weevil for nothing. 

Wheat mills

Hawo wheat grinder.

I would not buy a wheat mill on-line unless you have previously seen it. How fine it grinds the flour, how noisy it is, the heat produced and how fast it works are all criteria to think about.

Stone ground is best.

Our Hawo has been fantastic but it is very expensive. I have heard good reports about the Mockmill and the KoMo Mio but I have no first-hand experience of either of them.

You can purchase your wheat berries directly from the farmer. Accept that there will be a bit of chaff and dust; they will not kill.

Storing the wheat berries as soon as they arrive is important. Purchase the plastic bags and buckets ahead of time.

This is the only way to have your own freshly-ground 100 percent wholemeal for your bread.

Background

Wheat is a grain that is eagerly sought after not only by humans, but many animals, birds and insects; it is one of nature's most nutritious foods.

There are three parts to the wheat berries.

  • The endosperm which is used to make cake flour.
  • The bran or covering that keeps air out of the grain so it can be stored for years; it contains the very important lignans that help prevent malignant breast disease.
  • The germ which is where most of the essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals are stored.

Once milled, air causes the fatty acids to oxidise. Once refined, most of the goodness is removed; millers sell it at great profit for animal feed. We are left with the empty calories that make us obese.

Wheat berries are particularly rich in a vitamin-like substance called betaine that helps prevent inflammation in the body.

The cost of your flour

The real value of milling your own flour is that it is absolutely fresh, and all of these components are present in the normal ratio found in wheat berries.

The mark up from flour to the baker is in theory roughly four times; in South Africa from R4 to R16 per kilogramme.

I say in theory as in fact you are not comparing apples with apples. That which you purchase at the supermarket has had most of the nutrients removed, even if it is called wholemeal. You then have to go out and purchase vitamin E capsules, calcium tablets and a host of other substances.

Our bread machine uses 400g to make a loaf. If you bake daily that is about 3kg per week, or 150kg per year.

From the farmer, 150kg will cost you R600; about $40.

From the supermarket, the flour will cost you R2400.

Milling and storing your own wheat berries means a saving of at least R1800, not including all the extra costs of buying your multivitamin and mineral supplements, and the bran where the lignans are found.

In short your mill will be paid off in no more than two years.

If you take it to the next simple step of making sourdough bread, which is expensive to purchase, your mill be paid off in less than a year. More important, your well-being is so enhanced by milling and storing wheat berries, and the taste of your own fresh bread is sublime.

The real cost of storing wheat berries is measured not in rands and cents, or dollars, but being far more hale and hearty. It is the first step in saying goodbye to constipation for a start; that is from the fibre. The next is to start enjoying stewed prunes for breakfast every day; research shows that is more effective the best medicine prescribed by doctors, at a fraction of the price.

The phenolic phytochemical called ferulic acid incidentally is now thought to be the active ingredient in the bran that is so beneficial to our well-being. The refined grain has very little. True 100 percent wholemeal flour is one of the essential foods for the brain.

The acid test

It is always a bit of an anxious moment for me anyway when you open the first bucket. Have you stored your wheat berries successfully, or did the weevils get stuck in anyway? I have just opened the first bucket that was first frozen and then kept in a store room for several months; no bugs.

In this Covid-19 year I find it gratifying that we do not have to go out and shop daily, and have the very best bread in the world, I am not exaggerating, both in taste and nutrients, for only R5 per loaf weighing over a kilogram. That is less than half a dollar.

Last year we lost half a bag that went to feed the chickens; so far this year it is Bernard Preston 1, Granary Weevils 0.

A loaf of the best bread in the world from our little machine.

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Hilton, KZN

South Africa

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