Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wheat and Food - Mother Earth’s Gift for Humans



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Grass is the most plentiful source of food on our Planet for humans and animals. Of various grasses, some are excellent food sources for humans. Both wheat and rice are varieties of grass. The seeds can be dried and stored for long. Wheat is one of the cheapest sources of food for humans because of its abundance. A few humans are allergic to gluten in wheat and in that case rice or corn is an alternative.

Humans have a tendency to develop food fads for a few decades at a time such as cholesterol free, caffeine free, gluten free etc. Natural food eaters avoid all such fad foods that are unnatural and have undergone much processing. Those components are essential to the food they are a part of but since individual chemistry of each person is unique and reacts differently to same food, some may be allergic or otherwise sensitive to individual food components found in different foods. In that case, it is best to just avoid that entire food rather than go for an unnatural version of it which might not cause an allergy but would likely compromise heath over the medium and long term.. Mother Earth has provided a huge a variety of foods on the planet so that alternatives can be found easily. Others may go ahead and enjoy the same food without concern. Majority of humans have enjoyed wheat with gluten in it for thousands of years and led healthy lives so do not worry about is at all if you are not allergic to it and if you are, you shall know rather quickly, such as an asthmatic attack or a bout of runny stomach. Mother Earth has put gluten in wheat for a reason. Its helps to hold bread together so that wheat may be converted into a wide range of delicious breads.

In different parts of the world wheat is used for different kinds of preparations such as leavened and unleavened bread, Pasta etc. What needs to be noted is that if bread or pasta is prepared at home starting from wheat flour, it is much cheaper than bread from the market. It is also healthier by far. Processed foods including breads contain chemicals that are harmful. For example Potassium Bromate is used commonly in preparation of bread. Many countries have banned its use while in others it may be a contributing cause of cancer. It seems it is banned in Europe and Canada but not in US.  

Savior of the Poor

Whenever and wherever, poverty strikes a family, the proper knowledge and use of wheat can be a savior. Here is a plan for a person trying to pull through hard economic times. Purchase around 15 kilograms per adult per month (500grams a day, half as much for children) of a mix of four forms of wheat. These four forms are,

  1. Whole wheat flour
  2. Refined wheat flour
  3. Cracked wheat
  4. Semolina

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How much of each kind to purchase depends on food habits and recipes. Depending on what else one can afford with bread, the use of wheat may be less or more but if some is left over, one may use it the following month. It stores well if kept in tight sealed containers. Generally it has been noticed that as a family becomes wealthier the accompaniments increase and the bread component of meals decreases. In middle classes, the use of wheat is less than five kilograms per person.

While preparation of wheat such as bread is excellent, it is bland by itself. It needs something along with it to make it palatable. You would notice how bland a toast is but how delicious it becomes when hot and crisp with just a little butter on it. Therefore, while preparations of wheat need something to accompany it, it need not be much to make it delicious. Poor communities in South Asia have survived hard times by eating bread with a little jaggery, a fruit, pickle, a chutney made from some spices and herbs picked from the field, an onion, a soup made from the cheapest seasonal vegetables and spices etc.

A common chutney/sauce in Western Desert regions of India is the Chilli-Garlic Chutney or Sauce made by grinding together equal amounts of garlic and red chilly. An equal amount of mustard or rape seed oil may be added in grinding if available. Mustard oil is heated to smoking then cooled before use. Salt, sugar, vinegar/lemon juice is then added according to taste and the chutney garnished with a green herb such as cilantro prior to eating. It is good with both hot unleavened buttered bread or with fried foods/barbecued meats as a dip.

Quite often in poor Indian villages, butter milk is available free from a neighbor. The reason is that most homes keep a cow or more and at times when a cow is producing milk, butter milk is produced as a by product of making clarified butter. It is usually much in excess of what a single family can use and is therefore given away free to homes that do not have it, in return for a similar favor later. In such cases butter milk or some of its preparations are an excellent protein source and accompaniment to bread.

There is a good reason why mother earth has made wheat bland. It is to prompt inclusion of other foods. While a human may appease hunger primarily with bread, to avert malnutrition, one also needs fats, fruits, vegetables and protein rich food. Therefore, along with the wheat, every human needs about a kilogram or two of  good cooking oil or fat a month as well as vegetables and protein sources such as eggs, fish, milk products, lentils etc. Dried beans of various kinds are a protein source that store well like wheat. Along with a few spices and herbs, the ingredients suggested here can provide a family with healthy, nutritious meals daily, just as long as one knows the right recipes. Those who are obese need to take care not to eat an excessive amount of carbohydrates such as wheat, oils and sugar but rather increase protein and vegetable content in their meals.

Survival Plan:

In my interaction with those suffering from huge poverty, my advise has been to them to purchase 15kg of wheat a month, 2 kilograms of cooking oil in two different varieties, an egg a day, a quarter liter of milk/yoghurt a day, salt and a few of the cheapest spices - chillies, turmeric, cumin, coriander seed powder plus forage for/grow (even in pots) as many wild herbs/greens and edible tree leaves as possible with a purchase of few others like garlic/onions when available at low prices and include these in diet, some in cooking and some raw. The total cost of all this in many countries is around US $20 a month per adult. The low cost is a result of discarding  frills and getting down to basics. Persons following this plan have led healthy and active lives working as construction or farm labor in developing and underdeveloped countries through history. It is plan this author has personal experience with because he too suffered much poverty for more than a year during his lifetime.


Adding Nutrition and Variety

While the last section lays out a plan for bare no frills meals, adding elegance and variety to it need not cost more that a few dollars (less than five) or even nothing depending on your choices. Here are some suggestions:

Floral teas: You may notice that tea was not included in the last section. It is costly. But floral teas from flowers you have picked up your self and dried are free. Search this blog for a post on – Floral teas, tea of the gods.

Tree leaves and herbs: Leaves of trees such as Basswood, White Mulberry and Drumstick when new are near super foods. There are full articles on all these three trees in this blog for an interested reader to search using the tool on the left. Do not miss out on them in season and collect a whole lot to dry and store for off season. If you have even a little space and climate in your area is warm, grow a drum-stick tree and some spinach too. Drumstick leaves, flowers and fruit are all edible and packed with good nutrition.There is a full not on it in this blog. Just use the search tool on top left to reach it. Similarly many herbs can be foraged or grown at home and then collected in season, consumed fresh and dried for off seasons. Any herb or flower may be dried by spreading out on newspapers in shade and leaving for a few days.

Mung Bean:  Kilogram whole Mung beans a month are a great addition to any kitchen, if one knows how to grow them into long sprouts. They are packed with high nutrition. Check out the process to sprout them by a google search. It is easy.

Bengal Gram Flour: Bengal Gram flour or besan is available in East Indian stores but it is better to prepare it at home by grinding split washed Bengal gram if one has the apparatus. A couple of kilograms of it a month will brighten up a kitchen and health hugely. If mixed to about one fifth by volume in wheat flour it improves protein and nutritional content of bread hugely. It can also be turned into delicious exotic recipes on its own. Its dumplings rival cuts of meat of good lean quality.

Now all you need to add to your kitchen cupboard is a kilogram or two of sugar or honey. Thus with an expenditure of another five dollars to the twenty already suggested one can have a kitchen fit for the Queen.


Abundance

While the proposals above show that how with even very little money a human need not starve or even suffer from malnutrition, it need not stop at that. Mother earth has filled the planet with a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and flowers, fish and fungi to provide a huge variety for the dinner table. One does not have to be a millionaire in order to be able to consume these every day of one’s life. That is the wish and prayer of this blogger for every human on earth, especially every child. However, as seasons change on planet so do seasons change in human lives and there are times when one is not well off. At such times, as long as the base of diet is a food grain like wheat (rice in some cases) one can pull through with ease. It is because of this that at the base mother Earth has covered the planet with grass and it is out of that other things spring forth. No doubt humans have seen times of droughts and famines, times of exploitation by the mean and crooked so that even that may become out of reach, when a queen comes out and tells the people, if they cannot find bread why not eat cake instead. But those times are just as rare as the times when people gather to remove the head of the queen and the super rich.
 

Recipes

Some of the recipes of wheat are really quick and easy for anyone to make. For example semolina roasted in a pan followed by adding about four times the water stiffens up after some cooking into a delicious paste. It is a popular preparation of West Africa called Fu-fu.  It may then be consumed with pasta sauce, a curried dish, or any other dish that is eaten with steamed rice.

It is also easy to make fresh pasta (pasta fresco) at home with an equal mix of semolina and refined wheat flower. Just knead into dough, roll, cut into strips and boil in salted water for about ten minutes.

A paste of wheat flour can be used to make pancake like bread by anyone in a hurry. The detailed recipes are not shared here but nowadays with help of google search anyone can search out a huge number of recipes. The link to just one is given below. With a little trial and error, settle down with those you like most.

http://www.angelagray.co.uk/recipe/naan-bread/

Nutrition

500 grams of wheat provides around 1600 calories and the Daily Value, of multiple essential nutrients, such as dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus and niacin (table). Several B vitamins and other dietary minerals are in significant proportion. Wheat, depending on variety and length of storage is approximately 10% water, 70% carbohydrates, 2% fat and 14% protein 

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