Let’s Talk About: Washington Wheat

We eat wheat most every day in some form or another. And mankind has been eating wheat for thousands of years. (Did you have toast, bagel or cereal for breakfast?)  How many types of wheat are there, would you guess? How many types are grown in Washington? Well, there are six main types or classes of wheat with many sub-categories under each of the six.

Wheat was first planted in the U.S. in 1777 and is still today the primary flour for U.S. grain products. Wheat is grown in 42 U.S. states with Kansas as the largest producer. Our own Whitman County produces on average 32 million bushels of wheat annually. Lincoln County produces 22 million bushels. (Need I remind you that many of our ancestors came to Eastern Washington back in the 19th century primarily to grow wheat?)

What’s the best wheat for what product? 

Hard Red Winter wheat: general all-purpose

Hard Red Spring wheat: breads, rolls, croissants, bagels, pizza crusts

Soft Red White wheat: cakes, pastries, Asian noodles, flat breads

Hard White wheat: Asian noodles, tortillas, flatbreads

Durum wheat:  with a high protein content, perfect for pasta 

It’s a real science to today’s wheat farmers to know what to plant, where and when. Which type is best for their fields; which types best resist disease. Each farmer has to make a decision, sometimes field by field, about which wheat variety will work for  them. 

**Amazing wheat factoids: In 2022, the U.S. shipped 205.3 metric tons (about 250,000 pounds) of wheat overseas; this wheat export had the value of $7.3 billion; and the U.S. is the 5th in the list of wheat exporters. There are about 100 different varieties of wheat crackers to be found in your favorite supermarket. 

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