chapter
16 Pages

Grains

ByMark Nesbitt

Grains are the edible, starchy seeds (strictly, caryopses) of grasses. They account for over half of the world’s food energy, or even more counting grain consumed indirectly as animal food. Cereals are the dominant food for a number of reasons. Diverse members of the grass family (Poaceae) will grow in virtually all the world’s human habitats. Cereals are not only easily grown by farmers, but are also very nutritious. The cereal grain consists of the starchy endosperm; the oil-, vitamin-, and mineral-rich aleurone layer surrounding it; and the outermost, fibrous layers of bran. The embryo (germ) is also rich in oil. The grain has excellent keeping qualities prior to milling, enhanced in many species by the closely-fitting or attached husk (in some species the glumes, in others the lemma and palea). Grains generally lack the toxins so prevalent in the pulses, and nutritional deficiencies of species such as corn (maize) and sorghum can be mitigated through fermentation. Malting-the deliberate sprouting then killing of grains-results in the conversion of starch to sugar and is another powerful tool for enhancing the nutritional value of grains.