Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/27/2014
Publication Date: 2/18/2016
Citation: Morris, C.F. 2016. Cereals: Overview of uses: accent on wheat grain. In: Wrigley, C., Corke, H., Seetharaman, K., Faubion, J., editors. Encyclopedia of Food Grains. 2nd edition. Oxford, England:Academic Press. p. 1-7.
Interpretive Summary: The end-use quality of wheat is by far the most complex of all the cereal grains. This complexity reflects the tremendous diversity of the genetics of wheat, the tremendous diversity of the uses of wheat, and the central role that wheat plays in the diet of much of humankind. Wheat has distinguished itself from all other cereals and grain legumes because of the unique properties of its endosperm storage proteins. These proteins, classified as glutenins and gliadins, when hydrated and mixed (by hand or machine) form “gluten.” Gluten is unique in that it exhibits both viscous and elastic properties. These properties allow gluten to form a continuous membrane which can retain the gases produced in fermenting doughs. The retention of these gases greatly decreases the density of doughs, and upon baking, this light, airy structure is fixed. A simple model describes a dough ‘foam’ transformed to a ‘sponge’. The success of cereals as food and feed crops stems from the ability to store easily the grain produced from them for a long period of time. Compare this feature to fruits, vegetables, and meats. Add to this the productivity and broad adaption of most cereal crops, and their relatively high nutritive characteristics, and it is clear why cereals play a prominent, central role in agriculture. The various categories of wheat foods described in this article include pan, hearth and other fermented (leavened) breads, steamed breads, flat breads and crackers, cookies, cakes, and other soft wheat products, noodles, breakfast foods, and pasta and durum wheat products.
Technical Abstract: Cereals are grass species that are the primary source of food for humankind. Energy in the form of starch is their leading contribution but they are also important sources of protein, lipid, vitamins and minerals. Cereal grains are all processed to varying degrees, and made into a limitless array of foods. As such, “quality” is a subjective assessment of suitability for a given process, food or use. The major cereals are maize, wheat, rice, barley, sorghum, millets, oat, rye and triticale.