The World of Cereals

 

The World of Cereals

Information for Primary School Students

Sourced from Bread Research Institute of Australia

For the last 10,000 years cereals have been very important food grains in the diet of the people of all the great civilizations.

Although seven main cereals have survived the centuries, wheat and rice are the basic foods for four out of five people in the world today.

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*(cereals grown for animal food not included)

**SOURCE: 1988 FAQ production Yearbook Col. 42.

Why should we eat Cereal Foods?

Cereals are nutritious foods necessary for a healthy diet.  They provide our bodies with complex carbohydrates for energy to study, exercise and play, fibre to keep us regular and protein so our bodies will grow and we will have healthy hair and skin.

Cereals also give us vitamins, especially thiamin (one of the B group, also called vitamin BI) important for digesting food, and minerals such as potassium,phosphorous, calcium, iron and zinc.

Traditional food patterns, passed from generation to generation, have combined cereal grains with beans and peas, nuts, dairy products, meat or fish.

In Australia and Europe bread is often eaten with cheese, breakfast cereal with milk.

In Mexico, corn tortillas are eaten with rice and beans.

In China steamed or boiled rice with meat or soy beans.

In Italy, pasta and bread with meat or fish.

In the Middle East, wheat flatbreads with sesame seed paste.

Such traditional combinations provide protein of better quality than if each food were eaten alone.

WHEAT WAS FIRST PLANTED IN AUSTRALIA AT FARM COVE IN SYDNEY ON THE SITE OF THE PRESENT BOTANICAL GARDENS. 

Wheat and barley were the foods of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.  (The word CEREAL comes from the Roman Goddess Ceres who ruled over agriculture and the seasons.  The ancient Greeks also worshipped a goddess of agriculture and grain called Demeter.)

PROJECT ACTIVITIES

  • Find out how wheat is sown, grown and harvested in Australia.
  • Using a map of the world, mark the countries where wheat, rice, maize and millets are eaten.
  • Find out which of the cereals is the most important food for the people of these countries: Italy, Mexico, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Japan, Indonesia, USA, and China.  Find a traditional dish from each country made with the main cereal.
  • Visit a supermarket.  List some of the foods which are made from wheat, from rice, corn and oats.
  • How many breakfast cereals are made from
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Oats?
  • Bake a damper made from a mixture of wheat flour and one of the other cereal flours – try 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour, ½ cup oats, a cup of water, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix to a dough, flatten a little and bake either in a camp oven, or wrapped in foil and placed in the coals.

 

  • MAN CHANGED FROM A HUNTER AND GATHERER TO AGRICULTURE
  • WORKERS WERE PAID IN GRAIN
  • BARLEY GRAINS OR EARS APPEARED ON EARLY COINS
  • BARLEY GRAINS WERE ALSO USED FOR PAYMENT IN PLACE OF MONEY
  • BARLEY WAS THE GENERAL FOOD OF THE ROMAN GLADIATORS

Wheat grows best in the temperate or dry climates of the USSR, USA, China, Europe, India, Canada, Turkey and Australia.  It is usually milled or ground into flour then baked into BREAD, biscuits, cakes and snack foods.  Some varieties of wheat are used to make pasta such as spaghetti and macaroni, others are used to make different kinds of Asian noodles.  Some breakfast cereals are also made from wheat.

Windmills were used in Europe to grind grain into flour for bread.

Bread, the most important wheat food, is found in many different shapes and sizes around the world: long French sticks, crusty Italian bread, round flatbreads and pocket breads of the middle East, chapatis of India, Jewish matzoh, the steamed buns of China and a wide variety of breads in Australia.

SPILLING RICE OR USPSETTING A RICE BOWL IS CONSIDERED VERY BAD LUCK

Rice is largely grown in the wet, tropical climates of Asia as “paddy rice” in fields of standing water.  Most of Australia’s rice is grown in the MIA (Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area).  Before it can be eaten the husk is removed and then the rice grains are usually steamed or boiled.  Many people prefer white polished rice, but brown rice is popular with those who want a diet higher in fibre.  Rice is also puffed or ground and pre-cooked to make breakfast cereals.  The Japanese alcoholic drink “sake” is fermented from rice.

Maize (or corn) now widely grown in the southern states of the USA, and in South America, Africa, Egypt, Italy and Yugoslavia was first farmed in Mexico and only introduced to Europe in the 16th century.  Corn kernels range in colour from white through to golden yellow and there are even strains of blue corn grown in some areas of America!  In Australia we are used to eating yellow corn, as a vegetable (corn on the cob), as breakfast cereal (cornflakes), and as a snack food.

Barley was grown and made into a primitive type of bread in ancient times before wheat was cultivated.  In Britain the poor often ate barley bread as wheat flour was not always available and when it was, it was very expensive.  Wheat bread was eaten by the poor only on special occasions.

Today, barley is an important source of malt, it is used in the brewing of beer, and as a flavouring in baked products.

Millets probably came from tropical Africa.  They are string plants that can grow in hot climates, in poor soils with little water.  There are many varieties with many name e.g. finger millet, bulrush millet sorghum (also known as Kaffir corn or Guinea corn), Teff and Japanese Millet.

In Australia, sorghum, commonly called milo (not the drink!), or grain sorghum is important for feeding animals.

In Africa, millets are pounded into a flour, mixed with water and made into porridge or baked into round flat breads.

Oats, were first famed in Europe.  They were once the main food of the people of Scotland where oatcakes and rolled oat porridge are still very popular.

In Australia we eat rolled oats and muesli for breakfast and oat bran in breads and muffins.

Rye grows in the cold climates of Northern Europe and Scandinavia where it is baked into bread “black bread,” pumpernickel and rye crispbreads which are dark in colour with a strong flavour.

Australian rye breads are mainly made using up to 30% rye flour, meal or wholemeal and 70% wheaten flour plus other essential ingredients such as salt, yeast and water.