Mar 14, 2010

It's Sunday. My day off. My 'breakfast day.' Faithful spouse just insisted I wasn't eating oatmeal because, "Oatmeal has milk in it." Oatmeal confuses everyone, customers and staff alike get everything mixed up: Oatmeal, Scottish Oatmeal, Irish Oatmeal, Oat Bran, Rolled Oats, Steel Cut Oats, Groats... Jimmy Olson hits the streets to find out the deal on oats and oatmeal. Ready Brek, Go!

Rolled, Steel Cut, Oatmeal, Oat Bran, and Oat Flour. Did you notice how many bath and body products have oats in them? Also many brands of pet food contain oats. Ever wonder why?

Oats (Avena sativa) are classed as a cereal grain. They are grown for their edible seed with the foliage, and roots may be used by farmers, and home gardeners to provide a useful weed control barrier and also as, “Green Manure” for soil conditioning. Oat straw is reknowned as a horse bedding due to its softness.

Oats originated as a weed growing among the earlier domesticated cereal grain crops – wheat and barley in the fertile crescent of the Near East – the so called, “Cradle Of Civilization” of Mesopotamia and the Levant. Oat weed was well suited to the cooler, wetter climates westwards into Europe, so much so that by the Bronze age, as wheat and barley spread into Europe, Oat was also well established as a domesticated cereal. Today Oats grow best in temperate climates such as the Baltic area of Russia, Northwest Europe, Eastern Canada, Northeast USA, and Southeast Australia. and the North-eastern USA. Great Britian and Ireland have a particularly long love affair with the Oat. English writer, Samuel Johnson satirized the English propensity to feed oats to their animals over the Scottish propensity for human consumption when he wrote in his 1755 Dictionary Of The English Language, oat is, “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Perhaps in response to this, England was the first country to establish an oat bread factory in 1899. Oat bread, oat cakes, and porridge oats were a common breakfast food in my own household growing up. Oats are commonly used in Europe as a soup or sauce thickener. As an adult I particularly enjoy a glass of Oatmeal Stout beer, whichever country I may be in! Although if in Latin America, please sample the local Chicha de Avena – a popular chilled sweetened beverage originating in Ecuador, and made of oats and milk. My favorite commercial non-dairy ‘milk’ is the Pacific brand of Vanilla Oat milk.

After harvest, oats are processed, separating the outer insoluble hull from the grain – the ‘groat.’ The discarded hull can be processed into animal feed, or used as a biofuel.

The unsized groats are treated with heat and mositure to stablize the oil in the oat, preventing it turning rancid. The groats are then broken by milling and separated based on size into whole oat groats, and three sizes of steel cut groats - coarse, medium, and fine steel cut groats.

The three final milled products are oat flakes (rolled oats), oat bran, and oat flour. Oat flakes are made from the whole oat groats. You’ll notice the flattened rolled oats in packaged cereals and on top of oat breads. Steel cut groats are used to make oat bran, and oat flour. What we think of as oatmeal is another product of steel cut groats. The three size grades of oat groats (coarse, medium, and fine) produce instant, baby, and quick rolled oats respectively. Quick Rolled Oats (“Oatmeal”) are so called because the rolled oat produced from fine steelcut groats absorb liquid quicker and thus produces oatmeal quicker. Is all this as clear as porridge?

Oat bran is the outer part of the oat groat separated from the inner part (the endosperm) as discussed above. The endosperm is filtered from the bran and further milled to create a fine debranned oat flour.

There are two types of oat flour: debranned and whole oat. Debranned oat flour is produced as discussed above. Whole oat flour is produced directly from the whole oat groats before being steel cut and before having the outer bran removed. The groats are sent to a separate milling unit where they are repeatedly ground and sifted into a fine flour containing the ground bran also. Such flour should always be kept chilled. The oil in the bran will go rancid quickly even when slightly heat treated during processing.

Oats are considered, “Health Food,” but don’t let that put you off! Oats are high in iron, thiamine, and soluble fiber and thought to reduce LDL – the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Oats have the highest protein content of any grain. Oats are the only grain to contain Avenalin, or Avenin - a soluble prolamine protein. It is this prolamine group of proteins that people with Ceoliac disease are ‘allergic’ to, causing extreme digestive distress and associated health issues. Together, the prolamine proteins are classified as, “Gluten.” We see many foods labeled as, “Gluten Free.” This really means there are no ingredients containing this group of proteins, or that any part of their production has come into contact with prolamines. Oats lack many of the prolamine proteins that occur in other cereal grains such as wheat and barley. The jury is out on whether or not those with Ceoliac disease can consume oats. Specifically, which prolamine proteins are Ceoliacs allergic to? There is a school of thought that oats are safe and that the reactions some people experience are due to cross-contamination from wheat and barley. Please consult a qualified medical practitioner when making dietary decisions.

So, back to the personal care products hinted to above. Oats have been shown to help heal dry, itchy skin. Oat grains and straw appear in shampoos, dusting powders, moisturizers, cleansing bars, deodorants, and more. If you have a persistent flaky, itchy skin, or insect bites, grind rolled oats in a blender to make fine oatmeal. Suspend the oatmeal in a cheesecloth bag on the faucet while drawing a bath. Lie back and sip a cup of warm oat milk!

Time for a cup of tea and some oaties!

8 comments:

keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice and relax day! ..................................................

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