As part of my long-term food storage, I started stocking flour. However, I have recently decided to stock wheat berries instead due to the fact that when stored properly they will last 30+ years. I also invested in a manual grinder (to grind the “berries” into flour, in case the grid goes down).
If you are new to wheat berries or grains in general, it is easy to become overwhelmed. For this post let’s just talk about the different types of the most common wheat berries grown here in the United States and what they are best used for.
Types of Wheat Berries
To make it all easier to understand, you basically have two types which are red and white. From there you have soft or hard, Spring or Winter as well as Durum. So, when searching you will run across these as they are the most commonly grown here in the United States:
- Hard Red Winter
- Hard Red Spring
- Soft Red Winter
- Soft White
- Hard White
Soft or Hard
The hardness determines the bakeability (gluten content).
Hard: Hard wheat has a high protein and low moisture content which is needed for yeast breads.
Soft: Soft wheat has lower protein content and higher moisture content which means less gluten than what you find in hard wheat. This makes it perfect for things like biscuits, cookies, cakes, brownies, etc…
Red or White
The color of the wheat berry determines the overall flavor.
Red: has a nuttier whole wheat flavor and because of this, it is the typical choice for breads. The berries are also more red in color.
White: has a milder flavor and is usually chosen for pastries, but can also be used for breads. The berries are lighter in color.
Spring or Winter
When you see wheat being referred to as Winter or Spring, all this means is the season it is planted.
Spring: planted in the spring and harvested in the summer/fall.
Winter: planted in the fall. goes dormant in the winter and is harvested in the spring/summer.
Classes of Wheat Berries
To further break it down, you have six classes of wheat that are grown here within the United States. Here are the six along with what each is typically used for:
Hard Red Winter
Grown in the Great Plains, Pacific Northwest (PNW), and California, Hard Red Winter Wheat is the most common type of wheat planted in the U.S. and is planted in the Fall, goes dormant in the winter, and regrows in Spring, and is harvested in the Summer. This is the most versatile of wheat and is used for bread making and as all-purpose flour. It is hard in terms of hardness and red in color (hence the name Hard Red). Red wheat has a nuttier flavor.
Hard Red Spring
Grown primarily in the North Central region of the U.S., Hard Red Spring Wheat is planted in the Spring and harvested in the Summer. Like Hard Red Winter, it is hard in terms of hardness and red in color. While also great for regular bread, it is used more for artisan-type bread, bagels, and more.
Soft Red Winter
Grown in the eastern third of the United States, it is best used (and known for) specialty products such as sponge cakes, cookies, crackers, and other confectionery products. It is the third-largest class of wheat grown in the U.S. and is great as a blending wheat.
Grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest, Soft White is another versatile wheat used for cakes, Asian noodles, and pastries. It is also used for blending with Hard Red Spring to improve bread color.
Grown in the Central Plains, Montana, Idaho, and California, Hard White is the newest and smallest glass of wheat. Best used for Asian noodles, whole wheat or high extraction applications, pan breads, or flatbreads.
Durum is the fifth largest class of wheat in the United States and has two classes. Northern Durum is primarily grown in the North Central region (North Dakota and Montana) and Desert Durum is grown primarily in the desert Southwest (Arizona and California). Durum wheat is for all the pasta lovers out there and it is used to make premium pasta products, couscous, and some Mediterranean breads.
Source: U.S. Wheat Associates
Where to buy Wheat Berries
You can buy wheat berries from several online sources like Amazon. I prefer to buy bulk 25lbs or 50lbs bags at a time from Country Life Natural Foods (use code NUTTYHIKER for 10% off your order) so I know exactly where my wheat is coming from. Nonetheless, here is a list of where to buy wheat berries in bulk.
Country Life Natural Foods – Again this is who I purchase from and their shipping is super fast, You can also buy smaller quantities of wheat and other grains as well. They sell more than just wheat, so make sure to check them out. Use code NUTTYHIKER for 10% off your order.
Azure Standard – This allows you to buy not only grains in bulk but even things like supplements. It works a little differently. First, you find a drop in your area that you would like to join. You can then place your order. The drop is delivered to a specific location via semi-truck and you must be there at the specified date and time to pick it up. The prices though, make it worth the extra bit of work. If there is no drop in your area, you can also start one.
Amazon – There are a couple of farms that do sell on Amazon
Local Farms – Another place to check is your local farms if you are lucky enough to live near one, and see if they sell directly to the public.
How to Store Wheat Berries Long Term
I will do an entirely different post and video with step-by-step instructions soon. But, the jest of it is you store them in 5-gallon food-grade buckets with oxygen absorbers. They will store this way for 30+ years. If keeping for shorter-term an oxygen absorber is not needed.
If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in a comment below.