Storing Wheat Berries

May 22, 2010 in Wheat Berries by Webmaster

Wheat Berries Shelf Life

Hard red spring wheat berries have an extended shelf life. The ‘hard’ part of their name comes from the bran layer. It is truly hard and is a great barrier to oxygen. That’s really very helpful because the fatty acids in the germ of the wheat berry are easily damaged by oxygen. Oxygen begins a process of rancidity in wheat flour that is not protected from air. Wheat berries are a terrific little package of nature. The bran is the armor in protecting the nutrients on the inside; until you open the bran, by cracking, grinding, toasting or soaking, the hard shell keeps the contents of the wheat berry fresh.

Wheat berries are actually the seed that has the potential to grow a wheat plant – the embryo or germ contains the genetic code and the endosperm (white flour) contains most of the energy to start the plant’s growth. This is why you can sprout wheat from your stored wheat berries.

A Storage Lesson from History

Wheat berries have been found in the Egyptian pyramids, it was part of the storage for the pharaoh’s trip to wherever he was going. The part of the story that may be a fable (in addition to the dead Pharaoh being able to eat the wheat himself) is that the wheat berries sprouted after all those thousands of years of being stored in a cool, dry environment. Well, the mummies were well preserved, so it stands to reason that the wheat berries were well preserved also. Right? It has not been verified that it is true that the berries were sprouted, which of course, would mean that the germ was still alive. But part of the fable is a good bit of advice.

Storing Wheat Berries and Whole Wheat

Store wheat berries in a cool, dry environment that is safe from insects. Insects love to eat wheat or whole wheat flour, but are not too thrilled with refined white flour. Many people have accomplished long storage life by keeping their wheat berries in dry sealed containers.

Using carbon dioxide (CO2) from dry ice to replace the oxygen before closing it protects the wheat berries even more. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and goes to the bottom of the container, pushing the oxygen out the top and killing any insects in the process.

With or without the CO2, store wheat berries in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. If you live in a warm climate, store them in the refrigerator or freezer where they can be safely kept for years. Do not wash wheat prior to storage, as it increases the moisture content and the keeping quality.