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Wheat Barley

Cereals have been cultivated in the middle-east, where they originated, for over 10,000 years. They were domesticated from wild grasses that grew in the region, and whose seeds were harvested by early people. Wheat and barley reached Ireland with the megalithic farmers about 5000 years ago. Oats and rye evolved later, possibly from weeds growing i other cereal crops and became important in northern Europe as they are more tolerant of cool wet weather.

Sow cereals for seed in September or October or in March or April, in rows 30cm apart. If they are being grown as a green manure they can be broadcast at a rate of about 25g/sqm. If possible protect form birds after sowing, with a net. Keep well weeded by hoeing between the rows. Cereals can be used green for tea and grass, as well as mature and dried. For tea, harvest when the seeds exude a white milk when pressed under a nail. The main crop should be harvested when the plants have turned brown and the seeds are no longer milky, or when the birds start to eat them. The plants should then be harvested by cutting them at the base, bundling them into sheaves and drying under cover. They can be threshed by running through a garden shredder, although this damages the seeds a bit or by banging the plants on the edge of a bucket or barrel. They then need to be winnowed in a stff breeze to remove the debris. Oats need to be dehulled, steamed and rolled to make the familiar flaked oats used for porridge. Hulless oats may be simply soaked and boiled to make porridge or ground into flour. Wheat and rye can be ground into flour.

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Spelt Triticum spelta An ancient hexaploid species of hulled wheat possibly formed by the hybridisation of a tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild goat-grass Aegilops tauschii or with bread wheat. It has less gluten than modern wheats and is popular for specialty bread making. It can be grown like bread wheat and is bst sown in autumn. The hulls can be threshed off in a garden shredder, although this damages the grain slightly.

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