Wheat berries are a powerhouse of nutrition capable of storing for decades in your emergency pantry. This article is being written as I plan my own emergency grain storage. Hopefully, you will find this information helpful as you plan yours.
Hard wheat berries are the best for long-term storage because they provide more protein than soft wheat berries. Due to high gluten-protein levels, 12% to 15%, Hard wheat makes a superior leavened or yeast-made bread, which is essential if you are eating it as a staple food.
Are Soft Wheat Berries Bad For Long Term Storage?
Soft wheat is excellent for long term storage. However, there are things to consider. Soft wheat is used primarily to make a batter for foods like flatbreads, biscuits, and pastries. Hard wheat is used more to make rising dough for things like bread.
Because soft wheat has lower gluten levels, it doesn’t make big fluffy yeast bread unless mixed with hard wheat. Also, you are getting less bang for your buck when it comes to protein.
If you plan on eating mostly flatbreads in a survival situation, this isn’t as much of a consideration. Still, again you’ll be getting less protein unless you add protein to your batter or eat flatbread with a high protein staple like beans.
Consider storing soft wheat as an addition to your base of hard wheat but don’t make it your primary grain.
Hard White Or Hard Red Wheatberries: Which is Best
Hard red winter wheat usually contains the most protein, but hard white wheat is said to make the best tasting bread. Flavor and protein content are both important.
Good tasting food cuts down on palate fatigue, and sufficient protein in your diet keeps you alive.
One thing is for sure if you don’t like the bread you make, you won’t eat it in your regular diet, so keep that in mind.
Check out the Ready Squirrel article on, How to make yeast from flour and water
What is a Wheat Berry?
A wheat berry is a whole wheat kernel with the husk removed. After removing the husk, what remains are the bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheatberries are from wheat grown in cold-weather climates. They are the form of wheat stored for the longest shelf-life.
Wheat kernels with the husk have a higher oil content, so they go rancid in storage, and the flour ground from wheatberries deteriorates decades before whole wheatberries.
Farro VS Wheat Berries: Which Is Best For Storage?
Farro is wheatberries made from wheat grown in hot climates vs. wheatberries grown in cold climates. The most common types of Farro are made from ancient wheat varieties like einkorn, spelt, and emmer.
Ferro also differs from wheatberries in how it is used. Ferro is usually cooked and eaten more like you would eat rice. Like any other wheatberry, it can be used to make bread, pastries, and other baked goods, but it is typically eaten boiled whole. Cold weather wheatberries can also be cooked and eaten whole, but they are typically used in baked goods.
Wheat Berries and Ferro are typically stored long-term instead of wheat flour because wheat in this form has a much longer shelf-life. To maintain a bulk of your wheat with a 30-year shelf-life, grind berries into flour as you use them instead of in large batches.
See the list below for the common wheat types and their uses.
Warning: Avoid wheat if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
The Best Wheatberry Varieties For Long-term Storage
You can use any wheatberry or flour for any purpose, but you will get superior results if you use flour with characteristics that fit the food you are making. The wheatberries most commonly used in long-term storage are hard red and hard white wheat because they contain the highest protein and gluten content for making bread.
|Types of Wheat||Shelf-life||Primary Use When Cooking|
|Spelt||30 +||Yeast Bread, Pasta, Biscuits, and Crackers (said to make excellent tasting bread)|
|Durum||30 +||Pasta and Unleavened Bread, ground for semolina flour, thick sticky gluten, high protein|
|Hard Red Spring||30 +||Classic Whole Wheat Bread, best in yeast or sourdough bread, highest protein|
|Hard Red Winter||30+||Yeast Bread, excellent for sprouting, highest protein|
|Hard White||30 +||Leavened Bread, excellent tasting white bread, Beer making, Medium protein|
|Emmer||30 +||Pasta, Unleavened Flat Bread|
|Einkorn||30+||Leavened and Unleavened bread|
|Kamut||30+||Leavened Bread, Pasta (organic Khorasan wheat)|
|Soft Red||30+||Bread and Beer Making, Medium Protein|
|Soft White||30+||Primarily used to make batters: cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and as a soup thickener, low protein|
How Do You Know If Your Wheat Berries Are Still Good?
Keep Them dry! Wheatberries stored free of moisture have an almost indefinite shelf life as long as you killed the bugs before storage. Temperature isn’t as much of an issue with wheat as is moisture. Wheatberries have been found in Egyptian tombs that are still edible because the deserts of Egypt are bone-dry.
Wheat berries are still good if they are light tan or red, smooth with little to no smell. Spoiled wheat smells sour and may change in color and texture. If you have weevils or other bugs, berries will have an off odor, a high amount of dust, damaged berries, and small black specks.
When in doubt about whether a wheat is good throw it out or try growing it in the garden.
Start by storing wheat that is 12% or less moisture content and keep it dry. Avoid storing wheat in moist locations like your basement. You’re looking at wheatberries that will outlast you.
Learn how to store wheat berries for maximum shelf-life check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Storing Wheat to Outlast You.”
Best Use Of Wheat Berries: 13 Uses In the Survival Pantry
Wheat berries have to be cooked before you eat them, but they are good for more than just being ground into flour and baked. You can also boil them to eat like hot cereal and sprout them for nutritional greens. Following are 13 foods you can make with Wheat Berries.
- Boil and add to soups or chilis
- Boil and eat like porridge
- Boil and mix with vegetables or dried fruits
- Grind to make flour for baking bread, pasta, and pastries
- Sprout for greens
- Wheat Berry and Rice Salad
- Add to bread cooked or sprouted.
- Add to garden fresh salads.
- Use to make pilafs (cooking with stock, broth, and spices)
- Sprout for wheatgrass and juice
- A hot soak in a thermos for Bug Out situations
- Hot fresh bread
- Broadcast the seeds and grow wheat in your garden
Best Methods of Processing Wheat Berries To Eat
#1 Boil wheat berries and eat them like a porridge or hot cereal. Add honey, fruit, or preserves, and you’ve got a tasty meal. Pre-soaking the berries is not necessary, but they do have to be cooked.
Boil Wheat Berries To Cook: 5 Steps
- Rinse Berries in a colander until the water runs clear
- 1/2 Cup of Wheatberries to 1 1/4 cup water or broth
- Bring to a boil
- Simmer 45 to 60 minutes
- Yield, 1 1/8 cup cooked berries
You can also cook wheat berries in a crockpot, an instant pot, or a pressure cooker.
#2 Grind Berries into flour. Flour has a relatively short shelf-life, so you are better off grinding flour as you need it versus doing large batches. You will need a grinder for this.
Most preppers use an electrical mill when the power is on because grinding wheat by hand is hard work. It’s a good idea to have a manual hand grinder as a backup for SHTF or power out scenarios. Prepare for some sticker shock when shopping for quality grain mills.
#3 Sprout Wheat Berries, even in winter and without sunlight, you can sprout wheat berries for emergency nutrition. Hard-Red-Winter-Wheat berries are said to be the best for sprouting.
You can also grow microgreens in the form of wheatgrass and juice them for their high nutrition.
How Long Will Wheat Berries Store?
Wheat berries will store for 30 years while maintaining 80% or more of their nutritional value. You get a shelf life like this by packaging berries in an Oxygen-free container with proper storage. Cool, Dry, and Dark.
Wheat’s moisture content should be 10% or less before packaging and storage.
A Guide to Food Storage For Emergencies, Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University, Pg 59 2
Packaging Wheat Berries For Long Term Home Storage
For the DIYer, there is no better method of storing dry goods than with the awesome container trio: Mylar bags, Food-grade buckets, and Oxygen Absorbers.
How to Package Wheatberries in 9 Easy Steps
#1 Place an 18″x 28″ Mylar bag inside a clean 5-gallon food-grade bucket
#2 Pour wheat with less than 10% moisture content into the Mylar bag
#3 Place a 2000 cc Oxygen Absorber on top of wheat
#4 Seal the Mylar bag with a household iron on the highest setting
#5 Gently Fold the Mylar Bag into the bucket
#6 Place the lid on the bucket
#7 Mark the bucket with the date and food type
#8 Store bucket in a cool dry location out of sunlight and up off the floor
#9 Do not stack buckets more than 3 high or they may crack
Foods stored in an Oxygen-free environment with moisture contents above 10% are at risk of botulism poisoning.
When Storing wheat in an oxygen-free environment, it is not necessary to freeze wheat before storage. The oxygen-free environment will kill bugs, bug eggs, and pupae, including weevils.
How Should I store Wheat Berries?
Store wheatberries with less than 10% moisture content in low humidity with storage temperatures of less than 75° F and above freezing. Use containers that provide an oxygen barrier like a sealed Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber to protect food from oxidation and to kill bugs, eggs, and pupae.
The Best Wheatberry Storage Containers
Mylar bags, Food-grade buckets, and Oxygen absorbers are the best wheatberry storage containers. Mylar bags provide an Oxygen barrier; Food-grade buckets act as armor for your bags. Oxygen absorbers remove oxygen from the Mylar bag, prevent the oxidation of food and kill bugs, eggs, and pupae.
Do I need to Freeze Wheatberries Before Storage?
Old school preppers often freeze-dry goods before storage. This kills all stages of bug life present in grains. Most grains will have bug eggs when you get them.
If you use a container that provides an oxygen-free environment, you do not need to freeze wheat berries before storage. Bugs, eggs, and pupae will be dead within 2 weeks in an oxygen-free container.
Create an oxygen-free storage environment in any container that provides a quality oxygen barrier. The best D.I.Y. method is by using food-grade Mylar bags, food-grade pales, and Oxygen Absorbers.
Oxygen Absorbers Recommended Amounts, USA Emergency Supply PDF
A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Utah State University, Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist PDF