Flour, And Other Matters Relating To Seeds

Categories: Diet and Nutrition
Sources: How And When To Be Your Own Doctor

One of the largest degradations to human health was caused by the

roller mill. This apparently profitable machine permitted the miller

to efficiently separate wheat flour into three components: bran,

germ and endosperm. Since bread made without bran and germ is

lighter and appears more "upper class" it became instantly popular.

Flour without germ and bran also had an industrial application--it

could be stored virtually forever without being infested by insects

because white flour does not contain enough nutrition to support

life. Most health conscious people are aware that white flour

products won't support healthful human life either.

Essentially, white flour's effect on humans is another demonstration

of Health = Nutrition / Calories. When the bran and germ are

discarded, remaining are the calories and much of the protein,

lacking are many vitamins and minerals and other vital nutritional


Whole wheat bread has been called the staff of life. In ages past,

healthy cultures have made bread the predominant staple in their

diet. Does that mean you can just go to the bakery and buy whole

grain bread, or go to the healthfood store and buy organically grown

whole wheat flour, bake your own, and be as healthy as the ancients?

Sorry, the answer is almost certainly no. There are pitfalls, many

of them, waiting for the unwary.

White flour has one other advantage over whole wheat flour. It not

only remains free of insect infestation, it doesn't become stale

(meaning rancid). In the wheat germ (where the embryo resides) there

is considerable oil, containing among other things, about the best

natural source of vitamin E. This oil is highly unsaturated and once

the seed is ground the oil goes rancid in a matter of days. Whole

wheat flour kept on the unrefrigerated shelf of the store is almost

certainly rancid. A lot of its other vitamin content has been

oxidized too. If the wheat flour had flowed directly from the

grinder into an airtight sack and from there directly to the

freezer, if it had been flash frozen and kept extremely cold, it

might have a storage life of some months. Of course that was not the

case. Maybe you're lucky and your healthfood store is one of the

very few that has its own small-scale flour mill and grinds daily.

Probably not.

How about your baker's whole wheat bread? Where does the baker get

flour? From the wholesaler's or distributor's warehouse! In fifty

pound kraftpaper sacks! How much time had elapsed from milling to

wholesaler to baker to baking? The answer has to be in the order of

magnitude of weeks. And it might be months. Was the flour stored

frozen? Or airtight? Of course not.

If you want bread made from freshly ground flour you are almost

certainly have to grind and bake it yourself. Is it worth the

trouble? You bet. Once you've tasted real bread you'll instantly see

by comparison what stale, rancid whole wheat flour tastes like.

Freshly ground flour makes bread that can be the staff of life and

can enormously upgrade your health--if the wheat you use is any good.

But before we talk about wheat quality, a more few words of warning.

If you think wheat goes rancid rapidly, rye is even worse. Rye flour

goes bad so fast that when you buy it in the store it usually is the

rye equivalent of white wheat flour. The germ has been removed. The

bag may not say so. But it probably has. If you are going to make

rye breads, even more reason to grind your own. Corn meal from the

grocery store has usually been degerminated too. If it hasn't been,

the oil in the seed's germ has probably gone rancid.

Grinding flour at home is easy these days. There is an abundance of

at-home milling products and no shortage of hype about them. You'll

find staunch advocates of stone mills. These produce the

finest-textured flour, but are costly. The sales pitch is that

stones grind at low temperature and do not damage the oils (remember

the development of rancidity is a function of temperature) or the

vitamins, which are also destroyed at high temperature. This

assertion is half true. If you are going to store your flour it is

far better to grind it cool. However, if you are, as we do, going to

immediately bake your flour, what difference does it make if it gets

a little warm before baking. That only accelerates the action of the


On the negative side, stone mills grind slowly and are very fussy

about which grains they will grind. If the cereal is a bit moist or

if the seed being ground is a little bit oily, the mill becomes

instantly blocked.

Steel burr mills grind fast and coarsely and are inexpensive. Coarse

flour makes heavy bread. The metal grinding faces tend to wear out

and have to be replaced occasionally--if they can be replaced. Breads

on the heavy side are still delicious; for many years I made bread

with an inexpensive steel burr mill attachment that came with my


Some steel burr mills will also grind oily seed like sesame and

sunflower. However, oily seeds can be ground far more easily

half-a-cup at a time in a little inexpensive electric spice/coffee

mill, the sort with a single fast-spinning propeller.

I currently think the best compromise are hammermills. The grain

dribbles into a chamber full of fast-spinning teeth that literally

pound the grain into powder. Since air flows through with the grain

the flour is not heated very much. This type of mill is small, very

fast, intermediate in price between steel mills and stone mill,

lasts a long time, but when grinding, sounds like a Boeing 747 about

to take off. It is essential to wear hearing protectors when using


Awareness of bread quality is growing. One excellent new U.S.

business, called Great Harvest Bakery is a fast-growing national

franchise chain. They bake and sell only whole grain breads; all

their wheat flour is freshly ground daily on the premises in the

back. Unfortunately, as of the writing of this book, they do not

grind their rye flour but bring it in sacks. I can't recommend their

rye breads. The founder of Great Harvest is a knowledgeable buyer

who fully understands my next topic, which is that wheat is not


There are great differences between hard bread wheats; being

organically grown is no cure all for making good or nutritious

bread. Great Harvest understands this and uses top quality grain

that is also Organic.

When I first stated making my own bread from my own at-home-ground

flour I was puzzled by variations in the dough. Sometimes the bread

rose well and was spongy after baking like I wanted it to be.

Sometimes it kneaded stickily and ended up flat and crumbly like a

cake. Since I had done everything the same way except that I may

have bought my wheat berries from different healthfood stores, I

began to investigate the subject of wheat quality.

The element in the cereal that forms the rubbery sponge in risen

bread so it doesn't crumble and rises high without collapsing, is

gluten. The word glue derives from gluten. The gluten content of

various wheats varies. Bread bakers use "hard wheat" because of its

high gluten content. Gluten is a protein and gluten comprises most

of the protein in bread wheat; the protein content and the gluten

content are almost identical.

Try this. Ask your healthfood store buyer or owner what the protein

content is of the hard red wheat seeds they're selling. You'll

almost certainly get a puzzled look and your answer will almost

certainly be, "we have Organic and conventional." Demand that the

store buyer ask this question of their distributor/wholesaler and

then report back to you. If the distributor deigns to answer, the

answer will be the same--I sell Organic or conventional hard red

wheat. Period. When I got these non-answers I looked further and

discovered that hard bread wheats run from about 12 percent protein

to about 19 percent and this difference has everything to do with

the soil fertility (and to an extent the amount of rainfall during

the season), and almost nothing to do with Organic or conventional.

This difference also has everything to do with how your dough

behaves and how your bread comes out. And how well your bread

nourishes you. Thirteen percent wheat will not make a decent

loaf--fourteen percent is generally considered 2 quality and

comprises the bulk of cheap bread grain. When you hear in the

financial news that a bushel of wheat is selling for a certain

price, they mean 2. Bakers compete for higher protein lots and pay

far higher prices for more protein.

We prefer our bread about 25% rye, but rye contains no gluten at

all. Mix any rye flour into fourteen percent wheat flour and the

dough becomes very heavy, won't rise, and after baking, crumbles. So

I kept looking for better grain and finally discovered a

knowledgeable lady that sold flour mills and who also was a serious

baker herself. She had located a source of quality wheat with an

assayed protein content and sold it by the 50 pound sack. When I

asked her if her wheat was Organic she said it was either sixteen or

seventeen percent protein depending on whether you wanted hard red

spring wheat or hard white spring wheat. Organic or conventional? I

persisted. No, she said. High protein!

So, I said to myself, since protein content is a function of soil

fertility and since my body needs protein, I figured I am better off

eating the best quality wheat, pesticide/herbicide residues (if

there are any) be damned. Think about it! The difference between

seventeen percent and fourteen percent protein is about 25 percent.

That percentage difference is the key threshold of nutritional

deficiency that makes teeth fall out. We can't afford to accept 25%

degradations in our nutritional quality in something that we eat

every day and that forms the very basis of our dietary.

Please understand here that I am not saying that high protein wheats

can't be grown organically. They certainly can. The founder of Great

Harvest Bakery performs a valuable service locating and securing

high-protein lots of organically grown wheats for his outlets. But

often as not Organic products are no more nourishing than those

grown with chemicals. Until the buyers at Organic whole food

wholesalers get better educated about grain, obtaining one's

personal milling stock from them will be a dicey proposition.

Sometimes Organic cereal can be far worse than conventional. To make

a cereal Organic is a negative definition; if it hasn't had

chemicals, then its Organic. Grain is one of the few foods that will

still produce economic yields of low quality seed on extremely

infertile soil or when half-smothered in weeds because herbicides

weren't used for reasons of ideological purity. Vegetables will

hardly produce anything under those conditions; carelessly grown

fruits and vegetables are inevitably small, misshapen, unmarketable.

But seed cleaning equipment can remove the contamination of weed

seeds in cereal grains (at a cost.)

The price the farmer receives for Organic cereal grain is much

higher, so it is possible to accept rather low yields or expend more

money for cleaning out high levels of weed seeds from the field-run

harvest, and still make a good profit. A lousy Organic cereal crop

like this might even make a higher profit because the farmer has

been spared the expense of fertilization, of rotation, of weed

control. I remember once I bought a sack of Organic whole oats that

were the smallest, most shriveled, bitterest oats I've ever tried to

eat. We ended up throwing out that tiny, light (lacking density)

seed in favor of using the "conventional" whole oats that were

plump, heavy and sweet.

Wheat is not the only cereal that is damaged by industrial milling.

So are oats. Most consumers have never seen whole oats; they look

very much like wheat berries. But rolled oats become rancid and

stale on the shelf much like wheat flour on the shelf.

Another pitfall about using whole grains is that to be nutritious

they must still be fresh enough to sprout vigorously. A seed is a

package of food surrounding an embryo. The living embryo is waiting

for the right conditions (temperature and moisture) to begin

sprouting. Sprouting means the embryo begins eating up stored food

and making a plant out of it. All foods are damaged by exposure to

oxygen, so to protect the embryo's food supply, the seed is

surrounded by a virtually airtight seed coat that permits only

enough oxygen to enter for the embryo's respiration (yes, seed

breaths slowly). Often the embryo is located at the edge of the seed

and has its own air intake port. When the seed coat is removed or

damaged, the innards are exposed to air and begin deteriorating

rapidly. In the case of oats, especially rapidly, because oats are

the only grass-based cereal that contains large quantities of

oil--five percent oil, more or less. That's why oats "stick to your

ribs." Rolled oats become stale and lose their flavor (and

nutritional content) and perhaps become rancid very rapidly. So we

make porridge from whole oat groats that we coarsely grind to grits

(steel-cut oats) in an electric seed/spice mill just before cooking.

It is not easy to cook oat grits. They take a lot longer than rolled

oats and if not done exactly to the recipe I'm about to give you,

will almost inevitably stick to the pot badly and may also froth

over and mess the stove. Here's how to cook them. Coarsely grind

(like corn meal) your whole oats until you have one cup of oat

grits. Bring exactly four cups of water (no salt) to a very hard

boil at your highest heat. You may add a handful of raisins. Light

or turn on a second, small-sized burner on the stove and set it as

low as possible. Into the fast boiling water, slowly pour the ground

oats, stirring continuously. Take about 30 seconds to pour it all or

you'll make clumps. Keep on the high heat until the water again

boils vigorously. Suddenly, the mixture will begin rising in the pot

and will try to pour all over the stove. This means it is all at

boiling temperature again. Quickly move the pot to the low burner;

that instantly stops the frothing. Then cover. Let the porridge cook

for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking. Then,

keeping it covered, turn off the heat. They can be eaten at this

point but I think it is better to let the oats finish soaking on the

stove for at least two to four hours. Then reheat in a double

boiler, or warm in a microwave.

We usually start a pot of oats at bedtime for the next morning. See

why people prefer the convenience of using rolled oats? But once

you've eaten oats made right, you'll never prefer the flavor of

rolled oats again. And if the human body has any natural method of

assaying nutritional content, it is flavor.

Nutritionally, millet is almost the same story as oats. Millet seed

is protected by a very hard hull. Cooking unhulled millet is almost

impossible. After hours of boiling the small round seeds will still

be hard and the hulls remain entirely indigestible. Worse, the

half-round hulls (they split eventually) stick in your teeth. But

prehulled millet, sitting in the sack for weeks and months, loses a

lot of nutrition and tastes very second-rate compared to

freshly-hulled millet. It is possible to buy unhulled millet,

usually by special order from the health food distributor--if you'll

take a whole sack. Millet can be hulled at home in small batches.

Here's how we figured out how to do it. There probably are better


Using a cheap steel-burr flour mill, set the burrs just far enough

apart that the seed is ground to grits, but not flour. This pops the

hulls loose. An old mill with worn-out burrs works great for this

job. Then you have to get some hand seed cleaning screens just large

enough to pass the grits but not pass the hulls (most of them).

Window screen or other hardware cloths won't work. Seed cleaning

screens come in increments of 1/128 inch; we use a 6/64" round

screen. Other batches of millet might work better with a screen one

step larger or smaller. It will take you a little ingenuity to find

hand-held screens. They're used by seed companies and farmers to

clean small batches of seed for inspection and are usually about one

square foot in size with a quality wooden frame. Larger frames made

of the same screening material are used in big seed cleaning

machines. (The hulls could also be winnowed out by repeatedly

pouring the grit/hulls mixture back and forth between two buckets in

a gentle breeze.)

After you've screened out most of the hulls, the rest will rinse

out, floating off as you wash the grain prior to cooking. We never

hull more than enough millet for two or three meals and keep the

uncooked (unwashed) millet in the freezer in an airtight jar. It is

interesting how people will accept poor nutrition and its consequent

sickness as the price of convenience.

If you eat much buckwheat you should also figure out how to hull

(sometimes called groating) it yourself. Someone should write a

thorough book on the home milling of cereals. And perhaps sell the

equipment by mail. Probably would be a good little homestead


Something else you need to keep in mind about seed. Even though the

embryo's food supply is protected by the seed coat, it still slowly

deteriorates, steadily oxidizing and losing nutritional value.

Eventually old seed looses the ability to sprout. The decline in

germination ability matches a decline in nutritional quality. Any

seed you are going to use for eating should possess the ability to

sprout, strongly and rapidly. (After you've comparatively sprouted a

few grain samples, you'll know what I mean by this.) Fortunately,

cereal grains usually sprout well for quite a few years after

harvest if they have been stored cool and dry. Eating dead or

near-dead seeds will help move you closer to the same condition


Finally, one more warning about buying store bread. Salt-free bread

tastes "funny" to most people. It bakes fine, salt is not necessary

to the leavening process, but no bakery could stay in business

without salting their bread. The standard level of salt is two

percent by weight. That is quite a lot! Two percent equals one

teaspoonful per pound. I'll have more to say about the evils of salt

later on.

I imagine some of my readers are feeling a little overwhelmed by all

these warnings and "bewares ofs," and intricacies. They are used to

taking no responsibility for securing their own food supply quality

and have come to expect the "system" to protect them. I believe it

is not because of lack of government intervention, but because of

government intervention itself, our food system is very perverse.

Until our mass consciousness changes, if you wish to make yourself

and your family truly healthy, you are going to have to take charge

and become quite a discriminating shopper. Unconscious consumers are

on a rapid road to the total unconsciousness of death.

And again, let me remind you here that this one small book cannot

contain everything you should know. The bibliography at the end of

should become your guide to earning your post-graduate education in

nutritional health.