Wheat for human consumption comes in many forms; hard red wheat and spring white wheat are a few options. These whole grains, along with brown rice and barley, provide the entire kernel that can be ground or eaten whole when cooked. The wheat harvesting process provides wheat kernels ready to sell and wheat is grown and sold locally for consumer use. Do whole grains need to be cleaned before grinding or cooking to remove insects, rocks, dirt or other food contaminants?

Local grain suppliers may have grain cleaners that move the kernels through a drum or belt to remove particles. It is possible to purchase grain-cleaning equipment, but it is large and expensive. If purchased whole grains have visible insects, contact your local extension office, and ask for an agent who can identify the insect and suggest methods to eliminate them from your food. To check on moisture in grains, contact local commercial mills if a sample could be tested.

Storing whole grains requires careful consideration because it contains the germ that has oils and the oils may cause the grain to turn rancid. Rancidity causes a bitter taste. Home storage requires a dry room, secure container and rotation to keep fresh.

A climate-controlled area in your home storage needs to be cool and free from moisture. A storage room without direct heat, with a pest management system and free from possible water would be ideal. Grains can be kept for one to three months properly stored or two to six months in the freezer when stored in airtight containers. When whole grains are purchased in a #10 can, shelf life can be 20 to 30 years. Be sure to mark the date of purchase on the storage container. Refer to the Whole Grains Council for a storage chart at wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/cooking-whole-grains/storing-whole-grains or contact your local extension office.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at 208-785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.