Oats (avena sativa)
Oats have a much more humble background than the other major grains like wheat, spelt or rye. Oats were one of the last grains to be cultivated and started only around 3,000 years ago, evidence shows that prior to this the developed from a weed like plant which grew alongside other crops.
Nowadays Oats are chiefly a European and North American crop. These areas have the cool, moist climate to which oats are best adapted. Oats thrive in a wide range of soils and its moisture and temperature which are the overriding factors on where it can be grown. Scotland is renown for its Oats and uses them heavily in the cropping rotation.
Oats were around during the Roman and Greek Empires but they didn’t considered it good enough quality for human food instead feeding it to their animals. This was the opposite of the ‘oat-eating barbarian’ and Germanic tribes which regularly consumed oat based foods.
Part of the reason people were slow to embrace oats is because they go rancid very quickly, due to the presence of natural fats and a fat dissolving enzyme present in the grain. As a result, they have to be processed immediately after harvesting. The fats in oats are relatively healthy, with a lipid breakdown of 21% saturated, 37% monounsaturated, and 43% polyunsaturated.
Today less around 95% of the oat grown are used as a pasturage and hay crop, specifically used for horses, only 5% is used commercially for human consumption.
Back to Types of Grain