If you grow vegetables, you can also grow grain in your home garden. You don't need to have acreage as far as the eye can see. Our video on planting grain shows you how to prepare the soil and plant cereal grain seeds in a small area. Tricia demos how to harvest the grain in our video.
Growing grainGrowing grains is different from being a vegetable gardener when the harvest comes. Here are quick tips on how to harvest, thresh, winnow and store your grain crop.
The color of the grain gradually changes from green to golden brown. Grain ripens in three stages and you can monitor this by checking a piece of grain.
1) Milky: press on a grain and see milky liquid ooze out.
2) Dough: liquid hardens inside the grain and the grain will show a dent when pinched.
3) Mature: grain is hard and the heavy heads often bend forward. Harvest a plot in the way that is easiest for you.
Use your hands to snap off the seed heads, or cut the seed heads off with pruners, a sickle, or a scythe. Dry the heads or sheaves in your wheat plot for 7 to 10 days before threshing.
Time to define some vocabulary you may not know, unless you grew up on a wheat farm. Chaff: The seed heads and straw from the plant. Threshing: Separating the heads from the stalks. Winnowing: Separating the grain from the chaff. There are many ways to thresh: Rubbing with your hands. Flailing with a wooden stick or bat. Banging seed heads inside a clean metal trash can. Treading with your feet. After threshing you will winnow: Winnow by pouring from one container to another, in front of a fan for best results.
Keep your grain fresh when you store it below 60F, free from oxygen, moisture, and pests. You can do this by bagging and freezing it, or putting it in food-safe, airtight buckets along with oxygen-absorber packets. Utah State Cooperative Extension has details on how to store wheat at home.
Need more information? Sara Pitzer is your new pal. She wrote Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest & Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn & More. As Tricia says in our video, "do yourself a favor" and get this book to help you grow your own grain. Review the harvesting steps with Tricia as she harvests, threshes and winnows in our video.
near pdx? try oregon white wheat—soft for pastry flour and hard for bread. you can grow winter wheat here in the pnw—i have done so. use organic wheat berries. plant in late august or early sept. you want it to be maybe 6 inches tall when winter comes. it won’t die. it just won’t actively grow above ground. it is making deeper roots and will be ready to get back into action when spring comes. plan harvest in july. protect from birds. i used nylon netting from the fabric store. cheap and wide enough to wrap a trial bed. good luck.
For Rebecca (posted 02/03/21): The “amber waves of grain” of the Midwest are of red wheat, originally Turkish Red from the Ukraine. They plant it in the fall, let it grow all winter (it grows fine in snow) and harvest it in the spring.
Rebecca, you can plant a spring wheat, https://www.groworganic.com/products/organic-wheat-beardless-lb?pos=2&psq=wheat&ss=e&v=1.0, in your area. Not sure how long it will take for the berries to be done, most likely late summer.
Thanks for the info! We live in PA and I planted some hard red wheat berries in the Fall (never done this before). I also planted some inside in my kitchen. It grew into what looked like green crab grass. The snow came and I gave up on it, instead raking it into my garden. Can I plant the wheat berries again in the spring instead? If I do that, when will they be mature enough to produce flour? Thanks!
Steve, you can grow spring wheat in your area if you have mild winters. We sell organic wheat, https://www.groworganic.com/products/organic-wheat-beardless-lb?pos=1&_sid=1d5e324df&ss=r, that you can grow in your area.