Have you ever looked at your breakfast and wondered where we get oats from? These grains are an integral part of many meals we eat, but few of us pause to think about how they come to be on our plates in the first place.
Where do oats come from? Oats are a cereal grain that grows on oat plants, and there are several different kinds. Oats generally grow in temperate areas, and they are more tolerant of wet weather than most other cereal grains. They can be used for all sorts of things, besides just as cereal, and are often utilized for livestock.
Where Do Oats Come From?
Oats come from a plant that is also known as oat, or as Avena sativa. This plant is distantly related to the wheat plant, but porridge oats don’t come from wheat. A field of oats will look similar to a field of barley or wheat, however, and there is thought to be an ancient link between these plants.
So, where did oats originally come from? Nobody knows for sure, because they originate in prehistory, but it is thought that the plant first appeared as a weed in fields of domestic wheat and barley. At first, farmers likely removed this, although it probably spread across Europe despite their efforts.
However, this weed was eventually domesticated to make use of the grain it provides (and the straw, which is useful to farmers). There are no written records of this domestication, but it is thought that it may have occurred during the neolithic era.
Oats are harvested once the plants have matured and finished producing their seeds. At this point, the seeds are wrapped in a protective husk, which prevents the oats from being damaged. Inside the husk, you find the seed itself (known as the germ) and some bran, and underneath this, the oat.
The hull is inedible and it will be removed before the oats are sold. Sometimes, the germ and bran will also be removed, but some kinds of oats, such as rolled oats and traditional oats, will still contain these parts. Oat flour is usually made after they have been removed.
Where are Oats Grown?
Oats tend to be grown in cooler parts of the world, since they don’t need heat the way that some grain crops do. Over half of the world’s production takes place in the northern hemisphere, in places like Finland, the United States, Canada, the Russian Federation, and Poland. Some oats are also grown in the southern hemisphere, in places like Brazil, Australia, and Argentina.
It’s thought that oat production on makes up only about 1 percent of the cereal grains produced across the globe, despite how readily the plant grows. A lot of oats are used for animal feed, rather than for human consumption. Given the already low percentages, that means we eat far fewer oats than other cereals.
What Does an Oat Plant Look Like?
Oats look like other grasses; they grow a long stem, and they produce multiple pendulous husks that hang down. These contain the seeds and the oats, and tend to turn golden as they dry out, ready for harvesting.
You may see fields of oats ripening in the early summer (if they were planted in fall) or in the late summer or early fall (if they were planted in spring).
What Can Oats Be Used For?
Oats have an enormous range of uses. They are commonly used for oatmeal breakfasts, but they can also be used to create oatcakes, oatmeal cookies, and oat bread. They can be turned into oat flour, which can occasionally be used as a substitute for wheat-based flour. Other cereals, such as muesli, incorporate oats too.
Oats may be used to create oat milk, make flapjacks, or as a thickener for some foods. They also have uses in cosmetic products. They are good for rehydrating the skin, and often appear in moisturizers and moisturizing soaps.
Oats may be used in the brewing of beer, and oat grass is thought to have several medicinal benefits, although few of these are recognized today. Oat straw can be given to animals as bedding and is low-dust, soft, and absorbent.
Furthermore, oat plants can be used as an off-season groundcover, which keeps fields free from weeds and revitalizes tired ground. Oat pastures may also provide grazing for farm animals.
Despite the fact that they make up such a small percentage of our cereal growth, oats truly are versatile.
Are Oats Gluten-Free?
A lot of people with celiac or gluten intolerance do not eat oats, and this may confuse you – because naturally, oats are gluten-free. However, they can still cause issues for people with these health conditions.
This may be partly because oats are frequently processed alongside wheat and barley, often using the same equipment and in the same facility. This means that the cross contamination level is high, and there’s likely to be a lot of gluten in this cereal grain by the time it reaches stores.
It is possible to buy gluten-free oats, which will not have this contamination. These are harvested and processed using machinery that is not used for wheat or barley, in facilities that do not process the other two grains. This means that the oats are safe for people with celiac disease.
How Long Do Oats Take to Grow?
Oats usually take about 60 days from germination to harvesting. They mature more quickly when they are planted in the spring, ready for a summer or fall harvesting. Crops planted in fall will have less light, and will therefore mature more slowly. Spring harvesting tends to be about 70 days after germination, rather than 60.
Oats come from the oat plant, which is thought to have originally grown as a weed in fields of barley and wheat. The plant was eventually domesticated, and like the other cereal grains, it has a wide range of uses for both people and animals. It grows best in cooler, temperate climates, but it is grown in both the northern and southern hemispheres.