For anyone who enjoys baking or cooking with whole wheat flour, having a supply of wheat berries on hand can be a great convenience. Wheat berries are the whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat, and they can be stored for long periods of time without losing their freshness.
Plus, they’re high in vitamins and minerals (like calcium, fiber, and other nutrients) that make them great for just about all kinds of recipes.
Here are some tips to help you do it right!
What Exactly Are Wheat Berries?
Wheat berries are the whole kernels of wheat that can be ground into flour or used as a cooked grain. They are an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients, and they have a chewy texture and nutty flavor.
Wheat berries are often used in baking and cooking. Because they are a whole grain, they contain all of the nutrients that are found in wheat, including fiber, protein, and minerals.
Wheat berries can be found in natural food stores, but they can also be grown at home.
Homegrown wheat berries will likely be fresher and more flavorful than those found in stores, and they can be a fun and satisfying project for the avid gardener.
To grow wheatberries, simply plant wheat seeds in rich, well-drained soil in early spring. Give the plants plenty of room to grow, as they will produce long stalks of grain. Harvest the wheatberries when the grain is ripe (usually in late summer or early fall), then thresh and clean the grain before using.
With a little effort, you can enjoy delicious wheat berries straight from your own garden! And then all that’s left is figuring out how to preserve your wheat berries for long-term food storage.
Let’s take a closer look.
Wheat berries have a storage life of up to 30 years if they are properly stored. The key to storing wheat berries is to keep them dry and protected from insects. They can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. When ready to use, wheat berries can be cooked like rice or used in salads, soups, or casseroles.
Obviously, they can also be used for baking your favorite breads, too!
If you’re planning on storing wheat berries, there are a few other tips you should keep in mind.
You can store wheat berries in the freezer. To do so, spread the wheat berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for one to two hours, or until they are frozen solid. Then, transfer the wheat berries to a freezer-safe container and label it with the date.
Wheat berries will keep in the freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready to use them, simply thaw the wheat berries at room temperature or cook them while they are still frozen.
Here is one of the 100 lb. sacks of wheat from the mill, and one of the buckets we are using to store the wheat in. We got our buckets from the bakery at the grocery store.
Almost every day my husband would go to the bakery and ask them if they had any empty icing buckets. Sometimes they would not have any, sometimes they would, and sometimes they’d try to sell them to us!
The stores in our neck of the woods sell them for like $3 each, probably ’cause so many people around here ask for them. But a short drive into town usually scored us some free buckets. We’d take any size, but the 5 and 6-gallon buckets are what we really want.
At times we’d get some buckets with no lids, which is a bummer ’cause you kinda need lids, but we’d take them anyways.
When looking for a bucket to store your grains in, you need to make sure that you use a food grade plastic bucket. You can’t just run to Home Depot and buy buckets.
On the bottom of a food grade bucket will be an HDPE, with a number two within a triangle of arrows. I’ve read that the colored buckets, even if they have the #2 on them, are not safe. If you wanna be safe, get white buckets.
We also bought Gamma Seal lids to go with our buckets… for two reasons. The first was that we didn’t have lids for all of the 6 gallon buckets, and needed some. The second was that the Gamma Seals are excellent for food storage, as they are airtight and leak proof. Plus, they screw on and off super easy.
And the best part about them, in my opinion, is that they are probably the only thing in my home that is actually made in the USA! Imagine that. They are a bit pricey (like $7 each!), but I figure if we’re gonna be storing food long term we’d better do it right.
For those of you who have never seen wheat berries, let me open my sack of wheat to give you a peak:
Go ahead, look a little closer…
Cool, huh? This is what is ground to make flour:
I don’t know if all wheat looks the same, but this is soft white winter wheat. There are other kinds of wheat, like hard red winter wheat. Each is good for a particular kind of baking.
The soft white winter wheat is a pastry wheat, good for biscuits, pancakes, quick breads… stuff like that. It isn’t good for baking regular loaves of bread though. I’d really like to get some hard wheat for loaves, but it’s a bit more expensive since it isn’t grown locally.
Speaking of which, I love that the wheat I’m buying at the mill is locally grown!
Polyethylene or Plastic Bags
When it comes to storage, polyethylene or plastic bags are ideal. They keep out moisture and pests, and they can be resealed if necessary. Be sure to label the bags with the date of storage, and use them within six to twelve months for best results.
Beyond plastic, polyethylene, or Mylar bags, the best airtight containers for wheat berries are made of glass or metal, and have a tight-fitting lid that creates a seal. jars with screw-on lids are a good option, or you can purchase airtight storage containers specifically designed for food storage.
No matter what type of container you use, be sure to label it clearly so you know what’s inside. A
Vacuum sealers are an excellent way to store wheat berries. By removing the air from the storage container, you can prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
Vacuum sealed wheat berries will also stay fresh for a longer period of time. If you are planning to store wheat berries for more than a few weeks, consider using a vacuum sealer.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when storing wheat berries.
If you want your wheat berries to last, it’s important to make sure they are completely dry before storing them. The best way to do this is to spread the berries out on a baking sheet and place them in a warm oven for a few hours.
Once they are dry, you can store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. With proper care, wheat berries can last for several months.
When it comes to storing wheat berries, the location is just as important as the container. Wheat berries should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. An attic or basement can be a good option, as long as the temperature remains relatively consistent. A dry, dark pantry would work as well.
If you have other dry foods you’re storing in bulk, like bran, pasta, oats, germ, white flour, rye, or even white rice, consider keeping them all in the same general area. That way, you can monitor the condition and moisture level a bit more easily.
One of the most important things to remember when storing wheat berries is to check them often for signs of spoilage. Look for mold, discoloration, or an off odor. If any of these signs are present, discard the affected berries immediately.
When storing wheat berries, it’s important to make sure that your container is airtight to prevent rodents from getting in and contaminating your food. Rodents are attracted to the smell of wheat berries, and they can cause a lot of damage if they get into your food storage.
While plastic bags are great for storing wheat berries in most cases, if you’re concerned about rodents, a better airtight container solution might be glass jars.
Keep Pests Out With Oxygen Absorbers
Another thing you’ll need when storing food long term is something to keep the bugs from infesting your stash. We’re using these oxygen absorbers. They come in a vacuumed bag like this.
The pink little tablet you can see in the picture tells you that the packs have not been exposed to the air. Once you open that vacuum sealed pack the oxygen absorbers will begin working, and the pill will start turning dark.
The purpose of these little packets is to absorb all of the oxygen from your bucket, making it impossible for any little critters to hatch or survive in your food. You have around 15 – 30 min.
To get the packets into your bucket and seal the bucket before they are finished absorbing their capacity and are rendered useless.
The amount of oxygen absorbers you need depends on the size of your buckets. For 6 gallon buckets it is recommended that you use approx. 2000cc’s of oxygen absorbers. Since we bought packs of ten 500cc absorbers, we used 3-4 absorbers per 6 gallon bucket.
I like to put some packs in the bottom of the bucket, and some on top before screwing the lid on. You don’t need to open the packs or anything, just drop them in. But remember to get the buckets sealed pretty quickly!
*TIP: If you have some unused oxygen absorber packets leftover, you can store them in a small mason jar, with a tightly screwed on lid. The packs will absorb a little oxygen, but will still have some absorbing ability as long as you keep them in an airtight container until ready to use.
With proper storage, wheat berries can last for months or even years, making them a valuable staple for any home cook.
Here’s my first batch of stored wheat. It took six 6-gallon buckets filled to the rim to store 200 lbs. of wheat berries:
I did, however, leave out a little bit to grind into flour, which I’ve never done before. But that, my friends, will have to be another post!
Got any questions or tips? I’d love to hear what you think!
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.