Avena sativa & Avena nuda
Oats: the cereal of the peoples of Europe
Oats are grown in the world's temperate regions: North America, Germany, France and Russia.
For the northern peoples of Europe (Scots, Vikings, Germanics and Irish), oats were a basic component of the diet. Boiled oats were the food of the Germanic peoples. Herbalists used them to cure various ailments such as fatigue, nervous ailments, depression, insomnia and rheumatism. From the 20th century on, their emollient and softening properties have made them an important ingredient in skincare products. For a long time, boiled oat flakes were the breakfast of children who could not tolerate milk.
Oats are a "cleaning" plant and slow down the appearance of weeds. More rustic than wheat, they can be grown in less rich soils. However, oats cultivation requires a lot of water. These characteristics make it appropriate for carefully thought out agriculture. It is one of the rare cereal crops that can be used in its entirety: the aerial parts for phytotherapy, the whole grains or rolled oats for food, and the straw for phytotherapy or animal feed. With oats, there's no waste!
Oats are a complete cereal whose protein content is higher than that of wheat. It's a very good source of natural fiber which provide a quicker "full" feeling, and it contains significant amounts of certain trace elements.
Originally from Persia, oats are among the grains richest in protein (13-14%), fat (about 7%) and stimulant substances (avenose, in particular). Their B vitamin and mineral content is also high.
Oats are fortifying. "Boiled oats produce men of steel," says a German proverb. The Huns ate boiled oats and the Scots drew their legendary physical strength from porridge.
Oats are not suitable for bread making. They are found in various forms:
- Whole oats - meaning the grain contains all three parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran. The whole grain provides maximum health benefit.
- Rolled oats (flakes) - grains with their outer covering removed, then rolled into flakes. The main ingredient in Scottish porridge.
- Groats or oatmeal - Grains with their outer covering removed, then milled. It has a brownish color and contains no gluten. Probably the most common form.
- Oat flour - chewy and sweet. it can be used in cookies, cakes, pie crusts, muffins and breads. Because oats have little gluten, the flour is best combined with whole wheat flour for baking.
- Oat bran: the outer covering, ground into pieces.
Oatmeal grains can be substituted for rice.
The Scots use them to make oatcakes, the English porridge, Quebeckers a dessert called "croustade," Mongolians a main dish in a pastry shell called "yumeienwowo," and the South Americans and Asians a sweet drink.
Oats are used in making granolas, muesli, muffins, cookies and flat breads. They're used to thicken soups, meatloaf and pâtés, and to make date squares, fruit crisps, cakes, beers and beverages.
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