GOlden Grains

Oats are a ver­sa­tile in­gre­di­ent and full of good­ness, adding crunch to win­ter bakes

Landscape (UK) - - In The Garden -

“This bread I break was once the oat, This wine upon a for­eign tree Plunged in its fruit; Man in the day or wind at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy” Dy­lan Thomas, ‘This Bread I Break’

Oats are the grains of the ce­real plant, Avena sativa, a hardy species which thrives in cool, tem­per­ate climes and will grow in less fer­tile soils. They are be­lieved to have first been cul­ti­vated in the bronze age. Re­garded by the Ro­mans as an in­fe­rior crop, oats were cheap to pro­duce and by me­dieval times had be­come a sta­ple food for live­stock and the poor. How­ever, Scot­tish historian John Ma­jor de­clared in the 16th cen­tury that their high lev­els of pro­tein, min­er­als and fi­bre had for­ti­fied the armies of both Scot­land and Eng­land. Farm work­ers and crofters in Scot­land had spe­cial draw­ers which were lined with freshly cooked por­ridge and left to cool and set. It was then cut into slices and taken out onto the hills by work­ers for sus­te­nance through the day. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, oats were used to bulk out ra­tions, but this meant they fell out of favour when the con­flict ended, due to their as­so­ci­a­tion with times of de­pri­va­tion. To­day, oats have seen a re­vival due to their nu­tri­tious qual­i­ties and ver­sa­til­ity as an in­gre­di­ent in sat­is­fy­ing but healthy dishes. They are high in vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, in­clud­ing iron and vi­ta­min B1. A whole­grain food, oats are a com­plex car­bo­hy­drate, so they help to im­prove the feel­ing of full­ness for longer. They also of­fer many other health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing help­ing to lower blood sugar lev­els and re­duc­ing the risk of heart dis­ease. Oats can be rolled or crushed into oat­meal, as used for tra­di­tional por­ridge, and are pop­u­lar in other break­fast ce­re­als, such as muesli and gra­nola. They can also be ground to make oat flour for bak­ing and thick­en­ing stews or soup. How­ever, they can also be used to make flap­jacks, cakes and bakes, and even in­cor­po­rated into smooth­ies. Oats should be stored in an air­tight con­tainer, in a cool, dry place. In the right con­di­tions they should keep for 12 months or more.

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