Durum Wheat is a different species of wheat altogether from the wheats normally used for breads and baking.
The plant is very hardy in the face of drought, heat, and cold. It is easy to thresh, because the grain falls easily out of its husk.
The kernels are large, reddish-yellow, and very hard. The endosperm is yellow.
It is normally considered a spring wheat in North America, where it is grown in the great plains areas. North Dakota produces 70% of the durum wheat grown in America; in Canada, Saskatchewan accounts for the bulk of the production.
Winter varieties are grown in other parts of the world such as in Argentina, and the Tavoliere plain in Puglia, Italy.
Popular varieties of Durum Wheat to grow in North America are Westbred 881, Kofa, Tacna, Mohawk, and Cortez.
Durum Wheat has a very high protein content, but despite that, it isn’t generally favoured for making bread from, because the gluten in it isn’t as strong as that in regular wheat.
Flour and meals from Durum Wheat are generally used for pasta, couscous and noodles. Durum Wheat flour is used for some baked goods in Sicily.
Durum wheat is no more or less healthy for you than other wheat. A label on a product that says “100 per cent durum wheat” is almost certainly telling the truth, however, that is very different from “100 per cent whole grain durum wheat.” Most durum is processed into a white flour for pasta, etc.
Durum Wheat probably originated by natural mutation from Emmer wheat. It is the second wheat that man used after Emmer.
Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen. YouDocs Column : Don’t fall for deceptive labels on durum wheat. Toronto Star. 16 March 2011.
ARIZONA’S GEM OF THE SOUTHWEST
When you think of the crops grown in Arizona, cotton and citrus come to mind. But what many people do not know is that there is a highly regarded wheat industry in the state—one that has become extremely attractive to pasta makers in the United States, Europe and even parts of Africa.
Wheat is the third-most-grown crop in the United States, after corn and soybeans. In fact, about 55 million acres are seeded annually. That’s about the size of the entire state of Oregon. To most people, flour is flour and is made from some generic plant called “wheat.” However, not all wheat is created equal. There are in fact many different kinds of wheat grain that are milled into flour. What kind of grain is used depends on the final use of the flour.
Six major market classes of wheat are grown in the United States. Hard red spring is great for crusty hearth bread while hard red winter is excellent for yeast breads. Soft red winter is used for cakes and pastries, soft white spring for flatbreads and a relative newcomer, hard white winter is best for Asian noodles and wheat breads.
The sixth class, durum, is the hardest wheat, making it ideal for milling into semolina to make those delicious pasta shapes that we all love. Durum wheat has long been grown in the United States in North Dakota, Montana and surrounding states. However, in the low deserts and river valleys of Southern Arizona and Southern California, a relatively new version of this crop is grown, called Desert Durum®.
The term “Desert Durum” has been trademarked by the California Wheat Commission and the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council (AGRPC), which is affiliated with the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Allan Simons, executive director of the AGRPC, indicates that in order to be classified as Desert Durum, the grain must have been grown under irrigation in the low desert areas of Arizona and Southern California.
In farms near Phoenix, Casa Grande and Tucson, decisions to plant the crop are often based on supply and demand: If the demand is high and the price is high, farmers grow it. In Yuma County, an area that consistently grows produce, wheat is also seen as a rotational crop. Desert Durum is usually planted November through February and harvested in May through early July, up to three months ahead of the spring durum crops harvested in other areas of the country.
Most Desert Durum is brought to market by grain-handling firms, such as Arizona Grain Inc. in Casa Grande, and Barkley Seed Inc. and Dunn Grain Inc. in Yuma. The grain handlers take orders from their customers, predominantly domestic and international millers and pasta makers, in the fall. They then contract with farmers to grow the grain to fill the orders. The grain is stored and delivered throughout the year in accordance with the customers’ needs.
Up to half of the annual Desert Durum crop is exported. Italian customers are the largest importers, but a Nigerian mill has also been a big user. Some of the remaining crop stays in Arizona, where Massachusetts-based Bay State Milling mills the grain in their Tolleson plant and transfers the flour across the street to American Italian Pasta Company, a division of ConAgra, which sells its pasta in grocery stores under several brand names, such as Heartland (Walmart), Golden Grain (Winco) and Anthony’s (El Super). Significant volumes of Desert Durum grain are also shipped to other domestic mills.
Desert Durum’s Trademarked Identity
What makes Desert Durum so unique and highly regarded that it is deserving of a trademarked identity?
The quality of durum wheat is partially determined by the strength of its gluten protein content, as well as the shape, color and consistency of the grains. Desert Durum possesses traits that are highly valued by mill operators, pasta makers and all of us who enjoy a good spaghetti dinner. These traits result from a combination of an ideal climate for growing durum wheat and skilled plant breeders who continually develop and release new varieties of Desert Durum wheat.
Steve Sossaman, owner of Sossaman Farms in Queen Creek, states that “Arizona’s Desert Durum is the highest-quality durum wheat in the world and the reason for that is the growing conditions here in the desert.”
Our dry climate, cool winter nights and warm, sunny days, combined with precise fertilization and irrigation practices, are ideal. Rainfall during the harvest period can cause the wheat to sprout and/or lose color; but that is not usually a problem in Arizona, as the wheat is harvested in May and June, when rainfall is rare. The desert environment produces a very large seed with very low moisture content. In fact, at the time of harvest, the moisture content of Desert Durum is about 7%, barely half that of the durum wheat grown in the northern U.S. and Canada.
Desert Durum has excellent and consistent grain characteristics that millers appreciate. The low moisture content yields more millable wheat per ton purchased. And the uniformly large kernels result in high semolina extraction rates, which means more of the grain is ground into semolina, allowing the milling operation to reach higher yields.
Italian pasta makers love Desert Durum’s bright yellow semolina color, high protein content and especially its strong gluten. Pasta quality is determined by its cooking characteristics. It has to be able to withstand long cook times and, after cooking, the pasta should not be mushy or rubbery, but rather it should retain a firm texture (al dente). The amount of solid material lost in the cooking water, known as cooking loss, should be low. It should retain its shape and not stick together after cooking. Semolina with higher protein and stronger gluten protein produces pasta with better cooking properties.
There are numerous varieties of Desert Durum that have been developed over the years by private plant breeders in Arizona. The varieties most widely grown in Arizona in 2015 were DuraKing, Havasu, Helios, Kronos Orita, Platinum, Tiburon, WB-Mead, WB-Mohave and Westmore HP.
Much of Arizona’s Desert Durum crop is “identity preserved.” This means that the farmers grow and harvest different varieties separately. The varieties’ identities are preserved during storage and shipment. This ensures a buyer who wants a specific variety that his Desert Durum will be pure and uncontaminated by other varieties.
In the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, players earn points by choosing whole grain foods instead of refined grain foods. But distinguishing one from the other can sometimes require an advanced degree in label reading! As one of my Upgraders recently posted in our private Facebook group:
“Labels on food can be confusing. Pasta labels are especially confusing – one says ‘durum wheat semolina’ and another says ‘enriched durum wheat semolina’. I know enriched means refined but if it doesn’t say enriched does that mean it’s whole grain?”
Let’s break down some of this terminology:
“Durum” is a strain of wheat that is used mostly for pasta, due to its higher protein content. (Think of “Durum” as its first name and “Wheat” as its family name.) But unless it says “whole grain” you can assume that it is refined, which means that the nutritious germ and fibrous bran have been removed.
The word “Semolina,” on the other hand, refers to the fact that the durum wheat is coarsely ground–again, in order to produce good pasta texture. The word “semolina” is sort of like the designation “Esquire” after a lawyers name; it’s not part of the lawyer’s identity like her first or last name but an indication of her preparation and function.)
The word “enriched” almost always signals a refined grain. Refined grains are often enriched in an effort to replace the nutrients that are lost to refining. You will virtually never see “enriched whole wheat,” because it would be unnecessary to replace nutrients that have not been removed. However, the absence of the word “enriched” doesn’t mean that it is not refined.
You can save yourself a lot of label reading by looking for the 100% whole grain stamp. When you see this (or the words “100% whole grain”) on the front of the package, you don’t even need to flip the package over to see the ingredient list….that’s the golden ticket right there.
There is a reason why we have a category all by itself on our website; the Durum Wheat quality is in a category all of its own. Arizona Grain has been a long standing player in the world wheat markets for years. Why is that? Simple, our grain is as good as the producers that grow it. Superb milling qualities, test weight, and color along with low moisture and high semolina yield provide wheat millers a quality product. High gluten strength and excellent protein levels needed to produce quality flour and keep wheat millers at home and abroad coming back for more.
Arizona’s warm, arid, climate provide a perfect environment for quality durum wheat production . The hot days and cool nights in the last 60 days of our growing period provide a wheat that is very dry, with a dark golden, vitreous color. Rain is highly unusual during our harvest period, therefore our durum has very high falling numbers due to lack of sprout damage in the wheat.
Our pride is in our genetics. The genetic purity program at Arizona Grain is a pure “start to finish” identity preseved program. It starts with a managed breeding program of our branded Valley Seed. The seed is then conditioned and manufactured right here in Casa Grande. Producers that choose to plant our seed grow our varieties separate and harvest them the same way. Harvested durum wheat is then stored and identity preserved at one of our grain elevator facilities and made ready for shipment. Our ability to sell a genetic variety of durum wheat and keep it pure and identity preserved “start to finish” is something few durum suppliers can accomplish.
Thank you to our growers for helping us be a premier supplier of durum wheat in a world market.
Desert Durum – Gem of the Southwest
Desert Durum – From Plant to Pasta
Important Fertilizer Reminder
Desert Durum Pesticides Alert (Updated 9-13-10)
- I wanted to say how impressed I am with the hard red spring wheat. I milled it today and used my usual bread recipe. The dough was nice and firm yet soft. The loaves rose beautifully, so much so that I could have made a whole extra loaf! Wendy Kever
- We like knowing the product is organic. When we grind the fresh grain, we appreciate the better quality and taste of the finished product. For example our fresh home-made waffles are full and tasty.
- I am using Fieldstone whole grains in my bread and I’m selling out at the Farmers Market. I have the Duett 100 and grind my own flour. I am having a hard time keeping up with the demand for ancient grain breads. This is the only thing that sets me apart at the market. I make Kamut, Triticale, and Rye breads. (Artisan bread in about 5 minutes)
- When I’m not home, my husband makes his own porridge. He has Muscular Dystrophy and he feels it sticks with him. We add pecans, cranberries, and dates. The nutty natural flavour is very fresh. It’s really important to educate our children where our food comes from.
- I’ve owned the Komo Duett 100 for about 2 years and actively use mixed grains for biscuits, breads and pastries. I like the taste of the fresh flours in the baking. The flaker works well for my fresh oats and flax. I keep it plugged in and handy as I use it a lot.
- I am on a specialized diet and your soup mix tastes great plain or in a chilli. It provides me the protein I need. I love it and am buying a 20 kg. bag.
- My husband and I are vegetarian and have always struggled to ensure we get complete and balanced protein in our diet. When we discovered quinoa at Fieldstone we learned it is a complete protein and have noticed a difference in our energy levels. We use it in everything! And we love that it’s grown in western Canada.
- My Dad eats the ultimate breakfast every morning and loves it. I was finding my breakfast left me hungry a few hours later. I am really active and so I was looking for something wholesome that would be satisfying. I started eating the breakfast flaked with hot water, yogurt and fruit and I was amazed at how good it tasted and how good it made me feel. I recommend it to all my friends and can’t wait to eat it every morning!
- I developed a wheat sensitivity a few years ago and recently a friend introduced me to Emmer. My wife and I love it and have made it a regular part of our meals. We find it very versatile and easy to digest. It makes a great side dish and emmer flour makes a nice nutty tasting bread.
Syngenta acquires leading Italian durum wheat seed company
Basel, Switzerland, April 7, 2014
- Access to expertise, facilities and prime varieties grown on 330,000 hectares
- Expansion of established PSB brand supported by Syngenta’s global presence
- Accelerated innovation in durum wheat breeding and production for pasta
Syngenta announced today that it has acquired Società Produttori Sementi (PSB), one of Italy’s oldest seed companies and a leader in durum wheat breeding and production for pasta.
PSB was established in the province of Bologna in 1911, and its durum wheat varieties are grown on more than 330,000 hectares. In addition to its headquarters and a 430-hectare farm, PSB has breeding programs in other crops such as common wheat and alfalfa.
Syngenta will preserve the century-old PSB brand and know-how, which will continue to be synonymous with top-quality Italian durum wheat production. This will enable growers in Italy and in other countries to meet increasing demand for pasta – a global market valued at $16 billion.
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer, John Atkin, said: “PSB combines the quality, tradition and innovation which are the hallmarks of the ‘Made in Italy’ brand. Its unrivalled durum wheat breeding expertise and its links to the food industry will be complemented by Syngenta’s leading-edge cereals R&D and global presence. Together we will accelerate innovation in high-quality durum wheat production, helping more growers prosper in the competitive Italian market as well as supporting international expansion.”
The two companies also share a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture demonstrated by PSB’s “From Seed to Pasta” initiative, which complements Syngenta’s recently launched The Good Growth Plan.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Syngenta is one of the world’s leading companies with more than 28,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us please go to www.syngenta.com
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