Processing Oats

I've always thought of oats, or any grains for that matter, to be one of the least processed food stuffs. Some form of grain is at the base of most diets around the world. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found that getting oats from the stalk to my belly to be such an ordeal.

Step 1: Harvesting - I first attempted pulling up the whole stalk (or cutting it off low to the ground). To separate the grains from the stalk, I tried whacking the stalks around in a big bucket. A few grains were freed, but the majority stayed on. I ended up having to run my fingers down each stalk to free the grains, much like you get the thyme leaves from the stem. For my second field, I bypassed pulling up the whole stalk and instead just did the seed pinch thing with the stalks still in the ground.

Step 2: Separating Seed from Hull - (I know I am using the incorrect terms all over the place here, but hopefully you will still get the point) So when an oat comes off the stalk, it has a papery hull on it. You're not supposed to eat this part. To separate it, I first tried rubbing between my hands (as if you were warming your hands). This worked pretty well, but many seeds still had their hulls, apparently because they were dried out well enough. To remedy this, I put them in the oven for 20 minutes on low heat. This dried them out sufficiently to be able to disengage the seed from the hull, again via the hand warming method.

Step 3: Filtering Chaff from Seed - Now that the seeds and hull were not connected, I needed to actually separate them. This is possibly the most ingenious part of the process to me. Since the seeds are a good deal heavier than the papery hulls, a good cross-wind will aid in the separating. I used a fan to keep a constant airflow.

After all this processing, I ended up with maybe 2 quarts of oat seed. Thinking about how much effort went into preparing the soil, obtaining and planting the seed, harvesting, and processing, I have a much better appreciation of all grains. I realize, of course, that using a machine to do all the work makes it significantly easier (and arguably more efficient). That said, however, there was a time that combines didn't exist and people did it by hand. In those days, the work equal to a bowl of oatmeal was nothing to sneeze at.

Future Step 4: Maybe Another Separating Step? - So now I've got a bunch of seeds. I thought I was done. The seed that is remaining, however, is still in 2 parts, one kind of enveloping the other. I might need to separate those from each other, but I don't know.

Future Step 5: Making the Seeds Usable - Most of us are used to oats as rolled oats or steel cut oats for oatmeal. It turns out that rolling oats is really hard (needs a big old machine) and I have no idea what steel cutting is, except maybe just cutting somewhat regularly. I'm thinking that the most accessible way to prepare my oats for my belly is to grind it into oat flour. From there, I'm sure there is something I can come up with.
Wednesday October 21 2009File under: food

Toggle Comments (3)comment?
on Wed 21st Oct, 2009 06:34 pm PDT Mom said:
After all your combining and threshing you could find a flock of chickens to feed the oats to and get your oats second hand from them!
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on Thu 22nd Oct, 2009 08:51 am PDT Deneva said:
Ha! Lara's got chickens ;)
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on Sat 24th Oct, 2009 09:42 pm PDT Jule said:
It sounds like sowing your oats was more fun
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