PRODUCTION OF CEREALS
ORIGIN OF CEREALS.
Cereals, which is the term applied to the edible seeds of certain grains, originated with the civilization of man. When man lived in a savage state, he wandered about from place to place and depended for his food on hunting and fishing; but as he ceased his roaming and began to settle in regions that he found attractive, it was not long before he became aware of the possibilities of the ground about him and realized the advantage of tilling the soil as a means of procuring food.
Indeed, the cultivation of the soil for the production of food may be considered as one of the first steps in his civilization. Among the foods he cultivated were grains, and from the earliest times to the present day they have been the main crop and have formed the chief food of people wherever it is possible to produce them.
The grains belong to the family of grasses, and through cultivation their seeds, which store the nourishment for the growth of new plants, have been made to store a sufficient amount of nourishment to permit man to collect and use it as food. The name cereals was derived from the goddess Ceres, whom the Romans believed to be the protector of their crops and harvests.
Numerous grains are produced, but only eight of these cereals are used extensively as food, namely, wheat, corn, oats, rice, barley, rye, buckwheat, and millet.
ABUNDANCE OF PRODUCTION.
With the exception of the desert lands and the Arctic regions, cereals of some kind are grown over the entire world. Some varieties thrive in the hot countries, others flourish in the temperate regions, and still others mature and ripen in the short warm season of the colder northern climates.
In fact, there is practically no kind of soil that will not produce a crop of some variety of grain. Since grains are so easily grown and are so plentiful, cereals and foods made from them furnish a large part of the world's food supply. Indeed, about one-fourth of all the food eaten by the inhabitants of the world, when it is considered as a whole, is made up of cereals.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF CEREALS.
The abundance of the world's grain supply makes the cost so moderate that many of the poorer classes of people in various countries, especially those in the Far East, live almost entirely on cereals. Still there is another factor that controls the low cost of cereals and grains and keeps them within the means of all classes of people, and that is their excellent keeping quality.
They require very little care and will keep for an indefinite period of time. Because of their unperishable nature, they may be stored in large quantities and distributed to consumers as they are needed and at a price that is fairly uniform.
Since the cost of cereals is moderate, they should form a large proportion of the diet of the entire family, especially if the family's income will allow only a limited sum to be spent for food. Some cereals, of course, are much cheaper than others, and in purchasing this kind of food the housewife should be governed accordingly.
Those which require an elaborate manufacturing process in their preparation for the market are the most expensive, but they have an advantage in that they require practically no preparation before serving. For the varieties that must be cooked, the cost of preparing the dish, especially if the price of fuel is high, must be taken into consideration, for unless some thought is given to the economical use of the fuel, as well as to the method of cooking employed, the cost of the prepared dish may be greatly increased.
However, in the preparation of cereals, very little skill or energy is required and a general knowledge of the best methods for one of them can, as a rule, be applied to all.