By Harold McGee
Wheat was one of the first food plants to be cultivated by humans, and was the most important cereal in the ancient Mediterranean civilizations. After a long hiatus from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, when hardier but less versatile cereals and potatoes were the principal staple foods, it regained its preeminence in much of Europe. Wheat was brought to America early in the 17th century and had reached the Great Plains by 1855. Compared to other temperate-zone cereals, wheat is a demanding crop. It’s susceptible to disease in warm, humid regions and does best in a cool climate, but it can’t be grown as far north as rye and oats.