Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

A grass of the genus Triticum, wheat is the second oldest (after barley) of cultivated cereals. It is now the most widely cultivated, exceeding rice in the quantity grown; but, since some types of wheat are used as animal fodder, it remains true that more people rely on rice than on wheat as their staple food.

Numerous wild grasses of the genus Triticum grow, or once grew, over a wide area of W. Asia. The story of how certain of them evolved first by natural processes and later by informed selection and breeding into the wheats now available is a complex one; see items under ‘Reading’ at the end of this article.