Grains were used whole, cracked, and milled into flour.
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare) has been a common grain since biblical (Old Testament) times.
- Barley remained an important bread grain in Europe until the 1500’s when pure wheat breads began to take over.
- Barley stalks were dried into straw which was used to:
- Thatch houses,
- Make straw mats, shoes, and baskets, and
- Provide bedding for animals.
- The term "corn", as used in medieval cookbooks, simply means grain, typically the most common grain raised in the area. It does not mean the plant currently known as corn which is a New World plant.
- Thus, the "corn" in one area might be wheat while the "corn" in another area might be barley.
- Wild oats originated somewhere around northern Germany.
- By 1000 BC people were sowing oats in Germany, Denmark and Switzerland.
- By the 4th century AD a Germanic people called Vandals had introduced oats throughout the rest of Europe.
- Likely native to Asia or Africa, millet is so old we may never trace its beginnings with certainty.
- Millet traveled to India and into Europe and by the Middle Ages was probably feeding more people than did wheat.
- The crop is thought to have been introduced to Greece and neighboring areas of the Mediterranean
by the returning members of Alexander the Great's expedition to India (344-324 BC).
- From a center in Greece and Sicily, rice spread gradually throughout the southern portions of Europe and to a few locations in North Africa.
- Like oats, rye was a weed annoying early growers of wheat and barley.
Medieval European farmers allowed rye to grow stem to stem with wheat and harvesting both together.
The combo crop, which was, named “maslin ”. Workers milled the pair into a single flour.
- From the 1300’s to the 1600’s, maslin was the most common flour in Europe.
- Spelt is an ancient and distant cousin to modern wheat.
- It is one of the oldest of cultivated grains and was commonly grown and eaten during the Middle Ages.
- Wheat was originally a wild grass.
- Evidence exists that it first grew in Mesopotamia and in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys in the Middle East nearly 10,000 years ago.
- As early as 6,700 BC Swiss lake dwellers used wheat in flat cakes.
Fats and Oils