Soft Durum Wheat Opens Door To Expand Food Uses
by Jan Suszkiw, AgResearch Magazine
Posted: 2017-10-02 15:36:20 EST

Italian pasta is cooked to perfection when it is “al dente” (firm to the tooth). A coarse meal called “semolina” is used to make pasta, and the primary source of it is the hard, amber-colored kernels of durum wheat. 

Producing semolina requires specialized mills, which limits durum wheat’s food uses to pasta, couscous, and a few other products. Certain Mediterranean breads are also made from it. But by and large, durum wheat accounts for only 8 to 10 percent of all wheat types produced globally, notes Craig Morris, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist.

Morris, though, has a soft spot for durum, which, despite its rock-hard kernels, is better adapted to hot, arid growing regions than the more commonly grown bread wheat varieties. Over the past 20 years, he and colleagues have delved deep into the genetics of wheat kernel development for clues that could broaden the range of products made from durum wheat, which comprises 3 to 5 percent of America’s total wheat crop.

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