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LANSING, MI --

Michigan wheat farmers have released a line-up of prize-winning recipes just in time for the New Year. The Michigan Wheat Program, the state’s wheat farmer-funded organization, recently held its first Great Michigan Wheat Recipe Contest and selected the top five chef-created recipes.

“Michigan wheat is used in many of the cake and baking mixes, cookies and crackers that we traditionally serve at the holidays,” said David Milligan, the Cass City-area farmer who chairs the nine-member wheat board.  “But Michigan-grown wheat is also an excellent ingredient in gourmet and heart-healthy dishes.”

“The Michigan Wheat Program recently challenged chefs attending the Michigan Restaurant Show to give us new recipes featuring Michigan wheat.  After judges sampled the best entries, they settled on five everyone should try!” Milligan concluded.

Top prize went to Farro Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette by personal chef Shane Lovell.  Two of the other top recipes include farro and wheat berries, which are whole-grain wheat products quickly gaining popularity on menus.  The last two winners are for traditional home-baked breads.

• Fall Harvest Wheat Berries, by Bob West of Bob’s Smoked Meats

• Honey Smoked Salmon Bulgur Wheat Salad, by Chef Keith Jones of the Honey Smoked Fish Company

• Harvest Wheat Bread, by Malasia Cole of Terrace Café

• Banana Berry Spice Bread, by Michael Pace of Liala’s Place

These recipes, along with a favorite recipe from last year Cider Braised Pork Loin and Wheat Berries, are available at miwheat.org/consumer-info/recipes/.

Michigan wheat’s tractor-to-table story

In Michigan, about 8,000 farmers in 50 counties grow wheat.  Most Michigan wheat farmers produce about 81 bushels of wheat per acre of land – well above the national average of 47 bushels per acre.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last year that Michigan wheat farmers broke yield records with the 2015 harvest.  Michigan wheat growers harvested a record 81 bushels of wheat per acre up from the longstanding record of 76!  Total wheat harvest for Michigan in 2015 was 38.5 million bushels – up 11 percent over 2014.

Michigan farmers grow mostly red or white winter wheat, which is so named because it’s planted and begins growing in the fall and remains dormant all winter.  The small wheat plants usually overwinter very well, and begin growing again in spring as soon as the soil thaws and warms, much like grass.

Wheat helps reduce erosion because it provides ground cover during the high-rain periods in fall and early spring.  It also enriches soil by capturing nitrogen and adding organic matter.

Harvest of Michigan wheat occurs in July.  Once harvested, wheat travels to a local grain elevator, a local miller who grinds it into flour, or it’s stored on-farm.  In the coming months the wheat is sold to processors, millers, distillers and brewers.  Almost all Michigan wheat is processed into food products that are consumed here in the state or the Great Lakes Region.

Some very well-known consumer brands produce cereal, crackers, cake and baking mixes, and other wheat products right here – sustaining lots of jobs.

Health benefits of wheat

People are increasingly looking to whole grains and locally-grown Michigan wheat products as part of a healthy diet.  The USDA’s MyPlate program recommends that half of a person’s daily grain intake be from whole grains.  Wheat and wheat berries can be an important source of whole grains.  For more information visit choosemyplate.gov/grains.

Grains are an important source of fiber, which creates a feeling of fullness, may reduce blood cholesterol and may lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Grains including wheat, also supply B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, which regulate metabolism.  They are also a good source of iron and magnesium.

Some of the newer recipes for Michigan wheat include wheat berries and farro, two whole-grain wheat components.  Wheat berries refers to whole-wheat kernels that are usually soaked before cooking, much like dry beans.  Farro is whole-kernel wheat with some of the bran removed (pearled), and is derived from specific types of wheat.  Farro is said to be relatively chewy with a lightly nutty taste.

Wheat berries and farro are usually located with specialty products in a supermarket near the rice, barley, couscous and other whole grains.

The Michigan Wheat Program is funded by nearly 8,000 farmers who grow wheat in 50 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The Michigan Wheat Program board seeks to promote the state’s wheat industry by funding and supporting the strategic priorities of wheat farmers working with input suppliers, seed producers, millers, end users and consumers.  Research on wheat production practices and grower education has been an early priority for the organization.

Information about Michigan’s wheat industry is found at www.miwheat.org, or by calling 888-WHEAT01 (888-943-2801).

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