The oat, commonly known as common oat and usually in the plural oats, is used in making oatmeal, rolled oats, and oat flour. Those who are familiar with oatmeal will remember the white porridge in a bowl, plain or sometimes topped with fruits. We remember our parents and television commercials reminding us oats are good for us. When we were younger, we may be apprehensive to eat oatmeal since it is not a very popular food among kids, but as we grow older and become wiser, we begin to appreciate oatmeal for what it is: easy to make, easy to eat, inexpensive, versatile, and nourishing.
Species: A. sativa
Binomial name: Avena sativa
- Oats are a common and popular human food, but oats are also a common livestock feed. Cattles and horses also benefit from oat straws which are used in making soft, dust-free, and absorbent bedding.
- Oat straws are used to soften bathwater.
- Besides its role as food for both man and animal, oat also has other uses. When you plant it during the offseason, it serves as ground cover, and come spring, plow it under. This way, it serves as a natural fertilizer.
- Oat extract is good for the skin. They are used in cosmetics primarily for their emollient properties.
Oat Buying Guide
Oats are sold in groceries, supermarkets, farmers markets, and farm stands. Oats are available all year long. When buying oats, check the expiration date indicated on the packaging. Here’s a quick guide on what you’ll probably see in the grocery. Oat groats are oat kernels without the inedible husk. Oat flour is ground oat groats. Steel-cut oats means the groats have been cut into smaller pieces. This makes cooking the oats faster. Even faster to cook are the old-fashioned rolled oats. If you are not very familiar with oats, buy old-fashioned rolled oats which you can eat as a porridge in as little as 5 minutes of cooking. You can also use this to make overnight oats. You can also find products labeled as quick-cooking oats or instant oats, and as the name suggests, these cook fast because the oats have been cut, cooked, dried, steamed, and flattened. If the package reads organic oats, it means there are little to zero pesticides/inorganic chemical fertilizers used in growing and harvesting the oats.
Oat Production & Farming in Texas
Oats are an annual plant. For a late summer harvest, you can start planting oats in autumn. Spring planting allows you an autumn harvest. Requiring low summer heat is one of the things to remember when growing oats. Compared to other cereals (wheat, rye, barley), oats perform better when it comes to rain tolerance.
In cold areas, sow oats in spring or early summer. The summer heat can turn oats dormant. If you live in a warm area, the best time to sow oats is late summer or early fall. Do not worry about frost or snow because oats are cold-tolerant. Oats are very versatile. They can grow in sandy loam soils or even heavy clay soils. Just make sure there is good drainage. Oats do well even if the pH of the soil is more on the acidic side. However, avoid using saline soils for oats.
Oats are ubiquitous in Texas. In 2018, a total of 470,000 farming land in Texas were allocated for oats, mostly for forage and grazing (50,000 acres of oats are harvested for grain). The places in Texas that best grow oats are Central Texas and South Texas. The least ideal places in Texas to plant oats are in the High Plains region of Texas and the northern part of the Rolling Plains because the temperature there can be very cold, too cold for oats to survive.
A news report in 2018 revealed that many oat food products like cereals, oatmeal, and granola contain dangerous levels of glyphosate, a chemical usually found in herbicides typically used in oats. According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, glyphosate is potentially carcinogenic to humans. It means glyphosate can cause cancer. In the US, more than 750 herbicide products sold in the market contain glyphosate. Glyphosate is used to kill grasses and broadleaf plants that pose a threat to the plants in the field, like oats.
Oats are grown in temperate regions. Oats are a great crop to plant in Northwest Europe. As of 2019, the top 10 producers of oats are the following: Russia, Canada, Poland, Finland, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain, United States, and Sweden. There was an 11% increase in the global production of oats from 2017 to 2018. The overall global production in 2018 is 23 million tonnes.
Oats are sold in sealed plastic packaging. The packaging contains important information like nutrition information, quantity, name of the manufacturer, instruction for cooking and storage, expiration date, and other important information.
There are many ways to eat oats. A common way to eat oats (and perhaps, the easiest) is eating it as porridge. Many baked goods are made with oats, like oatcakes. Oats are also used in making bread and cookies. And when we eat muesli or granola, we eat oats. Some companies make a milk substitute made from oats (oat milk).
Oats in drinks – Oats are used in making beer (e.g. oatmeal stout, oat stout). Another drink made with oats is the Scottish drink Atholl Brose – oats steeped in whisky and then mixed with honey and/or cream. Ground oats and milk combined make Avena, a popular Latin American drink. Oatmeal, ale, and spices make oatmeal caudle, a traditional British drink. English general and statesman Oliver Cromwell is among those who enjoy drinking oatmeal caudle.
Before eating oats, consider this – oats contain avenins which can trigger celiac disease. If you do not eat gluten, avoid eating oats because oats are often contaminated with grains containing gluten like wheat and barley.
Storing oatmeal at home (or even in the office or workplace pantry) is very easy. Dry oatmeal still unopened just needs to be stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. It is ideal that you store it inside a cabinet or anything that can keep ants, rats, or any other insect or animal away. Once the package has been opened, what’s left should be stored in a resealable plastic bag or a container with a lid.
Oatmeal you eat as porridge comes in two variants. One is easy to cook oats which will require oats in a bowl and boiling water, while another variant requires cooking on a pot or pan. While oatmeal, by itself, looks plain, there are actually a lot of different ways to make oatmeals in different flavors. You can add fruits or berries. You can also add chocolate or chocolate powder for choco-flavored oatmeal. Milk and coconut shavings also give oatmeals a different flavor. You can even make savory porridge by cooking oats in broth and adding savory ingredients, spices, and cooked meat. Also, One culinary practice regarding oats is using them to thicken soups.
Another way to cook oats is by using this as an ingredient for baked goods. Oatmeal cookies are very popular. A lot of people also like oatmeal bread and oatmeal cakes. Oats are also used in making energy bars.
Oats are packed with essential nutrients. Oats contain carbohydrates, protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, and vitamin B6. Oats also have calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Oats are considered a healthy food because eating oats helps you lower your cholesterol levels. A diet that includes oat bran can help in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Even oat grass is ingested because it has medicinal and healing purposes. This is used by those experiencing problems with their menstrual cycle (like dysmenorrhea).