- groats (whole kernel, with only the husk removed)
- rolled oats (instant, large flake or jumbo)
- steel-cut oats
- oat flour
Rolled oats have been steamed (fully cooked) then pressed through heavy double rollers to be flattened into flakes. Smaller and thinner flakes are easily re-hydrated whereas larger flakes take more time for the liquid to be absorbed. Jumbo flakes are flattened whole grains
Oats grow well in cold and wet climates. They are cultivated in fields across central Canada in particular. Oat plants grow to between 1-1.5m tall and take 90-115 days to reach the point of harvest.
Larousse Gastronomique p 803
Oats are whole grain, meaning that they are composed of the entire seed of grass and have not been refined, polished or processed to remove the bran. The husk is inedible. The majority of the nutritional value is maintained. Oats and other whole grains are an important part of a well-balanced diet. They are a complete carbohydrate which delivers energy which can be sustained for longer than refined wheat, for example. They can help reduce cholesterol as well.
The common Canadian-grown species of oats were brought over from European settlers. Oats were a staple food in Whales, Scotland, and parts of France, Germany and Scandinavia so oats became a regular part of the diet here as well.
Oats are mainly used for breakfast preparations but not exclusively! They can definitely be enjoyed outside of breakfast dishes and baked goods. Their flavour is hearty and feels nourishing. They have a somewhat nutty flavour and be used in sweet or savoury recipes. They can be simply cooked and eaten on their own or can be incorporated into all sorts of products:
- oatmeal (using groats, steel-cut oats, or rolled oats/flakes)
- scones, muffins, biscuits
- crusts for meats, fish, and casseroles
- cakes and pies
- incorporated into mixtures for fillings
- partially replace wheat flour
Oat flour can replace wheat flour in-part in recipes to add more nutritional value or to add interesting flavour.
Oatmeal, a type of porridge, is a humble dish that many people reply on each morning to start the day. It can be simply made with just oatmeal simmered in water or can be dressed in things like nuts, dried or fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup, cream, flax seed and many other things to add flavour and texture.
Whole groats are quite chewy but pleasantly so, similar to unpolished barley or wheat berries. The size of the rolled oats affects the texture, cooking time, and amount of liquid involved in cooking or baking.
Oats are naturally gluten-free so they are suitable for Celiac diets however they are often processed in plants where wheat is also processed so producers cannot always guarantee that cross-contamination has not occurred so read labels for reassurances.