Oats are one of those storage foods people LOVE to ignore. I can’t even get my own husband to eat them. Since we both came from rural areas and grew up with the same self-reliant and frugal values, I couldn’t understand this. I love oats! Why would anyone not like oats? Soon I learned it wasn’t just him, but mostly everyone else I ran into. I am convinced that most people who don’t like oats are running into one of two main problems. They never had them prepared correctly to begin with; and/or they just don’t know what to do with them other than make oatmeal. I am going to solve these problems with you today. Oats are an extremely valuable item to put in your food stores and an incredibly healthy addition to your diet and here’s why:
1. Oats Store Exceedingly Well: Oats, especially in their slightly modified form of groats, and steel-cut oats – will last a LONG, LONG time and still deliver life-sustaining nutrition. How long? Studies performed at BYU have shown oats to still deliver “life-sustaining nutrition” for over 30 years if stored correctly. Click here to see an article on Dry Canning – which would be the only way to safely store them long-term.Even the more processed form of Rolled Oats or Traditional Oats will store 20+ years if stored correctly, Provident Living’s website claims 30 years. However, processing oats shortens their storage life, so the more processed they are, the shorter their shelf life.
Ready to soak overnight – photo by Stephanie Dayle 2013
2. Oats Can be Easily Prepared Without Power: A supply of rolled oats can be prepared in many different ways. The most common and easy way, is to boil them. This can be accomplished easily by setting your oats in water and a hint of lemon juice or vinegar overnight to soak (This makes them easier to digest and they will cook up so much nicer for you), the next morning your pre-soaked old-fashioned oats will cook up as easily as quick oats, this also saves on fuel for cooking. For the slow cooking of steel-cut oats or even rolled oats you can use a Dutch Oven with an ample supply of water. Place in a bed of coals, use charcoal briquettes, or use a kitchen oven on top of your wood stove. The sealing lid of the Dutch Oven locks in moisture and prevents the oatmeal from drying out. Or like in Scottish Haggis, it can be stuffed inside of various meats and used as a binder or stuffing. They can also be enjoyed as a drink that has been around for ages and the nice thing about the drink is that you still get many of the health benefits from the oats. You can also use oats to make your own granola as a snack or travel food (again you can do this with your Dutch Oven if need be click here to see an article on Choosing and Seasoning a Dutch Oven). Lastly, oats in the form of whole oats (with the hulls intact) can be sprouted in a matter of 3 days or so and eaten as lovely nutrient rich sprouts.
Sweet Cinnamon Oak Drink • 1 C Old Fashioned Rolled Oats • 1 (4-inch) Cinnamon Stick, Broken into Chunks • 4 C Water • Sugar or Honey to taste In a large pitcher, soak the oats, cinnamon and water for a minimum of one hour, preferably three. Blend the mixture (remove the cinnamon stick) in a blender. Strain and sweeten to taste. Serve well-chilled or over ice.
Oatmeal Photo by Stephanie Dayle 2013
Slow Cooker Oat Meal from Food Network’s Good Eats • 1 cup steel-cut oats • 1 cup dried cranberries • 1 cup dried figs (or fruit of your choice) • 4 cups water • 1/2 cup half-and-half In a slow cooker (or Dutch Oven), combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours (mine looked pretty good after 4 hours but I would not have hesitated to cook them longer) stir them to check for burning or drying and add more water if needed. If you are using a slow cooker (electric crock pot) method it works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.
3. Oats are Higher in Protein Than Wheat or Rice: Oat protein is 16.9 g to that of even Brown Rice at 7.94 g. Oat protein is almost equal to soy protein, which research has shown is equal to meat, milk, and egg protein (a bonus for those of us who don’t like soy). The protein content of the different forms of oats ranges from 12 to 24%, the highest among cereals making oats an excellent choice to store as a survival food for times when other sources of protein are scarce.
4. Oats Make You Feel Fuller Longer: Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain, resulting in slower digestion and an extended sensation of fullness. Staying fuller longer could come in handy when food is scarce.
5. Oats Will Help Control Blood Sugar and Cholesterol: Oats contain complex carbohydrates which help stabilize blood sugar and the before mentioned soluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose. The soluble fiber in oats has also been proven to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by essentially taking it out with trash as it moves through and out of your system so to speak. Oats could be one of your only tools in treating someone with high cholesterol in a prolonged emergency when they do not have access to their statin drugs and oats could be one of many dietary tools for helping to manage blood sugar levels (assuming you don’t smother the oats in sugar).
6. Oats Can be Used as a Meat Expander: During the depression, many families added oats to their meat when grinding and cooking it to make it go further and to keep everyone fuller a little longer. A favorite place to add oats was and still is to meat loaves as oats tend to take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked with.
7. Oats Can be Grown Where Wheat Cannot: Oats are grown in temperate regions. They have a lower summer heat requirement and greater tolerance of rain than other cereals such as wheat, rye or barley. They could be grown in areas with cool, wet summers, such as the Northwest. As an example to their hardiness, they are being grown successfully in Iceland. Oats also do not require weeding as they usually choke out most weeds. Whole oats can be planted as seeds.
8. Oats Can be Ground Into Flour: Groats are a good choice for flour making, but you can also use old-fashioned rolled oats. Rolled oats can be turned into oat flour with a strong food processor while groats will require a grain mill. Oat flour adds the health benefit of oats to any baked good. Oat flour, if coming from a wheat-free facility, can also help fill the holes in a gluten-free diet. If wheat becomes more scarce, oat flour may become its substitute.
9. Oats are Inexpensive and Versatile: Beside all the uses you’ve read about so far, left over oatmeal can be made into a simple homemade oat bread. Click here to view the recipe.Not only does this save money, but it adds nutrition and depth of flavor to your bread. Oats are relatively inexpensive due to their use as livestock feed and their unpopularity as people food. When compared to other high protein grains, oats are rather inexpensive making it an important choice for food storage. Now is a good time to stock up on oats.
10. Oats Can Double as an Animal Feed: Complex carbohydrates, in oats, have been providing energy to livestock for a very long time. Horses were the reason humans started cultivating oats. They can be fed to horses, cows, dogs (in the form of oatmeal), chickens, goats, sheep and almost every other farm animal.
5 main types of oats and why it matters!
Whole Oats - These oats are usually straight from the field and still have a hull. You usually can only get these from a feed or farm supply store. Unless you have the means to remove the hull I would not recommend getting them unless you want them as animal feed or as seed – if you do buy them and want to use them as food, make sure they have not been treated with any kind of chemicals or poison.
Groats - These are oats with the hull removed, but are still difficult to come by. they can be found in co-ops and health food stores. They take a very long time to cook up, and remain hard and unpleasant to eat – BUT they are excellent if you want to grind them into flour with your home grain mill. You could also run them through your steel burrs if you have them on your grain mill, on a course grind and make your own version of steel-cut oats, which makes a very nice porridge. These are fairly difficult to grind without practice however, so another option would be if you have a roller mill or roller mill attachment for your meat grinder or KitchenAid, you can make your own old-fashioned rolled oats from groats.
Steel Cut Oats or Irish Oats public domain photo
Steel Cut Oats - These are oats that have been cut by steel blades into small pieces. They cook up finer and quicker than groats to make a nice porridge, and many people say that flavor from steel-cut oats is better than the old-fashioned rolled oat porridge we know as “oatmeal.” They are also known as Irish Oats or Pinhead Oats. Cooking time on Steel cut oats is 35-60 minutes if not longer.
Rolled Oats or Old Fashioned Oats - Are a processed version of groats. They are groats that have been steamed and rolled flat to speed up cooking time to around 10-15 minutes in boiling water.
Quick Oats - Once again these are groats that have been steamed, but they have been rolled even thinner to decrease cooking time even more to 3-5 minutes in boiling water. Once oats are processed to this extreme they start losing some of their nutritional value as the processing methods begin to damage the soluble fiber within the oats.
Rolled Oats public domain photo
Instant Oats- these are oats, usually quick oats, that have been pre-cooked and then dehydrated. You only need to add hot water to these oats for a finished product. They do not store well at all and are the least nutritious of all the different forms of oats, but they still have a well deserved spot in your Bug Out Bag, or your 72 hour kit. Flavored Quaker Instant Oatmeal is this type of oats.