The differences between durum wheat and soft wheat: cultivation, use in the kitchen and properties
Similar in structure but profoundly different in shape, nutritional values, uses in cooking and cultivation: how many of you really know the differences between soft wheat and durum wheat? From the first we get the white flour, from the second the semolina: yet the differences do not end there, let’s see why.
Structurally similar but very different in appearance and nutritional characteristics, soft wheat and durum wheat are two types of wheat, deriving from two different plants , from which more or less whole flours and semolina are produced. We often distractedly read the wheat with which they are prepared on the labels of bread and pasta: yet really knowing the ingredients and knowing how to recognize them is the first step towards a healthy diet in line with our tastes. Soft wheat and durum wheat, for example, are very different products: let’s get to know them better.
They come from two different species of wheat, the soft one from the Triticum aestium plant and the hard one from the Triticum durum: this alone would be enough not to confuse them, yet the differences between soft wheat and durum wheat certainly do not end here. Let’s see them in detail.
1. Appearance and cultivation
Let’s start with the ears: that of durum wheat have long and filamentary strands and filaments, while those of soft wheat stand out because they are very small or even absent. The beans? Durum wheat is really “harder”, it has an elongated shape and an almost shiny surface; the soft wheat grain is “softer”, easier to break, rounded and slightly opaque.
As for crops, soft wheat prefers warmer climates and more sunny soils and for this reason, it is grown mainly in the southern regions. The durum wheat instead prefers more humid climates and soils, the major productions in fact take place in the North and in the Po Valley.
2. Uses in the kitchen
It goes without saying that different flours derive from two different types of wheat: semolina is obtained from the grinding of durum wheat, characterized by large amber- coloured granules due to the high presence of carotenoids and antioxidants. On the basis of the level of refining, we then distinguish semolina, granulated and wholemeal semolina while it is inaccurate to speak of “durum wheat flour”. Durum wheat has high tenacity, weak extensibility and requires a lot of water to be processed: for these reasons the semolina is mainly used for the preparation of dry pasta and in bread making.
From soft wheat, we obtain different types of flour, in particular flour 00, 01,1,2 and wholemeal flour. The classic “white flour” of soft wheat is presented in small granules, with good extensibility and a lower tenacity than that of durum wheat, characteristics that make it perfect for preparing leavened products (sweet or savoury), fresh pasta or pasta all ‘ egg.
3. Nutritional characteristics
The durum wheat and hence the bran, that results has a lower glycemic index, is particularly protein and contains a large amount of gluten: for these reasons, the products made from durum wheat are recommended for those who need to take a few sugars (for example, those suffering from diabetes) or to those who follow vegan and vegetarian diets, while they are absolutely not recommended for those suffering from gluten intolerances or celiac disease. Small curiosity: thanks to the nutritional properties of durum wheat, bread, pasta and desserts based on semolina are preserved better and for longer than those based on soft wheat flour.
Soft wheat flours contain a greater quantity of sugars, in particular 00 flour which is the most refined of all, and for this reason, they have a higher glycemic index. Mineral salts and fibres chapter: to take larger quantities it is advisable to prefer less refined flour versions, in particular wholemeal flour which is the least processed.