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A number of methods can be used to dry wheat, depending on the size of the operation, the nature of the harvest, and the intended purpose for the food. Wheat grain that has been harvested prematurely often undergoes a quick drying period to bring its moisture content down to the desired 14 percent needed for long-term storage. Some are not interested in dried wheat as food though, preferring instead to dry stalks of wheat quickly with a natural or artificial medium for use in a long-lasting floral arrangement or wreath. Several vendors market their wheat arrangements online as iconic symbols for bounty and autumn.
Two basic methods are used for storing dried wheat in an agricultural setting. A fan-drying method brings grain that is only slightly north of the proper moisture to optimum levels, by a fan pumped into the bottom of the bin to ventilate and speed the drying process. Grain that is harvested at 19 percent moisture or higher, however, often will undergo a fan-drying method that uses heat. The former method reportedly produces the best tasting grain, while the latter produces the most consistent in texture.
When dried wheat is not needed for food products but instead its aesthetic potential, other methods for drying are used all together. The stalks will be chopped off at the stem, leaving the head's kernels and beard intact as well as most of the stalk. These stalks are tied in bundles of 2 lbs. (nearly 1 kg) or more and suspended upside-down from a hook until air-dried. Often, when marketed to the florist, the process of making dried wheat is accelerated with various desiccants like borax, cornstarch, sawdust or sand.
The species of dried wheat used for ornamental purposes could be any number of regional types. Common are varieties in tan, brown, green and nearly black, with bearded or beardless heads. Several specialty species also are available like seashore and vertical wheat. Though often left natural, some may treat the wheat and other elements of a dried floral arrangement with shellac to keep the heads intact for a longer period.
Some florists paint the golden stalks in several colors for a rainbow effect or to color coordinate with other elements of an arrangement. Often, the dried wheat is the star of the arrangement, with other flowers used at the knot of a bow holding the stalks together. Other times an arrangement will have dried flowers, branches and grasses too.