Oats often known as the common oat or Avena sativa is one among the species of cereal. Currently it is used for human consumption, but for many hundreds of years it was used to feed livestock such cattle and horses. This increase in popularity of oats recipes stems directly from the fact that this humble cereal has been found to have several nutritional benefits. In spite of the proven nutritional value of oats dishes, people have difficulty eating them as many find it flavorless and gooey.
Origin of the Use of Oats
Oats have been used for several hundreds of years, but history suggests that man probably became aware of these bushes only when he noticed them growing next to primary cereal crops such as maize, wheat and barley. Thus this cereal started out as a weed and spread along with primary cereal crops. Crops of oat grow well in wet areas and have even been found to grow well in Iceland. Even in areas where there is excess rainfall this hardy cereal is found to do very well.
Historically people’s attitude towards oats dishes and oats recipes have varied, case in point is Scotland. Here for centuries people have included it in their diet, while their English neighbors shunned it and fed it to their horses.
Culinary Uses of Oats
Oats can be used in oats recipes to prepare small sweet treats such as oatmeal cookies. Where the oat has come into its own and started to assert its dominance is in breakfast food. Many healthy breakfast oats dishes can be made by using rolled oats, or oatmeal. The great versatility of this cereal is evident here as it can be combined with milk to create a simple porridge or it can be ground into flour and used in whole grain breads.
Another important breakfast cereal that owes it popularity to the oat is muesli. Consisting of uncooked rolled oats, and dried fruits and nuts, this breakfast cereal originated in Switzerland and is now widely available in supermarkets.
Popular Oats Recipes
Oats is used in several popular oats recipes. One such is oatmeal cookies, where it is used along with dried fruit such as cherries and raisins to create a wonderfully soft and chewy cookie. Oats dishes abound in almost every country and every housewife has a good recipe to cook it. In countries like India, where it was introduced more recently this cereal is often used to liven up rotis or whole grain bread.
Cakes made from rolled oats are just one of the many oats recipes that are popular. This recipe is made popular by the fact that it is dense and moist and is incredibly chewy, and hence a favorite with children and adults alike. Another regional oats recipe is oatcake, which is made by baking oatmeal and in some cases frying it. These types of oats dishes are especially popular in North Staffordshire in England where for a time they were sold as fast food.
Cuisines Using Oats Dishes
Oats spread along with man as he moved from warm areas of the world into cooler ones. Here even when crops of wheat or barley failed his oat crop survived and provided him with sustenance. Oats dishes therefore can be found in various western countries and are being increasingly adopted by those in the tropics as the good nutritional attributes of this cereal become well know.
Preferred Cooking Methods for Oats Dishes
Oats can be boiled, stewed, baked or fried and can even be cooked with meat. It can even be obtained in the quick cooking form and included in oats dishes. This type requires no cooking at all and can often be added to hot water and eaten. The quick cooking form of this cereal is often used as part of various oats recipes to thicken stews.
Nutritive Values of Oats
Oats and consequently oats recipes are popular because of the great nutritional qualities contained in oats. Oat bran for instance has a known cholesterol lowering effect and can even contribute to the reduction of heart disease. The grain has more soluble fiber than any other cereal and its protein is of high quality comparable to that available from soy. There have also been recent studies that have indicated that oats can be used as part of a gluten free diet and therefore help deal with celiac disease.
The popularity of oats dishes and oats recipes peaked during the 1980s when it was discovered that oats could be used to reduce LDL cholesterol. During this period oat bran was even added to potato chips to make it healthier.
FDA Recommendation Concerning Oats
The FDA in January 1998 allowed a health claim to be included on boxes containing oat derived products. This claim stated that, when over three grams of such soluble fiber are consumed every day in conjunction with a healthy diet, the risk of heart disease is decreased.
Non-Food Uses of Oats and Oats Benefits
Oats are often used as part of an oatmeal bath as it is believed to soothe skin rashes. Extracts from this cereal are also used in many cosmetics.