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Oat

The meaning of «oat»

The oat (Avena sativa), sometimes called the common oat, is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed, which is known by the same name (usually in the plural, unlike other cereals and pseudocereals). While oats are suitable for human consumption as oatmeal and oat milk, one of the most common uses is as livestock feed. Oats are a nutrient-rich food associated with lower blood cholesterol when consumed regularly.[1]

The wild ancestor of Avena sativa and the closely related minor crop, A. byzantina, is the hexaploid wild oat, A. sterilis. Genetic evidence shows the ancestral forms of A. sterilis grew in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East.[2] Oats are usually considered a secondary crop, i.e., derived from a weed of the primary cereal domesticates, then spreading westward into cooler, wetter areas favorable for oats, eventually leading to their domestication in regions of the Middle East and Europe.[2]

Oats are best 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, so they are particularly important in areas with cool, wet summers, such as Northwest Europe and even Iceland. Oats are an annual plant, and can be planted either in autumn (for late summer harvest) or in the spring (for early autumn harvest).

In 2017, global production of oats was 26 million tonnes, a 13% increase over 2016.[3] Production was led by Russia with 21% of the total and Canada with 14% (table). Other substantial producers were Australia, Poland, China, and Finland, each with over one million tonnes.[3]

Oats have numerous uses in foods; most commonly, they are rolled or crushed into oatmeal, or ground into fine oat flour. Oatmeal is chiefly eaten as porridge, but may also be used in a variety of baked goods, such as oatcakes, oatmeal cookies and oat bread. Oats are also an ingredient in many cold cereals, in particular muesli and granola. Oats are also used for production of milk substitutes ("oat milk").

Historical attitudes towards oats have varied. Oat bread was first manufactured in Britain, where the first oat bread factory was established in 1899. In Scotland, they were, and still are, held in high esteem, as a mainstay of the national diet.

In Scotland, a dish was made by soaking the husks from oats for a week, so the fine, floury part of the meal remained as sediment to be strained off, boiled and eaten.[4] Oats are also widely used there as a thickener in soups, as barley or rice might be used in other countries.

Oats are also commonly used as feed for horses when extra carbohydrates and the subsequent boost in energy are required. The oat hull may be crushed ("rolled" or "crimped") for the horse to more easily digest the grain,[citation needed] or may be fed whole. They may be given alone or as part of a blended food pellet. Cattle are also fed oats, either whole or ground into a coarse flour using a roller mill, burr mill, or hammermill. Oat forage is commonly used to feed all kinds of ruminants, as pasture, straw, hay or silage.[5]

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