Evidence exists that cultivation of wheat may have begun over 9,000 years ago. Classification of wheat comes from a number of factors, such as texture and growing season. Two such classifications observed in the United States, hard white and hard red, differ in color, protein content and use.
The most obvious difference between these two classes of wheat is color. This refers to the outer coating of the kernel, not the processed wheat. A red wheat germ has a rustic shell while white is lighter in color.
Hard white wheat is genetically engineered from red wheat, according to Bob’s Red Mill. White wheat has been redesigned through the generations to reduce the bran in the kernel. Bran is the component that gives red wheat its distinctive coloring.
Hard red wheat will have more protein, up to 15 percent total, according to the Utah State University. Hard white wheat will have moderate protein content, considerably less than the red. The protein content affects the texture of baked foods that use flour from either grain. For instance, the high-protein count in red wheat is suitable for hard bread loaves. White works well for softer breads.
Bob’s Red Mill claims one significant difference between these two classifications of wheat is taste. The genetic engineering of white wheat has given it a flavor that differs from it parent wheat. Red wheat tends to be bitter. To compensate, bakers add additional sweeteners to recipes that disguise the taste. White is engineered to reduce this bitterness. Goods produced with hard white wheat require fewer sweetening agents.
Making a Choice
Ultimately, the determining factor will be preference. Some people will want the milder and sweeter flavor of hard white wheat. Others may desire the firm texture associated with products made from hard red wheat. Another consideration may be availability. Ohio State University reports that 40 percent of wheat crops in the United States are hard red winter wheat. Red wheat may be easier to find in some areas. Both forms of wheat have gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, neither for will be suitable for you. Talk to your doctor about gluten products and foods that you should avoid.