The Grain Chain Episode 3: Under the Microscope

This time we’re looking at grain underneath the microscope!

George has gone in to the school lab and he’s looking at what makes up grain…

When you see wheat in a field, it looks quite tall — a couple of feet high! But it’s only the very end of the wheat that we’re interested in. It’s called the ear and it looks sort of feathery.

If you crack it open then we can get the grain out! There are around 50 grains, about the size of a grain of rice.

The grain is made of so many different layers. The outside layer looks really thick and tough under the microscope – this is the bran layer!

When you eat bran cereals, this is the bit you’re eating. It’s tough for a reason – it’s like a skin which protects the inner seed from attack.

Now we can see the two parts that are inside… The smaller part is called the germ, whilst the larger part is called the endosperm.

The germ is the embryo of the plant – the tiny soft centre. It contains something called a ‘radicle’ – this is the start of its root system and a ‘plumule’ – which develops into the stems, leaves and ears of a new wheat plant.

So if you’re PLANTING wheat, this is the important bit! But if you’re EATING it… the endosperm is a bit more interesting…

It’s the starchy storehouse of food that the germ feeds on whilst it’s growing, but it’s a part of the grain that we like to eat too.

In fact, there’s a very famous type of endosperm we all like to eat – you might have seen it the last time you went to the cinema… Popcorn!

The white fluffy part of popcorn is the corn grain’s endosperm – heat just makes it expand out of its shell. Next time you go to see a movie, you could ask for exploding endosperm!

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