Sunday, January 5, 2014

I Don't Taste Any Difference

Food writers point out that artisanal bread making and efforts to re-establish local grain-growing are riding on the coat-tails of specialty heirloom veggies and micro-greens, which have had considerable success in finding niche markets.  However, a recent internet article on claims grains and flour pose different challenges, making it unlikely that small scale grain farmers can make a go of it financially. The writer, Alastair Bland, argues that locally grown flour does not taste enough better than commercial flour to merit the higher cost.  Flour is just flour, and one variety does not have greater value than another.

Ah.  Let us beg to differ.  We know that locally grown and milled grains -- heritage, modern, landrace and ancient grains -- bring us a far better taste experience.  Varieties of flavors, sweetness, sourness, nuttiness, freshness.  Bread that is a complete experience, leaving your palate satisfied, balanced, with complex lingering flavors.  This is bread that doesn’t need apologies or a drink to get rid of a dry aftertaste.   This is bread that is refreshing and complete.

But it’s not just taste that is improved.  Wheat from local sources can be – and this is a big change – it can be  nourishing, with substantial protein, a natural range of nutritional qualities, with no chemical additives, herbicides or pesticides.  This is bread that has a lengthy shelf life, growing better with time and resisting mold and desiccation, particularly in its naturally fermented iterations.  Freshly milled flour has superior baking properties, creates tastier interior crumb and exterior crust. 

 But there’s more than just taste … and nutrition … and superior baking qualities.  Our small scale grain farmers are true stewards of the land.  They care for the soil, the need for crop rotation, protection of the aquifers.  Local means a smaller carbon footprint, lower CO2 emissions, less shipping costs, less waste of non-sustainable resources.  Less need for middleman handlers.  In their concern for their fields and their care to plant the right grain for their climate and terroir, they are partnering with grain growers around the world whose intention is to feed their local communities.  They want to make their land productive and diverse rather than give up and buy industrial flour that is of unknown provenance and full of additives.

But wait.  There’s still another reason why small scale grain growing must prosper.  It is essential to the restoration of diversity in a crop that has fed the world for ten thousand years.  Small scale grain growing will help develop drought tolerant varieties, and grain that will endure climate change.  Industrial-scale monoculture of wheat produces inferior flour, is damaging to the land, leads to the loss of thousands of varieties of modern, heirloom, and ancient grains.  And most important, shows we have learned little or nothing from the horrors of monocrop failures.      



There’s good reason to believe that small-scale grain growing will be a vital part of our food system. 
You can taste the difference.

Alastair Bland’s article can be found at

1 comment:

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