Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wheat Sprouting near Santa Ynez

We last visited Curtis Davenport in mid December when he was collecting soil samples for analysis.

It's been a dry couple of months, but he was able to plant 8 acres of Sonora on February 17th.

Still looking dry.

The seeds did come around and the late February rains helped a lot.

Curtis' Sonora White is on its way, putting down roots in Santa Barbara county.

Should we care about where and how our food is grown?

Here is what French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre had to say about that:

  "History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns the plowed fields whereby we thrive.  It knows the names of the King's bastard children, but cannot tell us the origin of wheat.  That is the way of human folly."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lying Down on the Job

A short report on wheat growth in our front yard.

I'm skeptical that our small planting of India-Jammu will add much to our technical understanding of this interesting land race variety or its appropriateness for Southern California.

But it is a lovely sight ...

... particularly when its small blossoms are displayed.

And a  patch of Sonora White illustrates the risks of raising big seed heads almost four feet above the ground.

Lodging is when wheat is pushed down -- or just tips over -- making it a challenge to ripen and be harvested.  It is not a condition I was expecting to see in our front yard, but our very welcome end of February rains push over some of those tall plants.

Makes me quietly proud that our yard can demonstrate challenges that are usually only experienced  by real farmers.

I tied up those rascals against a stake, in hope they'll regain their footings and once against stand on their own.

It is of interest that the Sonora seed heads have between 42 and 48 kernels developing.  About twice the number in the India Jammu which kept standing.

 A big head seems a good thing, until it tips you over.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

MOMO in Grand Park

Michael O'Malley's mobile wood-fired bread oven, found its way between rain squalls to a parking spot in Los Angeles' Grand Park today. 

 Folks brought homemade loaves, of all kinds and shapes, to bake right on the fire brick hearth where wood fires had burned to coals the night before.  The classic arched roof oven is mounted on a trailer for mobility.  It was designed and built by Michael.

The Community Bread Bakes are a great chance to see and smell wonderful bread rise and come to life. 

 Many of the breadmakers had worked with Michael and Nan Kohler, the day before, learning the basics of making natural wild yeast raised breads, with flour contributed by Nan's grain milling company, Grist & Toll.

 Michael intends to have Free Community Bakes in various neighborhoods on a monthly basis.


MOMO  "Michael O'Malley's Oven" is also made available by Michael  for shared baking events at Nan Kohler's GRIST & TOLL flour mill, 900 South Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, where the north 110 right at the northern end of the 110.
Grist & Toll:
Los Angeles Bread Bakers: 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Testing for Viability

To test grain seed to see whether it will grow, fold a few kernels -- "wheat berries" -- in a damp paper towel.  Place in a ziploc sandwich bag and keep it at room temperature.  Many kinds of wheat seed will show seminal roots in two days.  Certainly within a week all viable seeds will have roots and the initial growth shoot. The magic has begun.

Pictured are Emmer (Farro) seeds after three days in a folded paper towel.  To a city-dweller's eyes, there is some variability in their initial enthusiasm, but 100% have gotten a start.

Emmer is thought to be the oldest cultivated wheat, with evidence of grain found in present-day Iran from 9600 BC.

Most grain seeds from bulk bins can be used to grow grain, though the exact variety and its quality will not be known. Unless severely mistreated, wheat seed has a long lifetime of viability. 

This is a sprout of Khorasan (Triticum turanicum) an ancient (Tetraploid) variety of wheat.  Sometimes sold under the trademark name, Kamut, the kernel on the paper towel  had a growth shoot of nearly two inches in four days.  Seed planted in the ground at a depth of two inches had simultaneously reached the surface in those same four days.

 If you don’t want to use up your paper towels, put some seeds in a mason jar with cheese cloth for a lid.  Soak seeds  in clean water for 12 hours and repeat once with a change of water.  Then up-end the jar in your dish drain for a couple of days, giving them a rinse every so often.  If the seeds are viable, you’ve have a small forest of sprouts to add to your bread, your salads, or your breakfast cereal.
Incidentally, malted grain (usually barley, but can be wheat) is basically sprouted kernels that are kiln dried at a low temperature (~ 130 degrees F.) and then ground up for use in brewing or baking.