THIS IS A REALLY GREAT STORY. I CAME ACCROSS IT SOME TIME AGO AND AGAIN ON MY MOBILE, SO THIS TIME I'M SHARING IT, SO YOU CAN ENJOY IT TOO. TO ME, IT IS ONE OF THOSE 'EVERGREENS' THAT CAN BE ENJOYED AT ANY TIME - SO INTERESTING, I FOUND IT AND YOU WILL TOO. I'VE JUST COMMENCED MAKING HOMEMADE BREAD WITH SPELT AND KHORASAN FLOUR TWO WEEKS AGO AND IT'S REALLY NICE - SO HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS, UNLIKE MODERN WHEAT WHICH IS THE OPPOSITE.
By Kerry Staight Landline 2018
In the middle of a vineyard at Langhorne Creek in South Australia is an unusual sight in a territory known for its red wine — a patch of unfamiliar mixed grains.
The trial plot is home to 15 varieties of old wheat and ancient grains.
It was planted by local bakers Emily Salkeld and Chris Duffy, who are on a mission to add more flavour to bread.
"We were interested to see whether there was something that could perform really well in our fields, but we could bring it into the bakery and see what kind of wildness can be there in those flavours," Ms Salkeld said.
The former cheesemaker set up Small World Bakery with Mr Duffy, a qualified viticulturalist, about a decade ago.
In 2014 the sourdough specialists decided to take the next step and produce some of their own ingredients, after sampling freshly milled flour and bread made out of older grains that were hard to come by but full of flavour.
"To be honest I'd never thought that wheat could have an identity," Ms Salkeld said.
"I think that was something that was a bit of a bombshell for me.
"Think of spices and nuts and grass and hay, some fruit characteristics sometimes."
The pair sourced their older varieties from the Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham in Victoria, a collection of 140,000 different types of seeds.
It supplied small packets of about 80 possible starters including Einkorn, Emmer and Khorasan, which Ms Salkeld says are basically the parents of modern wheat.
The business sources a variety of older wheats and grains for baking and growing including Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt and Khorasan.
The couple planted just under half and have since narrowed the shortlist down to 15 varieties, including grains from North America, the Middle East and Europe.
The global mix features several red wheats which Ms Salkeld says aren't favoured in the Australian baking industry, but have a stronger flavour.
Looking back to look forward — looking forward to look back
The iconic Australian variety Federation Wheat has also made the cut. It was released in 1901 and helped establish Australia as a significant grain producer.
"The first seed breeder that really gained national acclaim was William Farrer and he was the one that bred Federation Wheat," Ms Salkeld said.
"He was a really innovative farmer who worked in the late 1800s to try to find wheats that would be more resilient to the Australian climate."
While flavour rather than yield is the focus of their cropping program, the grains still have to be hardy enough to make it worthwhile.
A wetter than normal spring last year tested the less disease-resistant old varieties, with stem rust setting in.
"It's very easy to understand why they're scarce," Mr Duffy said.
"They're difficult to grow, they're certainly not as robust in many aspects compared to more modern wheat varieties and they're harder to process.
"But at the end of that you can have something that's pretty special."
While fungal diseases knocked yields about, the pair was happy with the amount of quality grain they harvested even with a last-minute invasion from unexpected trespassers.
"We accommodated a family of kangaroos … in one of the varieties," the bakers said.
"We couldn't work out why that was, but they flattened a couple."
After starting with just 100 seeds of each variety, the couple hopes to have enough to start adding a bit of heritage to their commercial loaves in 2020.
They recently sowed an area that's 15 times larger than what they planted last year after leasing land from local farmer James Stacey.
"I could use this paddock to grow wheat to try and compete with the Russians and the Ukrainians," Mr Stacey said.
"But I can make more money out of leasing it to these guys to grow their old varieties to sell into a premium market."
The couple is surprised but pleased to see several other farmers also showing an interest in their project.
"I think there's room for all scales and all sizes of agricultural production systems," Mr Duffy said.
"And this might be one way on a smaller scale and within a local community that you can get viable crop alternatives for people on less land or perhaps higher value land."
Reviving the past is unlikely to return a big profit for the bakers in the short term, but Mr Duffy believes their investment will pay off down the track.
"If you want to make money in baking — make doughnuts filled with Nutella," he said.
"That's what makes money, but that's not really what we're about."
"There's no doubt that we're supporting it right now, but I'm confident enough that there's a future."
In the meantime the old world grains are making modern farming and baking a lot more interesting.
"We keep finding out about more interesting ones that perhaps we might request," Ms Salkeld said.
"It's pretty hard to stop actually. It's pretty addictive."
Growers, Would You Like To Venture?
Australia now hosts one of the world’s strategic crop genebanks following the official opening of the $6 million Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) in Horsham, Victoria.
In opening the state-of-the-art facility, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh, said the genebank would house about 300 million seeds from around the world, which will be used in current and future plant breeding programs.
“There is more than 2.7 kilometres of shelf space at minus 20ºC, a capacity to hold 200,000 packets of seed and more than 2000 different crop species,” he said.
“These collections could hold the key to plant breeders finding new ways to tackle drought, frost, and plant pests and diseases in Australian and overseas crops.”
The Victorian Government and the GRDC have each invested $3 million in the facility and will each also contribute up to $600,000 a year for five years towards operating costs.
The AGG merges three seed collections from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland into one national facility.
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The majority of Get into Genes workshops are delivered at AgriBio, Centre for AgriBioscience, located at 5 Ring Road, Bundoora. AgriBio is one of Australia's premier biosciences facilities, with a key focus on supporting and protecting Victoria's agricultural sector via cutting-edge research to improve productivity, fight disease and reduce environmental impact.
Out of Melbourne?
In addition to other locations, we run Get into Genes workshops at Agriculture Victoria Reasearch sites throughout Victoria:
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Ph: +61 03 9032 7185
Support Farmers And Crop Growers By Appreciating Their Work With The Soil And Seasons, Around Your Table Sometimes. And Bakers Who Make Real Loaves Of Bread With Healthy, Nutritious Ancient Grains. And Spread The Word About Such People (and families) Who Bring Such Excellent Food To Our Tables - The Growers And Bakers Restoring The Values Of Yesteryear. (Janet)
Photos by Landline
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