What’s the Problem?
Did you know that two in every three loaves of bread in the UK contains pesticide residues? This is due to agricultural practice which is not good for us, the land, or our ever increasing list of wildlife species facing extinction in the UK.
‘The potent weed-killer ‘Roundup’ with its active ingredient glyphosate is sprayed on conventional wheat crops to promote the drying down of the plant prior to harvest. Roundup not only destroys the beneficial bacteria in the human gut and contributes to permeability of the intestinal wall but causes autoimmune disease symptoms. Glyphosate residues are common in non-organic wheat.’ Eli Rogosa – ‘Restoring Heritage grains’
Lets fix it
The answer is to grow heritage or ‘landrace’ grains. They are suited to a particular place, soil & climate and are higher in essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc & magnesium. Not only that, but unlike the shorter, less nutritious modern varieties, the tall heritage cereals actually re-sequester C02 in the soil due to more extensive root systems, more straw = carbon. The essential mycorrhizal fungi, a key component of our soils, bonds more extensively to the root systems, increasing mineral uptake, improving disease resistance and requiring no synthetic inputs such as fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. So, in an era of runaway climate change and a rapid rise in gluten related illnesses, its not just a good idea but really essential that we return to our heritage grains.
We are trialling a number of varieties such as ‘Hen Gymro S72’ which means ‘Old Welsh’. This is one of the few remaining land race wheat’s left in the UK and is better suited to the wetter Welsh climate. We are also trialing wheat populations/mixes of varieties given to us by French peasant bakers, including one from Nicolas Supiot in Brittany which is grown in a similar climate to Wales and makes the most wonderful bread! Wheat populations adapt to the land and the conditions, 3% of the grain will intercross, creating new varieties.
As we are able to secure the equipment we need and the land to grow on, we will be able to grow, harvest, clean, dry and store our grain to a high standard, ensuring we get a quality stone milled, fresh flour retaining all its natural goodness.
‘in my childhood we took the oats, the wheat and the barley to the local mill, and after discussion with the miller, we arrived at the exact kind of fineness best suited to our taste, and the exact amount of husk, if any to be left in the final product’. James Williams ‘Give me yesterday’. Describing life in remote village in the Edwardian period (1910) in West Wales.
Has milling got better since this account? We may be able to process, clean and store grain more efficiently and to a higher standard today. However, the switch from our stone mills, powered by water and wind; to the industrial roller mills have done nothing for the quality of our flour, and has actually reduced the nutrition available in the grain.
80% of the nutrition in the grain is contained in the bran and the wheat germ. When you eat roller milled white flour, you are only getting 20% of the grain nutrition.
The stone mill crushes the whole grain, including the germ which releases trace minerals, unsaturated fats, b vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and high quality protein. All of these are excluded from roller -milled flour. Roller-milled wholemeal flour adds the bran back in at the end of the process, but still excludes the wheat germ.
This paints us a clear picture. White roller-milled flour is nothing more than a refined carbohydrate, which spikes our blood sugar levels and can cause inflammation and obesity. Freshly stone-milled flour makes more vitamins, nutrients and trace elements available and is more slowly absorbed by our bodies. What’s more, due to the roller milling process stripping so much of the goodness from our grain, by law, roller mills have to add Iron, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), and Nicotinic acid or nicotinamide back into the flour. However, research has shown that these artificial additives cannot be absorbed by our bodies and remain a useless addition.
Combine this with the difference between heritage grains, grown in an agroecological way, to modern grains containing less nutrition and pesticide residues and it is clear that the healthy choice is ours to make.
Torth y Tir currently has a small electric powered stone-mill to trial bake with the different varieties of grain we are growing.
In winter of 2017 we plan to mill on a larger scale at one of our local water-mills, located 10 miles from St Davids.
Fein Ganol Watermill, Llanrhystud. Started in the 16th century and still milling top quality organic flour from Welsh & English grown grain.