Home Grown Grain for Home Baked Bread
I grew some grain at home, wheat specifically. It was never my intention to harvest it; the original goal was to generate some ‘green manure’ for the vegetable garden at our new home over the winter months. But come summer 2018, we had our first wheat harvest.
The adventure started after a discussion with a colleague about vegetable gardens and green manure to prepare for spring planting. I grabbed some wheat grains from work, threw them in the raised garden bed, tossed the soil around a bit, added some water, then left it alone. After several days there were sprouts, sprouts that continued to grow and grow and grow. The winter rain watered them, the days of sunshine helped too, and I assisted by pulling a few weeds out and managing a couple of small compost bins I’d put in the garden bed earlier.
I don’t remember when the decision was made to allow the wheat to continue growing. I suspect it was simply a busy time of life, they thrived while neglected, grew too big for green manure, so were left alone.
But one day it dawned on me, what better way to connect with our primary raw material in bread-baking, wheat flour, than to see it grow and be harvested. Through my baking journey I’ve met some farmers and learned bits and pieces about cereal crops. But growing wheat, albeit a tiny, tiny crop, has given amazing insights into the ingredient we use daily in the bakery.
I experienced the joys of deep soaking rains at the early growing stages and hot, sunny days when harvest was near. But then, the tensions of no rain for weeks on end in winter and unseasonal rain and hail when the time for harvest was nearing. I’m fortunate as my small crop could be watered and even covered if necessary.
But farmers with huge crops can’t; they are subject to whatever weather comes, helpful or not. So many uncontrollable variables exist: insufficient rain, damaging hail, destructive fire, late rain, and abundant sunshine all play a part in their yield and quality, which is ultimately their income and our food source.
After many months and consultation with a farmer friend, the best timing for harvesting our crop was determined, and on a balmy summer evening I found myself out in the ‘field’, with my pair of scissors, chopping plump heads of wheat, carefully placing them into a small bucket, thus completing the insightful process of growing and harvesting wheat at home.
For perspective, my crop area is about 2m2 and only sown lightly – the anticipated yield might be enough for a small loaf of bread. But the journey has been invaluable, and appreciation for farmers grown exponentially. Consider having a go! It’s cheap, insightful and a bit of fun too.
(our wheat grains ready to harvest)