I knew nothing of heritage grains until I met Hans Larsson twelve years ago when he started Allkorn, the society for heritage grains in Sweden.
Hans Larsson has been doing research on heritage grains for almost thirty years. One of the best-known types of wheat which many people in Sweden and Denmark talk about is the famous Ölandsvete or Olands wheat. It was Hans who created this wheat.
Since we live relatively close to each other, I had the privilege of taking part in his project about eight years ago when we grew a heritage wheat here in Holma called Italer. It was one of the best kinds of flour I ever baked with, with a very high percentage of protein and a dark color. It also tasted very good.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to work on a project called Our Beloved Bread. Bengt-Göran Karlsson and Hans are in charge of it, which has support of and sponsors from the Swedish government.
The goal of the project is to bring heritage grains back to the market and to encourage farmers from southern Sweden to start growing them. My part in this project has been to do some test baking with these different kinds of flour, as well as running baking workshops on sourdough and long fermentation.
This summer we had a field trip to visit Hans Larsson’s farm where he is doing all the test growing. It was just mind-blowing – he had over 260 varieties of wheat, rye and barley. We also visited another farm which has been trying to grow these grains on a large scale, which as you may know is not the same as growing conventional grains. It is very enlightening to see that many farmers are willing to go back to the heritage grains.
Why should we grow and use these grains? Many people get sick by eating conventional wheat which has been manipulated for commercial baking and consumption. For example, before havesting conventional wheat, big companies will spray it with Roundup, which is a weed killer. And then we eat these grains.
Studies have shown that eating these heritage grains is much better for our health.That is why we should go back to them, in order to give the coming generation a better way of eating bread, and not following the trend of going gluten-free just because it is a trend. Some time ago I saw a video where a guy was stopping people in New York City, asking them if they ate bread. More than 50% of them said no because it has gluten, and many others couldn’t even say why they should not eat bread. One can get easily misled by all the propaganda which proclaims that bread is bad for us. Bread has been our most important food, as well as being an important part of all cultures throughout the centuries.
I started collecting seeds from different parts of the world. I got Red Fife from the US, and Turkey Red from England, and a few others as well. On my last trip to Bulgaria I took different kinds home with me and I am going to try growing them next year. This year we have been growing 40 kinds of the heritage wheat, rye, and barley in Holma where I work, and we plan to grow it on a large scale, then mill it and bake with it. What can be better than being involved in such a project?!