From field to plate

One of the things that we’ve been looking at on and off again for the past couple of years has been grains. Grains store well and they are loaded with calories and nutrients.


These are 100 gram quantities of whole grains. Left click for a larger image.

One of the stumbling blocks has been threshing.  It’s far from insurmountable but takes a bit of doing to find small scale solutions.  We didn’t go very far with grains since each one has its own growing, harvesting, and threshing characteristics which would involve a fair bit of time to figure out which was the best for us.  We’ve grown soy, oats, and barley but only had a harvest that was larger than  having growout seeds for the next year on just the soy.  Then we started thinking that we were coming at it from the wrong end.  We should be focusing on the plate.  What ways can you eat the grain? How difficult is it to prepare?  What does it taste like?  Answering these questions would determine whether it was a grain that we wanted to learn how to produce.  So we decided to work our way through our local health food store’s grain offerings.  Fortunately, most are available as whole grains, ie, the husk has been ground as well since that is how we will be grinding grain.

We’re focusing only on Indian-type flat breads because the ingredients are usually just water.  They can be prepared in a cast iron pan on a stove top.  And they allow us to control the portions of grain that we use.  It’s difficult to slice a loaf of risen bread thinly and it’s always tempting to have more than a single portion.  Flat bread on the other hand  can be prepared just for the meal. We started with chickpeas and followed the recipe exactly including an optional dash of cumin.  It made a moist quite edible flat bread although it did have a distinctive taste which we aren’t sure was the cumin or not. Regardless of flavour, we will have to find a chickpea that gives us a greater yield than what we have.  From a yield perspective, the variety that we have is not worth growing. We’ve been told that Carol Deppe’s Hannan Popbean variety has large yields and handles late frosts well with seedlings being unaffected by temperatures down to -7C.  As Deppe says, I’ve selected ‘Hannan’ to grow well when grown organically, to germinate cheerfully in cold mud, to be highly resistant to all the aphid-borne legume diseases that are rampant in the Willamette Valley, and to finish a crop in late July and without irrigation. A friend is sending us seed to trial this coming year. We then tried a barley griddle bread using a recipe that calls for baking soda, cream of tartar, softened butter/margarine and buttermilk.  It was easy to make and quite tasty.  The next day we made the recipe again but left out the baking soda and cream of tartar.  It had the same taste but was a bit more crumbly.  Still a keeper.  We’ll try it one last time substituting sunflower oil for butter/margarine.  If it’s still a keeper, we’ll have something whose ingredients with the exception of salt come entirely from our garden (soy beverage could be substituted for milk).  And the Faust Barley from Dan Jason that we have is both hulless and awnless making it very easy.  Dan says, For many years, I have been researching barley cultivars with looser hulls that can be easily removed by hand or foot rubbing. Faust is one of these “hulless” varieties. Most barleys also have long, hair like extensions sticking out of the seed heads that are called awns. These awns can make threshing a bit cumbersome because they latch on to everything. Faust Barley doesn’t have these awns so is a rare barley that is both hulless and awnless. Faust is a fine-flavoured barley that matures in about three months. In fact, I was able to roll the heads between my palms and have the kernels drop out easily onto a plate and  I don’t have heavily calloused hands.  Barley seems to be quite high on the list as a keeper.  How many other things can be made with barley?  Oatmeal, oops, barleymeal???  Pancakes??

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2 Responses to From field to plate

  1. Steve says:

    Gene Logsdon has a small scale grain raising book you might find helpful.

    • MikeH says:

      Thanks for the reminder. I was aware of his book and had looked at the table of contents at one time when early on when we were starting to look at grains. Then when grains went to the back burner so did the book. I just took another look at the book but at the index this time and each grain has a section on recipes. We’ll take a look at it through the library.

      Thanks again for mentioning it.


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