Sonoran Gold Wheat

“Header in the Wheat”—The 2019 Harvest Commences

Our grain harvest began the first week of August as we joined with our Palouse River neighbor Joe DeLong to cut our crop of Crimson Turkey (“Turkey Red”) wheat at his farm. The DeLong place is located several miles upstream from our Palouse Colony Farm between the communities of Endicott and St. John. We’ve been working with Joe for several years as he takes meticulous care of his land and is a master mechanic whose magic touch keeps equipment of almost any vintage purring like new. Below is a picture of the first round in the Turkey wheat with Joe at the helm of his Model 453 International Combine. (The “header” is the detachable assembly in front of the combine with sickle cutting bar and rotating reel that feeds the grain back into the machines threshing mechanisms.) Crimson Turkey is a high quality hard red winter bread wheat indigenous to the Black Sea’s Crimean Peninsula. Flanking the strip of ripe grain is a lower stand of green oats that Joe will use for livestock feed, and above is a colorful hillside of Sonoran Gold soft white spring wheat which should be ready to harvest in about two more weeks. The latter is one of the earliest grains raised in the Pacific Northwest as period accounts trace its origins to at least the 1850s after seed stock had likely found its way north from California. Sonoran is a Mediterranean landrace wheat that was introduced by the Spanish to Mexico as early as the 16th century and eventually became a staple of Southwest cuisine for flour tortillas, Indian frybread, and numerous other flavorful foods.

Crimson Turkey Harvest

Crimson Turkey Harvest

The picture below was taken this past spring when colorful native “sunflower” balsamroot set the hillside overlooking our Palouse Colony Farm ablaze in vibrant yellow and greens. The brown summer-fallow field covering the lower flat now hosts a fine crop of golden Scots Bere barley, the “grain that gave beer its name.” This ancient variety has grown in the northern British Isles since at least the 4th century AD when it was likely introduced by Roman legionnaires sent north to occupy the region.

Arrowhead Balsamroot overlooking Palouse Colony Farm

Arrowhead Balsamroot overlooking Palouse Colony Farm

Although we transport our grain to a cleaning and storage facility in the rural community of Thornton about eighteen miles northeast of the farm, grain handling modernization has recently come to our nearby hometown Endicott. In the early 1880s, Endicott was platted by the Oregon Improvement Company, a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad, on its strategic branch line that tapped the fertile Palouse grain district along a route from the main NPRR transcontinental line at Palouse Junction (present Connell, Washington) eastward to Endicott, Colfax, and eventually Pullman and Moscow. A complicated network of feeder lines then tapped the northern and southern parts of the region. Construction of the central line, known in the late 1800s as the Columbia & Palouse, led to use of heavier rail than along other tracks which came to be an important factor many decades later for upgrading regional grain shipping operations.

Whitgro Unit Train Loading Facility, Endicott, Washington

Whitgro Unit Train Loading Facility, Endicott, Washington

With the merger of local farmer Endicott and St. John grain storage cooperatives in recent years into a larger entity known as Whitgro, a decision was made to construct a new storage and train loading facility in Endicott since the line there had been constructed with rail weight capable of carrying 110-car unit trains. The project called for construction of seven new immense steel grain silos to be located adjacent to a series of several other larger ones which brought total capacity in Endicott to approximately 3,100,000 bushels. The new storage facility was designed for rapid one-day loading of the trains which are capable of holding 100 tons of grain per car for a combined unit capacity of 420,000 bushels. Grain is trucked to town from farms and other elevators in all directions for shipment downline to tiny Hooper and then on to Portland for shipment worldwide. Work commenced on the enormous project last fall and the facility became operational just in time for this year’s bountiful harvest. The two R. R. Hutchison photographs below show grain storage at Endicott about 1910 when men worked long hours to carefully arrange 110 pound sacks along the railroad in tall stacks and in wide wooden flat-houses. Makes one grateful for trucks and augers.

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Hands to Harvest! “Bringing in the Sheaves” in 2018

Few words conjure up richer connotations of summertime, country life, and abundance than harvest. During the past three weeks we have commenced harvesting our Palouse Heritage grains and are pleased to report excellent quality and yield. Ever being interested in matters of origin, I decided to investigate the derivation of the word “harvest,” and learned that it is derived from German Herbst (autumn). That word in turn descends from a root shared by Latin carp- (“to gather”) and Greek karpos (“fruit”). “Harvest” in the sense of reaping grain and other crops came into vernacular use during the medieval era of Middle English.

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Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Likely due to the light color of a wheat kernel’s interior endosperm, the word “wheat” in many European languages meant “white,” as with Old English whete, Welsh gwenith, and German weizzi. The Latin term “gladiators,” hordearii, literally means “barley eaters” since they subsisted on high energy foods like barley, oatmeal, and legumes. Roman legionaries were routinely outfitted with sickles in order to procure their livelihood throughout the far flung empire, and probably used them more often that their weapons. The helical frieze on Trajan’s Column in Rome (c. 110 AD) features a dynamic group scene of soldiers in full uniform harvesting waist-high grain with prodigious heads.

These days we don’t need to rely on sickles and legionnaires to bring in the crop. Good friends like Brad Bailie of Lenwood Farms near Connell, Washington, raise bountiful crops of organic Palouse Heritage varieties like Crimson Turkey and Yellow Breton. The latter is a soft red variety native to the northern France where for generations it was used for the prized flour essential for flavorful crepes. Farther to the northeast in the vicinity of Endicott, Washington, our longtime friends Joe DeLong and Chuck Jordan are harvestings stands of Palouse Heritage Red Fife, a famous bread grain originally from Eastern Europe, Sonoran Gold wheat, and Scots Bere barley that has become one of the most sought-after craft brewing malt grains.

Although there are some variations in climate and soil across the inland Pacific Northwest, this fertile region lies within the great arc of the Columbia River’s “Big Bend” easily identified on any map. While reading through some old newspapers recently I encountered the following poem titled “The Big Bend” by Louis Todd that was published in 1900. Little else is known about Todd’s life, but his literary expressions here make it clear he greatly appreciated this land of harvest time “golden splendor.”

 

No other river to the ocean

   Will a tale like thine unfold,

Of the wealth seen in thy travels;

   Of the wealth thy borders hold;

For thy thoughts the grandeur bear,

   And thy breath the sweetness breathes,

Of the boundless fields and forests,

   Of the richly laden trees.

 

And there grows within thy roaring

   All the fairest of the vine;

Luscious fruits in clusters hanging

   From the north and southern clime.

Great fields of wheat in golden splendor,

   Waving like a mighty sea,

Holding safe their precious treasure

   ’Till the grain shall ripened be.

 

Where nature works with freest hand,

   Builds her greatest work of art,

Will the feeble life of man

   There most smoothly play its part.

Oh, leave the dreary course you travel,

   Spurn the rocky path you go,

Join again your life with Nature,

   Where the fragrant flowers grow.

 

Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)

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Grains, Goodness, and Ethos Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I joined a capacity crowd for a festive “Dinner Under the Dome” fundraiser for the Franklin County Historical Society in Pasco, Washington, that was catered by artisan baker Angela Kora and her staff at Ethos Bakery & Café in Richland (2150 Keene Road). Angela and co-owner Scott Newell established the bakery at the present location a year ago and it has fast become one of the most popular eateries in the Tri-Cities and especially known for the wood-fired oven breads and pizzas made from Palouse Heritage landrace grains like Crimson Turkey, Sonoran Gold, and Purple Egyptian.

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Attesting to the Ethos team’s catering skills was the absence of anything but crumbs on the “Dome” dinner plates. My special treat at evening’s end was finding an extra portion of Angela’s scrumptious fruit-filled pastry. Our extended family often dines out at Ethos where they serve up proprietary blends of coffee to accompany a full service menu complemented by scratch-made breads, muffins, and pastries. Among our family favorites are puff pastries filled with chocolate and croissants flavored with malted Purple Egyptian barley berries. And I’ve been known to make special morning trips there just for the raisin granola.

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Bakery Croissant

Ethos Bakery Croissant

I was to earn my keep at the fundraiser dinner by presenting a talk on the significance of heritage and agrarian history. Franklin County is located in southeastern Washington where the county’s production of grains, vegetables, fruit and hay is a $1.3 billion enterprise. One of our Palouse Heritage growers of landrace grains is Brad Bailie who operates Lenwood Farms near Connell. Brad is known throughout the region as conscientious and knowledgeable producer of organic crops. The evening’s program took place in the presence of the majestic courthouse’s golden statue of Demeter, the Greek goddess of bountiful harvests. With area students taking part in the historical society museum’s year-end field trips, my thoughts had turned that week to the centrality of agrarian themes in classical literature and philosophy. In the event you might have interest in this topic I append below an abbreviated version of that talk:


“Founding Farmers: Washington, Franklin, and a Heritage of Goodness”

Richard D. Scheuerman “Dinner Under the Dome” Remarks (19 May 2018)

Franklin County History Society

 

…[A]griculture, is the only honest way wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for innocent life and virtuous industry.   --Benjamin Franklin

   

I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.  --George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788

 

I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.  --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787

 

America’s founding leaders like Washington, Franklin, and John Adams were schooled in Greek and Latin and knew well the significance of classical allusions to Demeter and grain and harvest so visible in this place [Franklin County Courthouse dome court]. They understood what we call “first principles” of personal and political life, principles that they knew must be renewed in every generation to perpetuate freedom and prosperity. We should note that notable exemplars of these principles in the context of agriculture were many of the Founders’ wives—women like Abigail Adams who actively supervised the plantings and harvests at the couple’s Peacefield Farm while John performed diplomatic duties abroad before a terms as Vice-President and President. We are gathered here because we support the mission of the historical society’s museum, a term derived from the Muses of mythic Greek inspiration. So what are Muses whispering to us these days? Perhaps we could revisit their timeless message of a special heritage for old and young.

 

Purpose and Meaning             

As someone who worked for over forty years in public and private education, I had recurrent reason to muse about purpose and heritage. Each fall for the past many years at Seattle Pacific University, I welcomed incoming cohorts of teacher candidates at the annual graduate studies retreat on beautiful Whidbey Island. I never let that opportunity pass without asking in the first few minutes why they had come. What is the purpose of education, why perpetuate a cultural heritage—through school, a museum, a library, a society? To have a job, to raise test scores, to exhibit interesting old objects? I received many answers ranging from the idealistic (“I love working with kids”) to the extrinsic (“free summers”). While some tended toward first principles, many did not. And I might add that to my mind “loving kids” is an insufficient basis for teaching. Most people anywhere love children, while serious dedication to their present well-being and future world is something rather different.

In this day of debate about the validity of facts, permit me to offer one: Plato, Cincinnatus, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln—while living in different times and places—would have been in basic agreement on the significance of our cultural heritage and purpose of education. They wrote about it in explicit terms. The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education… is to make people good. This simple yet profound truth bears repeating: The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education is to make people good. You’d be surprised what quizzical looks I got from the many teacher candidates to whom I explained this fact over the years.

 

Goodness as Service

Goodness in the classical sense, well known to our nation’s Founders, was not some vague notion of nice feeling. Rather, it was a course of action. While the writings of these thinkers offer slight variations on the theme of goodness, they agree to a remarkable extent on the core qualities of honesty, hard work, and public service. This has important implications for a historical society like this one, and its relevance to society at large and the next generation we seek to engage.

This room is full of exemplars of such a mission. The members, supporters, and volunteers of this organization are living expressions of honest, hard-working public servants. This is the timeless key to purpose and meaning, and goodness. Moreover, it is the antidote to what syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer has termed “meism”—the selfish “what’s in it for me” mentality that threatens to derail the well-being of any community or country. It’s much easier, after all, to sit home and complain about things than it is to get involved, to vote, to attend, to compromise, to work.

While leaders like the Washingtons, Franklins, and Adamses may be more popularly known for democratic ideals, they all found vivid expression of their beliefs in agrarian affairs. They acquired farmland, helped organize rural societies, and wrote extensively about what they called “agricultural improvement.” They found through relationship with the land an incredibly enriching expression of goodness.

Washington devised some of the earliest and most comprehensive schedules for soil amendments to increase the fertility of his lands, Thomas Jefferson helped build some of the country’s first mechanical threshers, and Benjamin Franklin introduced numerous clovers, grains, and other crops to the new nation. New relevance is being found today consistent with their vision and labors to promote sustainability and prosperity. This is exciting! This is meaningful! This is goodness in full measure. Through your abiding support, may past be prologue to make our founders proud, and to inspire our youth to purpose and service.

 

Progressive change to promote the public good and wellbeing of future generations can be unwisely limited by amnesia as well as nostalgia. Amnesia is to forget about cultural legacies bequeathed by ancestors and society, and nostalgic appeals to life in some halcyon past often overlook the challenges of such times. But memory is a critical discipline, We remember places, mark Scriptures, and listen to elders’ stories in order to foster human flourishing and stewardship of resources and experience for tomorrow.   –-RDS

“Tasting the Grain” at the 2018 Cascadia Grains Conference in Olympia

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In recent weeks with the slower pace at the farm during colder weather we’ve turned our attention to a series of special events featuring our Palouse Heritage grain flours. Having participated in every Cascadia Grains Conference that the Jefferson County Extension Service has held in Olympia for the past five years, we were honored again this past January to present at the “Taste the Grain” dinner held at historic Schmidt House. The mansion was built a century ago in Colonial Revival style for the founders of Olympia Brewing and was an ideal setting for us to sample the array of breads and brews provided by Rob Salvino at Seattle’s Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop, South Sound Community College Culinary Science chefs Kelly McLaughlin and Isaac Gillett, and Copperworks Distillery.

Puget Sound Community College “Palouse Heritage” Chefs

Puget Sound Community College “Palouse Heritage” Chefs

Since my task was simply to tell stories about the various heritage grains and heartily sample the many courses, I far and away had the most pleasant role for what was a wonderful evening. County extension personnel and conference organizers Lara Lewis and Aba Kiser skillfully handled the many logistics since we were spread across the state, and thanks to Rob, Kelly, and Isaac’s special talents the capacity crowd had an incredibly delicious menu. (Among the many guests was our special Palouse Colony Farm artist friend from Washington, D. C., Katherine Nelson. I will follow this post with another about her life and work.)

Below is the dinner menu we formulated for the evening, and for the first time we included a series of pairings featuring craft brews and distilled products. Of course we can’t guarantee that you’d find these offered on the bill of fare at famed The Spar in downtown Olympia during the periods specified, but there are historical reasons for these combinations.

 

 1. 1820s-1850s: Fur Trade and Frontier Era

Smoked beef brisket with blue cheese and lavender honey on rosemary crackers made with Palouse Heritage Sonoran Gold wheat flour / Paired with Top Rung’s My Dog Scout Stout

 

2. Pork Belly Crostini: Candied pork belly with leek strata, roasted tomato, and mascarpone on charred crostini made with Palouse Heritage Sonoran Gold wheat flour / Paired with Copperworks Whiskey

 

3. 1860s-1870s: Northwest Pioneering and Townbuilding

Salted maple, apple, and mascarpone galette made with Palouse Heritage Empire Orange and Crimson Turkey wheat flours / Paired with Fremont Brewing’s Universale Pale Ale

 

4. Chili Lime Prawns: Colossal prawns, arugula, chili, lime, chive, basalmic caviar and barley tuile using Palouse Heritage Purple Egyptian barley flour

 

5. 1890s-1910s: Waves of Immigrants and Golden Grains

Focaccia di Recco and crispy pancetta made with Palouse Heritage Crimson Turkey wheat flour, rosemary, Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and 4 cheeses / Paired with Ghost Fish IPA

 

6. Gin and Tonic Tart: Lemon egg tart using Palouse Heritage Turkey Red wheat flour with gin and tonic simple syrup using Sandstone Stonecarver Gin

 

Thanks again Rob, Lara, Aba, Kelly, Isaac, and Olympia historian Don Prosper for such a marvelous event!

Country-Style Breads (Part 3)

This post is the third and final of a three-part series focusing on delicious, wholesome bread recipes that feature our landrace grains. These recipes and many others are included in our newly released updated edition of the Harvest Home Cookbook, available here in both print and eBook versions.

Braided Sweets

The restoration of landrace grains and availability today of identity-specific variety flours also makes possible the customization of time-honored recipes to flavor and texture preferences with consideration of new techniques. At Palouse Heritage we have worked for years to foster “flavorful authenticity” by providing an array of nutritious pre-hybridized landrace grain flours like Crimson Turkey hard red wheat, Sonoran Gold soft white, Yellow Breton soft red, and Purple Egyptian barley. These and other grains arrived from Eurasia during the earliest years of North American colonization to make possible a incredible continental cornucopia.

Blue Hill Restaurant Palouse Heritage Breads,   Rockefeller Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture; Tarrytown, New York

Blue Hill Restaurant Palouse Heritage Breads, Rockefeller Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture; Tarrytown, New York

Ancestral country-bread styles handed down through the ages were not necessarily meant to be unchangeable, fixed lists of ingredients and directions. Now in her hundredth year, spirited Vera Grove Rudd is the eldest member of our extended clan. She was raised at our Palouse Colony Farm and vividly recalls joining her mother to gather hops that grew profusely along the river in order to make a sourdough starter from the naturally occurring yeast that grew on the cones. I have recently learned that this practice was a folk remnant of common practice in medieval times. The hops still grow at the farm in abundance, but times change and Vera came to use store-bought active dry yeast for her country-style breads. As times change so can baking methods and availability of healthy ingredients. Rather like Van Gogh at work on his glowing harvest canvases or Thomas Hart Benton painting Midwest threshing scenes, distinct grain flours serve like paints to enable artisan bakers at home or elsewhere to follow long favored ways, as well as make marvelously new variations.

Although country-style breads have generally been made without eggs, dried fruit, or baked vegetables, these ingredients have long been included by experienced home cooks for special holiday breads. The following recipe from our extended family’s hundred-year-old matriarch, “Miss Vera,” brings to mind her stories of enjoying it every Friday evening when she was a girl living on the family’s Palouse River farm. Recipes like this were popular submission to the many school PTA, church, and social organizations loosely bound cookbook fundraisers. She noted that her mother gathered hop cones every summer for yeast that imparted a unique and wonderful flavor.


Braided Sweet Bread

  • 4 cups Palouse Heritage Crimson Turkey Flour
  • 3 ½ cups Palouse Heritage Sonoran Gold flour
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup soft butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons shortening
  • crushed walnuts optional

 

Dissolve yeast in mixing bowl with ½ cup of water. Stir in milk, sugar, and salt. Add eggs, shortening, and half the blended flour. Stir with a spoon, add the rest of the flour, and mix by hand. Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead about 5 minutes until smooth and roll around in a greased bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm place 1 ½ to 2 hours until double in bulk. Punch down, round up, let rise again about 30 minutes until almost a double in volume. Divide dough into 6 parts, making six 14-inch long rolls. Braid 3 rolls loosely, fastening ends. Repeat for second braid. Place on 2 greased baking sheets, and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise 50-60 minutes until almost double in bulk. Heat oven to 425°. Brush braids with glaze of egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. May sprinkle with crushed walnuts. Bake 30-35 minutes.

Country-Style Breads (Part 2)

This post is the first of a three-part series focusing on delicious, wholesome bread recipes that feature our landrace grains. These recipes and many others are included in our newly released updated edition of the Harvest Home Cookbook, available here in both print and eBook versions.

Country Whole Wheat

Multigrain rustic breads contain ingredients unique to some cultures. Our ancestors’ Old Country Slavic neighbors often added small amounts of coffee and molasses to their round loaves of mouth-watering Russian rye-wheat Chyorni Khleb (Black Bread). Oblong boules of the Jewish mainstay Corn Rye Bread (Kornbroyt) can be enlivened by including a small quantity of dark beer in the recipe. Early American “thirded” breads brought together the auspicious prospects of wheat flour and cornmeal combined with a third grain flour—often from milled oats or barley. Non-gluten ingredients like buckwheat flour and hazelnut meal have also been creatively used in these ways.

Harvesting Crimson Turkey Wheat (2017),   Palouse Colony Farm; Endicott, Washington

Harvesting Crimson Turkey Wheat (2017), Palouse Colony Farm; Endicott, Washington

Legendary baker-chef Shaun Thompson-Duffy of Spokane’s Culture Breads points out that the range of family traditions and methods makes for an endless variety of bread possibilities with deeper flavors. He finds burgeoning interest among consumers to find out “what real bread has long been.” Shaun points out that you need not be an experienced baker to bring these succulent staples to life. In fact, until the appearance of French manuals on baking in the 1770s, breadmaking skills were primarily passed along in families through observation and trial and error over a wood fire at home. Whether for special occasions or throughout the year, the “staff of life” has long been a chief function of the household and counted among life’s greatest blessings for feasting and fellowship by young and old alike.

Spokane Master Baker Shaun Thompson-Duffy’s Palouse Heritage Breads

Spokane Master Baker Shaun Thompson-Duffy’s Palouse Heritage Breads