Food & Health

A “Farm to Table” Milestone—The Grain Shed Opens!

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After seven years of patient labor begun with extremely limited quantities of rare landrace grain seed, we were thrilled to attend a soft opening of The Grain Shed in Spokane’s South Perry district (1026 E. Newark) on June 9. The event marked the culmination of our vision to complete a heritage grain-based “Farm to Table” market devoted to principles of “flavorful authenticity.” Imagine the rich, warm aroma of artisan breads made from whole grain Crimson Turkey wheat, the progenitor of most all modern bread wheats, accompanied by a glass of Scots Bere ale (“The grain that gave beer its name!”).

 Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Hat’s off to the remarkable cadre of committed souls whose dream for a place dedicated to serving healthy landrace grain products in an atmosphere of good fellowship was matched by months of careful planning and hard work. Palouse Colony Farm co-founder Don Scheuerman teamed up with Grain Shed co-founders, Joel Williamson, malster-brewer of LINC Foods,  brewer Teddy Benson, and renown Spokane artisan baker Shaun Thompson Duffy of Culture Breads. The result of these innovative endeavors is this first of its kind co-op producer/worker/service model in the region. 

 Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

 Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Shaun designed the bakery’s enormous wood-fired oven where he applies the skills of a culinary artist to transform fresh-milled flour from The Grain Shed’s stone mill into succlulent Old World-style pastries and breads. Among his specialties are whole grain rye Volkornbrot and pain de mie, a soft French sandwich bread. As an indication of The Grain Shed team’s caliber of service, the informal opening was such a hit with locals that they sold out of both specialty loaves and house Scots Bere and Purple Egyptian ales. May the fates smile and allow you to enjoy the unforgettable experience of “flavorful authenticity” on your visit to The Grain Shed. Congratulations Don, Joel, Shaun, and Teddy!

Perennial Grains and "Centers of Origin"

  “Feeding the New Global Middle Class” Illustration,  The Atlantic

“Feeding the New Global Middle Class” Illustration, The Atlantic

I read with special interest the article “How Will We Feed the New Global Middle Class” by Charles C. Mann in last month’s issue of The Atlantic (March 2018). It not only addressed this pressing question in terms amply supplied with meaningful examples and disturbing statistics, but referenced the important research long undertaken by a longtime friend and supporter of our work at Palouse Colony Farm, WSU plant scientist Dr. Stephen Jones. Mann’s article casts the controversy about supplying a growing world population’s food supply as a century-long contest between the “Wizards” and the “Prophets.” He characterizes the former as advocates of commodity production and scientific innovation exemplified by Norman Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution,” and the “Prophets,” or proponents of natural ecosystem conservation like William Vogt. I commend the entire article for your review of this complex question, but thought Mann’s discussion of Stephen Jones’s research on perennial wheat to represent a rare convergence of Wizard-Prophet interests.

Perennial grains do not exist in nature so cereal crops must be planted year after year which necessitates field tillage and attendant labor and other inputs. Development of a crop like the Salish Blue wheat hybridized by Jones and his agronomist colleague Steve Lyon offers hope for a grain of sufficient milling quality that can produce from the same plant for two to three years. Jones and Lyon have told me that the pioneers of perennial grain research were a team of Russians headed by Nikolai Vavilov (1887-1943), a brilliant scientist who paid for his independent thinking by perishing in one of Stalin’s GULAG prisons. Vavilov formulated the “Centers of Origin” theory (a phrase first used by Darwin) for the geographic origins of the world’s cereal grains. Vavilov had been a protégé of Robert Regel, Russia’s preeminent pre-revolutionary era botanist. Regel had appointed the brilliant young Saratov University scientist head of all Russia’s agricultural experiment stations on the very day the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in 1917. Vavilov became a prime-mover in the organization of the first All-Russian Conference of Plant Breeders in Saratov in 1920.

The group’s June 4 opening session marked a milestone for world science as Vavilov delivered his famous paper, “The Law of Homologous Series in Hereditary Variation,” in which he put forth the first hypothesis on plant mutation. For subsequent related research that led to the formulation of a law on the periodicity of heritable characteristics, Vavilov came to be known as the Mendeleyev of biology. Although Vavilov’s enthusiastic grasp of problem definition in crop breeding proved easier than problem solving, upon Regal’s death later in 1920 he was named director of the Agricultural Ministry’s Department of Applied Botany and Plant Breeding, and went on to organize the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences.  

  Nikolai Vavilov (c. 1930), Library of Congress

Nikolai Vavilov (c. 1930), Library of Congress

Vavilov derived many of his insights from extensive travels “across the whole of Scripture” in Transjordan (Israel) and Palestine. He traveled widely in the Middle East and pored over religious texts in order “to reconstruct a picture of agriculture in biblical times.” His ideas were significantly influenced by the field studies of German botanist Frederich Körnicke (1828-1908), curator of the Imperial Botanical Gardens in St. Petersburg in the 1850s, and Aaron Aaronsohn, Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Haifa, Palestine. In an article published in 1889 on the history of world grains, Körnicke had identified a specimen of wild emmer found in the collection of the National Museum of Vienna as the progenitor of all modern wheats. He urged botanists to conduct expeditions in the foothills of Mt. Hermon where it had been found in order to better document its origin and range.

Aaronsohn subsequently recorded his historic 1906 discovery of the grain: “When I began to extend my search to the cultivated lands [near Rosh Pinna], along the edges of roads and in the crevices of rocks, I found a few stools of the wild Triticum. Later I came across it in great abundance, and the most astonishing thing about it was the large number of forms it displayed.” Indefatigable Vavilov followed Aaronsohn’s itinerary to locate this relict stands of the famed “Mother of Grains” and found it growing nearly forty inches tall with stiff, six-inch long beards. His further research demonstrated that emmer’s ancestral range extended throughout northern Transjordan and into Turkey.

Vavilov met Washington State College agronomist Edwin Gaines and his celebrated botanist wife, Xerpha, at the 1932 Sixth International Genetics Congress at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. This celebrated gathering was attended by some 550 of the world’s leading geneticists. The conclave’s highlight was the much-anticipated delivery of Valvilov’s presentation on geographic distribution of wild cultivar relatives. His paper focused on the importance of preserving threatened landraces and their progenitors for future breeding stock and pure research. He further postulated the origin of modern hard red wheats in the Fertile Crescent (“southwestern Asia”) and soft whites in northwestern Africa. Vavilov also described ancient selection methods by which early agriculturalists unconsciously conducted spontaneous variety selections.

In spite of myriad challenges in hosting such a prestigious event in the midst of the Great Depression, the Gaineses invited Vavilov to Pullman while on his extended trip to several western states. Vavilov accepted the offer and spent several weeks in the late summer and fall of 1932 touring grain research stations in the Northwest clad in ever present tie and fedora. The time of year and fecund Columbia Plateau laden with grains spawned from his homeland may well have reminded Vavilov of lines from the celebrated Russian poet Pushkin extolling life on the steppe. He could quote verse at length in fluent English. The Gypsies imagines new life in fall-sown wheat even as hunters and their dogs trample fields underfoot. The image poignantly anticipates Vavilov’s own fate a decade later as a victim of Stalin’s purges: “…the winter wheat will suffer from their wild fun” while the stream ever “passes by the mill.”

“One Dinner” with Palouse Heritage and the Inland Northwest Food Network

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Founder Teri McKenzie of the Inland Northwest Food Network is passionate about health and heritage! Since establishing the organization five years ago in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area, she has spearheaded dozens of events across the region to promote local agrarian economies through farm-to-table dinners, seed swaps, and cooking classes. Her friendship with my brother and Palouse Colony Farm co-founder, Don Scheuerman, led to a wonderful evening last month at Spokane’s acclaimed Ruin’s Restaurant for the Inland Northwest Food Network's monthly "One Dinner" featuring Palouse Heritage. We arrived right on time but were lucky to find a seat so were grateful we had made reservations. All the folks at our table were “Ruin’s Regulars” from the city who enjoyed hearing Don talk about life on the farm and the nutritional benefits of heritage grains.

Chef Tony Brown crafted an incredible menu of eight small plates paired with specialty drinks, which more than enough for the hearty appetites present around our table. Among my favorites were the farro risotto with white miso and crumbled cheese, Shaun Thompson-Duffy’s Culture Breads made with our Palouse Heritage Crimson Turkey wheat flour, and those incredible pulled pork sliders! My wife, Lois, raved about the braised beef and barley with sweet potato, and we both loved the rye bread pudding Tony devised with huckleberry curd and custard. Should have asked for that recipe! Since my German paternal grandmother made the most delicious rye bread while Norwegian maternal Grandma Peterson made every dessert possible out of huckleberries she loved to gather, I suppose I come by passion for Tony’s bread pudding naturally. Topping off our wondrous evening was Bellwether Brewing’s Smoked Palouse ESB made with our Scots Bere heritage barley malt.  

Something else we found interesting at our tables were colorful handouts listing “15 Reasons to Eat Locally Grown Grain.” Here are a few of the entries:

Local grains taste better. Farmers grow a diverse variety of wheat and other grains, and these products travel a more direct path from the field to your pantry. Without the conventional additives, local grains have more interesting flavor profiles and taste better.

Supporting local grains rebuild regional food systems and the regional economy. In addition to the on-farm jobs they support, local grains require processing, storage, and distribution. This means more regional-scale infrastructure and jobs in these facilities. It also paves the way to create other regional food infrastructure for products like meat, pickled and processed goods, and more.

Nothing makes truly “artisan” bread like truly artisan grains. Bakers using regional grains are constantly innovating to celebrate the diverse flavors and characteristics of local grains, creating a richer array of products.

 

You can cook it, bake it, and brew it.

Because the “staff of life” should be local too.

Bread is agriculture! And so is beer, cake, and granola.

 

“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