KAMUT® Brand Khorasan Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is National Cookie Day! And what are the holidays without a big plate of fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk? Santa Claus isn’t the only one who enjoys a warm cookie or two in December! These egg- and dairy-free KAMUT® wheat cookies are an excellent option at my house when the grandkids come to visit. Give them a try and be sure to let me know what you think.

1/2 cup oil of choice (we, of course, recommend The Oil Barn® high-oleic, organic safflower oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat flakes
1 cup KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In mixing bowl beat oil, syrup, water, and vanilla until emulsified. Combine flakes, chocolate chips, salt, and soda. Stir into syrup mixture and mix just until everything is evenly moistened. Let rest 5 minutes.

Drop onto baking sheets. Dough will be crumbly. Gently press dough so cookies hold together, should be about 1/3-inches thick. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.

For more delicious KAMUT® grain recipes, be sure to visit kamut.com

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

I have the opportunity to travel to Italy fairly regularly and I always enjoy the tasty, satisfying local cuisine. One of my favorite things about Italian food is how easy it is to recreate so many of their delicious dishes right here on the northern plains of Montana.

Here at the farm this past season, we were blessed with bountiful vegetable yields that will last us the winter. And with winter just around the corner, what better way to put our fresh, organic veggies to use than a warm, flavorful soup?

1 onion
2 carrots
1 tomato
1 zucchini
4 garlic cloves
1 handful fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons The Oil Barn® safflower oil (can substitute with olive oil)
A pinch of dried chili flakes
10 sage leaves
1 1/2 cups cannellini beans, cooked
4 cups vegetable stock
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese

Dice the onion, tomato, and zucchini. Mince the garlic cloves. Chop the carrots. Remove the leaves from the parsley.

In a large saucepan, heat the safflower (olive) oil. Add the onion, carrots, chili flakes, and sage and cook over low heat for 20 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the parsley, tomato, and zucchini and cook for a few minutes.

Add the beans (drained, if canned), and cover with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

To serve, top with Parmesan cheese shavings and enjoy!

Farm-Fresh Homemade Apple Pie with KAMUT® Wheat Crust

As promised, after completing my delectably successful Old-Fashioned Service Berry Pie, I tried my hand at one of my favorite dessert pies—apple! What better way to celebrate National Apple Month and this delicious, versatile fruit?

Our prairie orchard did very well this year, producing hundreds of pounds of fresh, mouthwatering organic fruits. Several of our apple trees did particularly well, including our Goodland tree, which produced over 250 pounds of apples that we pressed into cider. And, for the first time, we had a nice crop of 30 or 40 apples on our Wolf River heirloom tree, from which the apples are the size of baseballs! The Wolf River apples are specifically intended for cooking and I only needed a few to make my apple pie. This tasty, homemade pie is Farm-to-Table at its best, give it a try and be sure to let me know what you think!

Crust

2 cups KAMUT® Wheat White Flour (I use fine-ground flour that I grind right there)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup shortening (I used organic lard)

Combine flour and salt. Take out 1/3 cup of the flour and salt mixture and add the water to create a paste. Set aside. Cut shortening (or lard) into the remaining flour and salt combination until pea size. Add paste mixture. Knead lightly then divide in half and roll out into two parts—one for the top and the other for the bottom of the pie.

Filling

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup Whole-Wheat KAMUT® Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups of apple slices
2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg white

Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Mix in apple slices. Cut butter into small pieces. Pour apple mixture into pie plate and place butter pieces around the top. Cover with crust. Brush pie crust with part of a beaten egg white.

On the lowest oven rack, bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Decrease the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pie crust is browned on the top. For the last 10 minutes or so, cover with foil to prevent the crust from getting too dark. Place on a rack to cool and enjoy warm, à la mode!

 

The First International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems

Updated October 20, 2017—

As Scottish poet, Robert Burns, once wrote, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.” So it should come as no surprise that several months after making the announcement here on my blog, while helping to organize an international conference, we found that we were unable to complete everything necessary to host our event in St. Petersburg by our originally scheduled date. During the reorganization period, a couple of significant changes occurred, including a new conference location and, of course, a new date.

And so I am very pleased to announce the First International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems will officially take place at the historic and world-famous University of Bologna in Italy on July 13-15, 2018! I invite you to visit our website for more information, as well as instructions on how to register for any interested parties. See you in Bologna in June 2018!

*While I am saddened that we were unable to host this first conference in St. Petersburg, as I had first hoped, I expect we will have a wonderful conference in Bologna. And perhaps one day we will have an opportunity to hold a future conference within the inspirational walls of the Vavilov Institute.


During the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources in St. Petersburg, Russia. I had first heard of this seed bank from my science teacher in high school and my first visit to this place was an incredible inspiration to me.

For those of you who may not know, the Vavilov Institute has a rich and dedicated heritage of collecting and preserving seeds from all over the world. Perhaps among the most moving examples of this dedication was the amazing sacrifices of the scientists during the 900-day siege of St. Petersburg during World War II. Many of these dedicated individuals gave their lives, starving to death, while protecting and preserving the seeds within the walls of this institution.

Vavilov Institute, St. Petersburg, Russian

© Alex Florstein Fedorov, Wikimedia Commons

Today, many plant scientists around the world are putting their professional lives on the line by not following the dominating dogma of biotech that focuses largely on yield and efficiency. They have chosen, instead, to study and report the importance of landraces and ancient grains and how they may be a good match for regenerative organic agriculture with an emphasis on nutrition and health, rather than just increasing yields and efficiency of manufacturing.

And so, to the site of such heroic and selfless acts to preserve seeds in the past, Kamut International, IFOAM Organics International and the Vavilov Institute will be inviting many of the modern-day protectors and promoters of wheat landraces and populations, as well as extending an invitation to any who may be of interest, to gather and discuss their findings and ideas at the First International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems in St. Petersburg, Russia July 19-22, 2017*.

Our hope is to bring together like-minded scientists from around the world to discuss the health challenges of modern wheat as well as its production and processing with a focus on finding solutions to those challenges. Our intention is for this to be more than a meeting of great minds, this will be a problem-solving conference to help and to encourage those working in this area by exchanging ideas, debating theories and developing new hypotheses to examine.

Personally, I am very excited about this historic event and also wish to invite any interested, forward-looking food company executives, leaders in agriculture and government officials. If we missed you in our initial outreach, please contact me for more information.

A Perennial Possibility: The Potential of Perennial Wheat

Farming is hard work! It means long hours in the fields, seeding and harvesting and all the preparation, hope and prayers in between. With organic agriculture, it also means watching each field for signs of disease and pests while closely monitoring weed competition and adjusting crop rotations to accommodate. This includes adding some aspect of “no till” which would reduce the need for tillage to keep down weeds. For me, this is one of the reasons there is a definite appeal in the idea of perennial wheat.

Perennials and biennials aren’t an unfamiliar concept on our farm; we companion seed alfalfa and clover with our wheat or other cash crops as part of our crop rotation to save time, energy and resources when planting. As I mentioned before, reducing the need for tillage is a potential benefit of perennial wheat which we take advantage of with our alfalfa and clover. For our clover, we do not till the soil for about 14 months. And for the alfalfa, it’s 26 – 38 months, depending on how long we let the alfalfa grow! So we are able to reduce tillage to zero on some of our fields occasionally, but we use both clover and alfalfa as green manure crops, not cash crops. If you follow me on Facebook, you already know my land is as much an organic research center as it is a farm and we always have several agricultural experiments growing throughout the season, be it in our prairie orchard, our dry land vegetables, or testing different crops in our fields. This year, we added a perennial wheat trial to the list.

But what is perennial wheat? To expound on the general definition of perennial, which means “having a life cycle lasting more than two years,” perennial wheat is a hybrid of annual wheat and wheatgrass that can keep growing back after each harvest and survive the winter in between. The perennial wheat plant itself develops a root system that can go as deep as 10 feet and, lucky for us, grows best in cooler climates. While the head of perennial wheat can produce more seeds than an annual plant, the seeds themselves are considerably smaller, with an overall yield at about 50-70% of an annual wheat harvest. But it’s still a work in progress.

Here on the farm, we planted two small test plots, using a particular variety called Kernza®. Kernza® is one of many varieties of perennial wheat being developed by The Land Institute and Rodale with focuses similar to my own grain experiments including yield and grain quality. Our initial test was to compare row spacing of 14 inches with 24 inches and both did very well. Due to the relatively small size of the plots we hand-pulled the weeds this year and found the yields-per-row were about the same. So the wider spacing provided no additional advantage for overall production. This next year we will continue watching for weed control and yield differences as well as compare the grain quality from each plot.

As a farmer, yield and grain quality are among our top priorities—how much grain can I expect and how much can I contract it for? But there are other concerns, such as incorporating a perennial cash crop into an annual crop rotation, which is something my farm manager and I would need to consider more in-depth should we choose to take our perennial wheat production to a larger scale.

But, as with any crop we grow here on the semi-arid plains of northern Montana, my greatest concern is moisture—water is the biggest challenge with any dry land crop. And this summer truly put this particular concern to the test, with more than three months of consistent high temperatures and no rainfall. However, our perennial wheat plot pulled through and if it can survive a drought season like that, moisture shouldn’t be an issue going forward.

With our first season growing perennial wheat coming to a close, it will be interesting to see how this particular test plot progresses. Next year we will add a perennial legume to the mix, so I’ll be sure to keep you apprised!

World Teachers’ Day 2017

It’s World Teachers’ Day today and, as I promised last year, I’ve chosen another teacher (from many) who had a lasting impact on my life. She was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Fern Giebel.

In 1955, there were 26 students in Big Sandy’s first grade and the majority of us had attended kindergarten together the year before so we were already acquainted. Mrs. Giebel had taught first grade for many years, so as you might expect, she was a kind but stern woman. She was a recognized good teacher, popular with both students and parents. She provided a fun but organized classroom experience with many projects and learning activities that I still remember more than 60 years later. I liked her very much.

I generally enjoyed school and, during these formative years, I learned some significant lessons. One particularly powerful lesson had a substantial impact on my thinking for the rest of my life. My first grade year in school was nearing its end and we had just finished reading through our Dick and Jane reader—remember those?—in our little reading groups of 10 or so. Mrs. Giebel asked the class which story from the reader we would like to read again. There were two or three clear favorites among my group but mine was not in the majority. When my friends, who had chosen the same story as I, started to change their vote to the popular opinion, I was soon left as the only one in favor of my original selection. I didn’t change my vote and, of course, we didn’t read my favorite story that day, but as the group prepared to read the most popular story, Mrs. Giebel turned to me in a private moment and said, “Good for you, Bob, for sticking with your choice when all the others went with the majority.” It wasn’t part of her study plan but that one moment had more effect on me than anything that could have come from any curriculum. That one comment was a huge reinforcement to me, even as a young 7-year-old boy, to always stand by what I believe, even if I might stand alone.

Since that day all those years ago, I have had many experiences of standing alone or being outnumbered throughout my life as I chose paths often “less traveled.” But the reinforcement I received as an impressionable young first-grader, to stand for what I believe, even if I may stand alone, has aided me throughout my life. I am so grateful for an outstanding teacher who took just a moment to teach me such a monumental lesson. Here’s to you, Mrs. Giebel—thank you!