In a country increasingly turning to wheat-free/gluten-free diets to avoid the sensitivity issues created by modern wheat, I am convinced that a such a large percent of the general population was not negativity affected by wheat in the past. Similar to my venture in reintroducing the ancient KAMUT® khorasan wheat, I continue to look for other ancient and heritage grains which are anti-inflammatory and can substitute for modern wheat which we have found causes inflammation. Specifically, I’m looking for grains that will not only flourish in organic agricultural systems here in northern Montana but also throughout the rest of the wheat growing areas of North American and even the world.
But maybe I should explain what I mean by “ancient” and “heritage” grains? Ancient grains date back to ancient civilizations. For instance, Ein Korn is an ancient grain that was grown in ancient Egypt and is found in ancient tombs from that region. Whereas heritage grains were grown and handed down to us by our more recent ancestors in modern times up to about WWII. Both are grains that have not been genetically altered to produce higher yields and greater bread loaf volumes like the modern wheat of today.
Now, you may be wondering how I find varieties that are at least 75 years old – the answer is a seed bank. Seed banks are not dissimilar to your personal bank, except rather than providing a safe place for your money, they provide a safe place to store seeds. There are seed banks all over the world. Three years ago I requested 100 varieties of wild Turkish winter wheat from a USDA seed bank. I received 100 5-gram samples (about 35 seeds each) which were carefully planted and replanted for 2 years.
By the end of second season, we eliminated all the varieties which would not stand up by themselves. This year we narrowed our selections down to the best looking 33 varieties. These were all seeded this fall and have now all come up and are looking great. After the harvest next fall, we will be sending the samples out for bake tests which will also include flavor and aroma comparisons. We will then do extensive nutritional analysis on the best ones.
I believe it is important we not simply give up on wheat after it has nourished us so well for so many centuries. That is why I am determined to find good quality healthy wheat which is already existing in nature and add that to our Kamut® family of ancient, healthy, nutritious and delicious wheat which can then be grown throughout the world rather that just in a few small corners of the planet.