Can you Imagine that one Day you'll Care about Wheat like you Care about Wine?
“Can you image that one day you'll care about the flavor of your wheat like you care about your” wine? I adapted this sentence from Jill Roth whose article can be found at the end of this post. Among grain growers there's abundant talk about the differences of flavor and taste among wheat varieties. Red Fife can have a slightly nutty taste while White Sonora is slightly sweet and is used for making tortillas. This might sound surprising because most flour is mass produced to lower costs but mass production also creates product uniformity and consistency. Many food manufacturers value these characteristics. Yet as I work with farmers and millers, hear their stories, and taste their grains I'm learning to appreciate the variations in flavor of heirloom flour and grains. Think about wheat like we do with wines. 30 years ago there were basically white wines and red wines. Today, the wine makers have taught us a lot about how to appreciate the subtly and variation of wine.
In the wine industry the term terroir is used to describe how the characteristics of a place interact with the vines. The idea is that the land, from which the grapes are grown, imparts a unique quality that is specific to that place. Hotter temperatures, rain fall, soil content, elevation, all leave a unique signature. Like the terroir of wine, wheat takes on the characteristics of where it's grown and even the year in which it’s grown. The flavor as well as protein levels vary from year to year depending on rainfall, temperatures and when it's planted, just like wine.
Maybe our drive for flavor will be what re-establishes a market for local heirloom grains. Wouldn’t that be great because not only would our foods taste better and be healthier, we would be strengthening our local food systems, creating biodiversity (in the growing of many varieties of grains) and supporting our local farmers.
Thanks to Anna Roth for this recent article in SF Weekly describing some of the recent trends in the Bay Area.There will be bread, the newest development in food culture is also the oldest