Protein content of Irish grown wheat
Wheat grown in Ireland is suitable for milling into flour for baking soda bread. Due to the protein content of Irish grown wheat and the Irish climate, the flour is not suitable for baking yeast bread.
However in recent years a biodynamic(type of organic) grain has been bred in Switzerland for climates and soils found in Ireland. A biodynamic farmer in Co Wicklow has grown this wheat successfully for the last few years.
Last year we got some of this flour and it baked beautiful brown yeast bread. The next obvious step was to grow some of this wheat in Cappoquin and let the Cappoquin Bakery bake Cappoquin bread!
Aszita is a biodynamic variety
This variety of wheat called Aszita is a biodynamic variety. In short, biodynamic agriculture and gardening is the oldest type of organic agriculture. It was founded by Dr Rudolf Steiner in Germany in the 1920s. One of the purposes of this type of agriculture is to produce food to best nourish the entire human being.
Biodynamic agriculture is practiced throughout the world and in recent years it has become very popular with wine growers because of the high quality wine that it produces. We have been gardening with these principles for many years and were excited and confident about growing this wheat.
This is a winter wheat variety and so ideally it should be sown in September/October, but the excessively wet conditions in 2012 meant that the ground could not be ploughed and tilled until the end of February and the crop was sown in early March. But after that, the weather could not have been more accommodating. After sowing, the weather got cold, the ideal replication of winter conditions for the wheat and the fantastic growing season after that was a great bonus.
Biodynamic agriculture, like organic agriculture, does not use any weedkillers, pesticides or fungicides. After sowing we spray a preparation based on cow manure to enhance root development and later in the growing season, a preparation based on silica is sprayed to enhance the effect of the sunlight. An organic form of potash was applied in early May and in July we sprayed nettle tea to deal with aphids.
Albion Mower Reaper
As the site was unsuitable for a combine, the crop was cut on 9th August with a 1913 Albion Mower Reaper, complete with table for cutting corn and pulled by a Massey Ferguson 35 (1962). Before combines, the crop was cut with a Reaper and Binder and the sheaves that it produced were gathered into stooks. In turn the stooks were piled into a larger heap called a stack in order to let the grain dry out. These were gathered into a barn or rick near the farm yard.
After a month or more of drying , the wheat was thrashed with a Threshing machine. For this small crop, a Barn Thresher – W Doyle, Wexford (1880) was used. Originally this was operated by four horses but has been converted to a tractor pto. The wheat was cleaned by a Perrott Winnowing machine – C Hive Iron Works, Cork (1880). This threshing took place on Larry Hallahans farm with the kind use of his premises and vintage machinery.
In times past the harvest and threshing was a major farm event and all the local farmers helped each other out using the “meitheal” approach. This spirit was still alive on 19 0ctober at Larry’s farm for this event, with a large turnout of local people and even the age old tradition of bringing refreshments out to the workers happened also!
The following figures are an analysis of this wheat –
- Protein 12.6,
- Moisture 18,
- Starch DM 68.1,
- KPH 77,
- Zelany 36.8
Ballyminane Mills in Co Wexford
At this stage of the project, the farmer’s work is complete. Before a baker can bake bread, the grain has to be milled. We got it milled at Uncle Aidan’s , Ballyminane Mills in Co Wexford. This mill has been powered for nearly 200 years with water from a mill race. The French Burr milling stones do not overheat, thus retaining all the nutritional values of the wheat. Seeing this type of mill in action was a wonderful experience.
After all the work of growing and milling the grain, what quality flour did we end up with?
The miller had told us that in his opinion it was good quality flour and he proved to be right. The bread baked very well and the nutty, wholesome flavour of the bread was absolutely delicious.
This has been a most interesting and informative project for us. We wish to thank the following people for making it all happen : Charles Keane for providing the plot of land to grow the wheat, Blakeney Massey for his experience and crop management skills, Larry and Paul Hallahan and family members for the use of his machinery and helping hands, Noel Looby for his advice and Micheal Miklis for his advice and experience with these grains.
The taste of this bread is unique and superb
Finally, what was the point of all this effort? We are very well satisfied with our project. It is possible to grow wheat in Ireland that is fit to bake yeast bread when you use this biodynamic Aszita wheat variety. The taste of this bread is unique and superb and it is also highly nutritious.
We ended up growing, harvesting and milling the wheat using old time techniques , meaning the involvement of many people . In former times, there would have been a local mill, so everything from growing the wheat to baking the bread would have been carried out locally. That is a local economy working very successfully for the economic and social benefit of the local people.
Joe Barron, Barron’s Bakery