Ancient Grains

The Waltham Place Landrace of ancient grains will prove a fitting inheritance for the next generation who follow behind us.

For many years Waltham Place has grown grain, both for flour milling and for animal feed: Wheat, oats, barley, rye and triticale. However, in recent years we have found ourselves considering the impact of modern wheat flour on the food supply chain and its prevalence as an ingredient in so many products. With the rise in gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, evidenced by those who visit our tearoom and attend our bread making courses, we began to look back in time for alternatives. The conventional farming system has honed the production of wheat to such a degree that it has now become unrecognizable to its forbears. Through experimentation, discussion, research and advice we have now established a mixture of grains that have a direct relation to their ancestors, Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt, sourcing seed from different sources which include eastern European and Asian origin. In particular, the golden crescent which heralded the beginning of cereal evolution.

We have spent the last five years gathering information and seed samples, planting and harvesting, and replanting and harvesting. In 2020 we harvested enough grains to plant out ten acres with varieties of ancient wheat. To separate us out from the crowd, we are establishing a landrace (blend) of various grains with the goal of producing our own flour, from our own seed, to make our own bread.

Whilst conventional farming prefers a monocrop approach, by planting a blend of ancient wheat varieties together as a landrace we acknowledge the importance of natural selection to create a resilient crop, particular to this very place. We believe there are advantages to our choice. Ancient grains require less inputs than modern varieties. As deep rooting crops, these strains favour less fertile ground, seeking out the nutrients they require and searching for water in times of drought. Taller than a modern-day wheat crop, the added height offers an advantage in competing with weeds and will provide straw for Winter cattle bedding. Biodiversity within the crop is greater than in a conventional mono crop system, and when combined with a herbicide and pesticide free protocol will ensure far greater biodiversity of other flora and fauna living within the field and in the soil microbiome. Research suggests that despite having a similar gluten content to modern wheat, ancient monococcum grains such as Einkorn possess a more digestible and potentially less toxic gluten which goes someway to explaining why some of our customers report an easing of their gluten intolerance when modern wheats are avoided.

This is an exercise in patience and will take years to achieve as environmental factors such as soil, weather, microclimate, wildlife and our own biodynamic methodology determine the success or failure of different varieties. Some varieties will not pass the tests of time, whilst others will thrive.  The resultant Waltham Place Landrace of ancient grains will prove a fitting inheritance for the next generation who follow behind us.

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Fresh fruit and vegetables from June through to December

Deliciously different, our biodynamic and organic ethos means that everything you buy will have been produced here at Waltham without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
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