Growing Grains

Growing, harvesting, milling and using amaranth, corn, wheat, oats, rye and triticale.


| June/July 1999



174-050-02

Producing the staff of life... from scratch.


PHOTO: PAUL CHAUNCEY/STOCK MARKET

One or more species of grain can be produced in significant quantities on garden-sized plots of land almost anywhere that one or another variety of wild grass grows naturally. Evolved to regrow quickly following the combined hoof and-jaw predations of vast herds of grazing animals that once roamed the globe, the cereal grasses are widely adapted, tough, resilient, deep-rooted, fast growing and easily propagated. The hard, long lived grains they produce as seed can be grown, h arvested and milled in family sized quantities with simple machines and elementary hand tools. If properly cured and stored, they will keep for two or three years or more. Which means that you and I can provide our own organically grown, chemical-free flour, meal and whole grains if we make the effort.

But not many of us do. And small wonder: homegrown, ground and baked grain offers little economic advantage so long as generic brand squishy white bread costs less than a dollar a loaf, and we can buy stone ground King Arthur flour for about 50 a pound.

Yet it is deeply satisfying to be self-sufficient enough to serve family or guests a sturdy peasant bread or skillet baked corn cakes made from grain that you've grown and ground yourself. The whole grain flavor and nutrition of breads grown your own organic way, without harsh chemicals and on your own land, will be better than anything you can get from the supermarket. Guaranteed.

What's Involved in Growing Grain

Other than lowland rice and North American wild rice, which require full or part time flooding, cereal grains are undemanding. They require full sun for optimum yield, but will tolerate cool and cloudy climates, poor soils, small amounts of water and a minimum of protection from pests and weeds. Indeed, most grains germinate in only two days after planting and wetting beating most annual weeds. And their large, nutrition packed seeds fuel rapid root and top growth. If planted densely enough, many cereal grains will shade and crowd out most annual competition before tiny weedlings have a chance to become established.

That's the good news. The not so good news is that the yield from cereal grain plantings is low compared to that of the average garden row of green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli or sweet corn.

But garden produce is harvested at either the lush, green, growing vegetative stage (lettuce or spinach) or the fruiting or storage root swelling stage (tomatoes, carrots). Fresh produce is mostly plant sugar and water. Grain is the seed of the plant, dried down to a water content of just 12% at maturity. Its nutrients are converted from liquid plant sugars to dry starch in order to over winter and fuel new growth in the coming spring.





Crowd at Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Sept. 15-17, 2017
Seven Springs, PA.

With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain you over the weekend.

LEARN MORE