Grow Your Own Heritage-Grain Breads



In this time of Covid-19 when grocery store shelves are too often bare and emergency food bank lines can be long, growing and making our own heritage bread can both help and delight. Mona Esposito guides gardeners in doing this. Her website, The Grain Lady, acquaints the reader with some of the top heritage grain varieties, where to source them, their baking qualities, how to bake with them, and much more. The Grain Chain, a nonprofit she served on as founding chair, re-introduces heritage grains to communities in Colorado, as is happening country-wide. Here are six steps to grow your own heritage bread.

The Foundation: Choose Your Grains and Get Set Up

The foundation: fall in love! The taste and texture of heritage grains make them, as Mona says, “the star of the show, not a canvas for other things.” If you’ve never had any, buy a handful of a few different kinds (some sources are on the websites above), cook as you would oats or any cereal. Then taste-test.

Choose varieties you love, that grow well in your area, and which you want to use for specific types of recipes (breads, pastas, cakes etc.) OR choose ones to trial grow.

Set aside 1,000 square feet for growing in a backyard, neighborhood park, unused lot, or the campus of an organization. It’s estimated that this amount can grow enough for a loaf a week. Some grains are sown in spring, some in fall. Take note and plan accordingly. If spring-sown, grow winter cover crops to improve soil and keep weeds down.

Read the resource for essential growing strategies, as well as a cultural history of grains and recipes: the book Restoring Heritage Grains by New England farmer, Eli Rogosa. This is Mona’s and my essential source guide as well as being a riveting read. So is Rogosa’s website, The Heritage Grain Conservancy.

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