Heritage grains Doornik Natuurakkers, The Netherlands, 2017
Happy Walking in the Grain
For the fourth year we – Ineke Berentschot and Louis Dolmans - organized Happy Walking in the Grain at Doornik Natuurakkers. This field is owned by Louis Dolmans (1950). He wanted to reshape a place between the cities Nijmegen and Arnhem (The Netherlands) from a monoculture of maize and meadows in a kind of place that he knows from his youth: lots of birds, lots of trees, lots of grainfields, lots of diversity, lots of wild flowers. Louis started in 2010 with 15 hectare, He grew in a biologic-dynamic way grains, lupines, pumpkins.
Me, Ineke Berentschot (1952) - organic baker in the eighties in The Netherlands and from than on (of course) homebaker, writer, sharer of knowledge - I came on the fields for the first time in 2013, met there Louis who explained me all the heritage grains. We met each more times on the fields and at one moment we said: hey, why not be here together every wednesday evening at seven and take with us who wants to come with us. So from 2014 we organize Happy Walking in the Grain. We walk along the grains with everyone who wants to come with us. We do it for free, everyone pays 2,50 and that money goes to the foundation Zaadgoed.
Sometimes we walk with four people, sometimes with fifteen, never mind. We walk from end may till the grains are harvested, begin august. Ineke always bakes extra bread on wednesday, so we can end the walk with a slice of bread. The few times Louis could not be present: Joop Koopman was a sublime replacement.
Edgar Grunder, Consequente Biobakker
All the harvested products went exclusive to the Demeter Consequente Biobakker in Ahaus. This bakery - specially one of the owners Edgar Grunder - was an oase of knowledge on heritage grains, on exchanging seeds between their Dutch and German farmers, on tasting the breads of all the grains a.s.o.
The bakery went broke in 2016, alas and not alas. Now there comes a new chance for regional bio bakers to go bake with the heritage grains of Doornik. The coöperation between millers in Nijmegen, Arnhem, Wageningen and ‘their’ organic bakers – both professional and home- - is now starting. Some of the bakers, some of the millers showed up at Happy Walking in the Grain, they see and feel and eat of the grains and this is how it all should be.
2017, grains at Doornik Natuurakkers
Sint Jans Rogge
First, what was not. Not there was the Sint Jansrogge (Dutch rye); till this year always a proud part of the fields. Last year there was a bad harvest, so no seeds that were good enough to sow. Hopefully next year again the ‘man´s-high’ Sint Jans rogge.
What was there.
Heliaro population wheat and Goldblume
About 5 hectare Heliaro population wheat and about 5 hectare Goldblume wheat, both hexaploïde wheatsorts. The Goldblume wheat should have been sown together with a less high wheat, Sandomir (a normal procedure in older times, to make a mélange of grainsorts that should keep each upright and healthy), but that wasn’t there when sewing. Result: the Goldblume on the clay parts of the same fields grew fast, on the sandpart very less. But than after rain and storm the clay parts Goldblume fell on the ground - see picture -, while the sandpart Goldblume grew very fast and good and kept standing upright. Result at the harvest: about 2000 kilo per hectare.
The Heliaro population wheat is an experiment by Demeter farmers to come to a breadwheat that could be traded (and first get the permission of the Seed Organisation). Louis had ‘Heliaro’ population 8 and 9. The bread, baked from his populations, always were high in taste. As they say in Demeter: sand gives the taste, clay gives the bulk.
This year the ‘Heliaro’ grew very good. The field was almost free of ‘unwanted herbs’ as Louis says. The yield was about 4000 kilo per hectare. A neighbor that saw the harvesting was kidding: 'Aha, my (non biological) wheat has much more yield, 10.000 kilo per hectare.' Louis asked the neighbor: 'How much you get for one kilo.' ‘Even 20 eurocent.’ Louis said: ‘I get about 90 eurocent for mine.’ The neighbor was silent.
Einkorn, Spelt van Hoosterhof, Limburse Risweit
Than four serious fields einkorn wheat, Spelt van Hoosterhof, Limburgse Risweit and a small part Gelderse Risweit. All these fields are 'multiplied' in the last four years by Louis from few seeds (from university gene libraries for instance) till these nice fields.
Einkorn is such a beautiful plant. Light green, high, tiny ears, graceful. Louis has now multiplied enough so that next year he can resew and sell some einkorn. Einkorn gives less kilo’s, 1000 till 1500 per hectare. Maybe you should not bake breads from it, but use it in salads, cooked or sprouted. In Germany this wheatsort is very popular because of the lutein, see this little abstract on lutein.
Spelt van Hoosterhof is an original spelt-race in The Netherlands, here from the Romans in Limburg. (The newer so called spelt races might be crossed with normal breadwheat. This is practice due to the popularity of spelt.) Also this spelt might next year produce enough to also sell it to the bakers.
Limburgse Risweit is the proud queen of the fields for Louis, who comes from Itterden, Limburg. He multiplied this beautifull old Limburg landrace from 12 seeds till what all he has now. Limburse risweit is pretty high, has enormous beards, looks beautiful on the field.
Gelderse Risweit was only a small field, due to the mis-harvest last year (all the Gelderse Risweit was wept to the ground on a stormy rainy night).
Diversifood project: einkorn, emmer and rivet wheats
Last but not least: the Diversifood project-field with a twenty sorts of einkorn, emmer and rivet wheats. Diversifood is an European project where farmers try out old seeds, examine how they grow, whether they grow in this climate, on this soil, whether they are resistant against sicknesses, how much they produce and what the breadbaking qualities are of these seeds. In The Netherlands the Louis Bolk Instituut organizes this project. Louis is one of the farmers. The Diversifood wheats make a major reason for people to join Happy Walking, because no where in The Netherlands you can see so much diverse wheats (and nowhere there is such a welcome farmer as Louis and such a nice ‘walkingmother who bakes bread’ as Ineke). Louis wants every year make such experimental fields; let's hope we'll be able to organize these Happy Walkings for many more years.
What at first glance you see: wow, all these colours. From white via braun and red till purple and almost black. That’s also what you read in old books on agriculture: that the grains are amongst divided in white, red, purple coloured. We saw also one rivet grain that was yellow AND blue, two colours in one, the Rivet Wheat Aguillon, see the picture beside & below. There were saved little paths between the fields, so we could walk through and touch and feel en smell and see. Okay, what’s what.
Einkorn is a 14-chromosome hulled wheat. Hulled grains should be peeled before you can mill them. On the field were 7 sorts.
Emmer is a 28-chromosome hulled wheat. On the fields were nine sorts.
Rivet is also a 28- chromosome unhulled wheat. So these wheats you can harvest and the grains fall out of the ears and are use-able for milling. Nine different sorts were sown at Doornik Natuurakkers.
The einkorn fields were very different coming out. Few very beautifull sorts, high, light green, lightly blowing with the winds. Many fields were not doing so well.
The emmer fields were amazing. Some not to good producing, most doing very well and showing up as white, as red, as purple or almost black beautiful creatures. See the four pictures below.
The rivet fields were the real surprise. Rivet sorts with names such as ´Rampton Rivet´ (picture here beside), ‘Marie’, ‘Asturias’, ‘Gigante Lampino de Najera’ (above the last picture at the right), ‘Poulard Italie’, ‘Géant de Saint Hélène’ `felt at home on the Dutch zavel fields (zavel is between sand and clay) as if they belong here. Huge. Heavy ears. Beautifull. I wondered why we never have discovered in Holland these wheatsorts for baking. Louis had read somewhere that the rivet wheats were soon falling, at storm and rain. But not these rivets. They kept standing upright after real heavy rain and storms. Louis was happy not to have put much (natural, from a neighbor Demeter cattle farmer) fertilization on the soil.
I am very curious what the outcome will be for percentages and qualities of proteins to bake with these grains.
Baking with old grains, heritage grains, organic grains, regional grains
I had an organic bakery in the Netherlands during 1980-1990. Once when I could bake (after a few years), I asked myself: where am I baking with. The grain came mainly from France. Not so very ecological. We looked for Dutch farmers and from than on we baked with Dutch grains. Every time we had a new harvest or wheat from another race or another field or another farmer, we had to feel at the flour, at the dough. How much water can it have? How long knead it? How long time for the first rise, for the final rise a.s.o.
Three main principles: one: when you have ‘weak’ wheat, the result is better with sourdough than with yeast. If you use yeast, you should maybe use a bit less yeast than normal, so that the process goes a bit slower. Two: weak wheat can have less water than strong wheat, you can feel it at the dough how much water it can have. Thirth: the final rise is more precair. When you wait too long, the dough will not keep itself upright.
If necessary you can use a bit strong flour as dough improver. Or use ascorbic-acid or malt flour. If just you know why you use it and if just you communicate it clearly to your customers.
Me myself, I'll give my lessons on breadbaking coming season on one subject: how to bake with the grains of Louis. I baked with grains from Doornik Natuurakkers 2016, see Oude granen, harde cijfers en proefbakken.
The positive reasons to bake bread of regional or old landrace or organic or heritage grains is: TASTE. All you have to do is to uncondition yourself and your customers that a bread should be high and airy. Stop the ultimate goal to just bake 'fancy yuppen French white sourdough bread' with as much elastic holes as possible and try to also bake with what there is. And TASTE what you've baked out of old, regional grains.
Another argument to bake with old grains, old landraces, organic grains, is that they seem to take more diverse minerals from the soil (and not only the minerals that make them grow fast and produce much). It would be nice if there should come more research on this question: whether old grains are more nutricious.
Well, Louis has an income as retired man. He wants just to earn enough money to be able to buy seeds, new trees, to pay for the machinework a.s.o. So this is a luxury position. Grow old grains in The Netherlands is pretty uncertain. Wind and rains can lay down the plants, and the farmer has nothing. Or it can rain and rain when there should be harvested, and the farmer cannot sell his grain for baking but just to feed cattle. So: he gets a lower kilo price. So it is not just ‘rozegeur en maneschijn’ as we say in Holland. In fact you should make cycles of farmers, millers, bakers, consumers. And give everyone a fair price.
From farmer to consumer
There are a few proven projects in The Netherlands. First of course the biological-dynamic bakers/farmers. it's in there 'gene's' to have a cycle.
Than we have Zeeuwse Vlegel , already from 1991 a cycle between farmers, millers, bakers, consumers in Zeeland. They produce environment friendly whole wheat and products from it.
In Limburg there is a cycle around Kollenberger Spelt, started in 1999. The spelt makes the fields beautifull. The products, made from this spelt, are an economic chance for Zuid Limburg. The project make the people proud, connected with their earth.
Four reasons to bake with regional, old, organic, heritage grains
1. Less transport with the grains, so good for environment
2. When you bake with old landraces; good for the diversity
3. Hopefully the baker/farmer/miller unite and can follow the grain from growing till bread
4. Old, regional grains give another TASTE. A taste of earth, of terroir.
Read and see more, blog and movies
Happy Walking in the Grain, blog, written after every wednesday walk (in Dutch).
It was very nice that Theo Jennissen - artist/photgrapher - attended the walks from 14 june this year.
Theo is in fact a street photographer. During the Happy Walkings he got fascinated about the bond between human and landscape. He made little movies of the pictures. From the beginning till the end you can watch now how the grain growed in The Netherlands
14 june 2017
21 june 2017
28 june 2017
5 july 2017
12 and 16 july 2017
19 july 2017
26 july 2017
2 augustus 2017
In former years Theo Rombout (other Theo) made beautiful pictures at Doornik Natuurakkers, see his blog Graanenbrood.
(the first picture on this page is made by Theo Jennissen, the last by Bertie Rougoor, the rest by me)