Island Grains
19Mar/110

What’s significant about grain being “open pollinated”?

"Open pollinated" means that the grain is not a hybrid and can reproduce on its own: if you save your grain seed from an open pollinated wheat variety and plant it the next season, it will produce more wheat of that same variety. (Hybrids are less dependable.) This means that you can save your own grain seed each season, without having to buy more.

Open pollinated varieties also tend to be more adaptable to different bio-regions and growing conditions, so if you plant a certain variety (for example, Red Fife wheat) every season and save some of the seed to replant again the next year, that variety will slowly adapt to your soil, humidity levels, the amount you water it, et cetera. In ten years, your variety could look, taste and grow differently than the grower next door who started with the same seed as you.

Finally, open-pollinated seeds usually involve some risk of cross pollination. Corn, for example, will cross pollinate with other corn varieties from hundreds of feet away. This makes the seed unreliable and opens your seed supply to possible contamination from GMO varieties. Luckily, grains tend not to cross pollinate, and different varieties are often grown closely together with little-to-no danger of contaminating the seed.

19Mar/110

What’s the difference between spring wheat and winter wheat?

Wikipedia says:

Winter wheat is a type of wheat that is planted from September to December in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter wheat sprouts before freezing occurs, then becomes dormant until the soil warms in the spring. Winter wheat needs a few weeks of cold before being able to flower; however, persistent snow cover might be disadvantageous. It is ready to be harvested by early July.

Hard winter wheats have a higher gluten protein content than other wheats. They are used to make flour for yeast breads, or are blended with soft spring wheats to make the all-purpose flour used in a wide variety of baked products. Soft wheat is used for specialty or cake flour. Durum, the hardest wheat, is primarily used for making pasta. Almost all durum wheat grown in North America is spring-planted.

In our temperate West Coast climate, many growers are experimenting with planting spring wheat varieties in the winter, to see if they'll survive the rainy/cold season. At Makaria Farm in Duncan we've planted hard white spring wheat in the fall and the spring with great success:

Fall-planted (left) vs. spring-planted (right) hard white spring wheat in March/April 2010 at Makaria Farm in Duncan, BC.

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