Island Grains

What’s the oldest grain?

What's the oldest kind of grain still available?

The ancestral varieties are emmer, spelt, einkorn and khorasan. (Some refer to khorasan as "Polish wheat," although we've also heard that these are two different varieties.) The Heritage Grains Foundation says that these ancient varieties are more nutritious, more flavourful, and are easier for our primitive bodies to metabolize and digest than some of the modern strains.

The Mesopotamians also used emmer to make beer.

Quinoa (which is not technically a grain) was known to the Incas as the "Mother Grain" or "Super Grain," and played a major role in their culture.

Kamut International Ltd. sent us this information, for anyone interested in "kamut":

KAMUT® is a trademark for an ancient variety of grain called khorasan. The KAMUT® trademark is a guarantee that the grain has never been hybridized or genetically modified, meets strict quality standards and is always organically grown. “KAMUT” was found as a reference to wheat in an Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary.

To ask more questions, click here to return to How to Grow Grains.


I’m gluten intolerant: what kind of grains are best for me?

I'm gluten intolerant: what kinds of grains are best for me?

The Heritage Grains Foundation says: don't discount wheat just because you react to most flours. Typical flour tends to include too many wheat varieties to be able to pinpoint which particular wheat is causing the problem. Generally the more modern strains of grains will be harder for our bodies to metabolize and digest, simply because they've become too complex. The simpler ancestral grains, such as emmer and spelt, may be easier for our bodies to digest.

To ask more questions, click here to return to How to Grow Grains.


What kind of grains can I grow?

There are countless varieties of grains in the world. In Canada, we haven't (yet) fully explored the many varieties to know which ones will do best in our many micro-climates, or are best suited to our individual eating styles. To get you started on discovering which grains are right for you, here are some recommendations:

Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds:

  • blue-tinged Ethiopian wheat (delicious when whole cooked)
  • Red Fife wheat (excellent flavour)
  • Brazilian lavras wheat (especially when whole cooked)

Robert Giardino of the Heritage Grains Foundation:

  • emmer (an ancestral grain eaten by the pharoahs; extremely difficult to thresh without machinery)

Helen Reid, Cowichan quinoa grower:

  • quinoa, although not technically a grain (stunningly beautiful plants; a local alternative to rice; a nutrient powerhouse)

Brock & Heather of Makaria Farm:

  • modern wheats, such as the generic "hard white spring wheat" (we love the short, consistent height (2' in 2010) for harvesting with a scythe, and they grow well for us)
  • rye (it grows really tall at 8-9', which risks lodging, but we like getting all the straw as a byproduct; we like rye as a cover crop for our vegetable farm; and we get massive yields from the 8-10" long seed heads which leads to greater yields in small areas)
  • flax (it's pretty in bouquets!)

For a summary of what we've learned/heard so far about each variety of grain, please visit our Grains 101 page.

To ask more questions, click here to return to How to Grow Grains.