Wheat

I usually grow a little plot of wheat. You can get 10# of wheat berries from a 5×20 plot, it’s not enough to live on, but that is a few loaves of bread, and it’s quite fulfilling. I also try different kinds of wheat (winter wheat, spring wheat, kamut, stone age, etc.) and different ways of growing it (plug trays, broadcast).

The kinds I grow are fairly easy to tresh and winnow, although it’s hard to get all the bits of stem out of the grain. I suppose it adds fiber… We use an electric grain mill to make flour and from that bake bread. It’s perfectly nice bread, perhaps a bit dark and heavy, even using 100% home grown wheat. But we like dark interesting breads.

tallwheatTall, non-awned wheat

I believe it is SS 791 from Bountiful Gardens. This from saved seed that I grew out from 2005-2006 (I think). It germinated slower than the other.

shortwheatAnd this is the shorter, awned wheat. This, I believe, Hard Red Winter from Bountiful Gardens. (I could have these backwards).
You can see a little of the tall wheat to the left.

The last time I grew these varieties, I don’t remember a difference in the plots, but the non-awned was a little easier to thresh, the grains were a little larger, but the yield was a little less than the awned.

This year, the difference is dramatic. Both were planted in the same bed, same number of plants (transplanted from 244-plug trays), at the same time with the same spacing, and treated the same (i.e. ignored). The awned wheat is been yellow and unhappy, while the non-awned grows tall and green. I counted tillers (stalks with seed heads) on a particularly healthy looking plant of each; the non-awned one had about 20 tillers, while the awned one had almost 80! If I’d heavily fertilized the awned wheat, it could have really gone to town with production.

I think this is the heart of the “green revolution”, both the good and the bad. Yes, the right variety when treated optimally will give you a much better yield. But equally, if you can’t give it all the fertilizer it craves and demands, perhaps the old traditional varieties have a use. It’s too soon to see how they will yield.

And I would never have though two types of winter wheat would be so different. I wonder if they taste different?