These heritage wheats are more than a historical curiosity. Their superior nutritional profile and their suitability for agro-ecological farming make them a good starting point in our quest to select and develop bread grains that grow well in Scottish soils and can nourish healthy citizens while providing local farmers with a fair and reliable return.
Click on an image at the bottom of this page to find out more about, and to order, each variety.
Read on here for information on
how we rescued these wheats from international obscurity
the special way we mill the flour for maximum freshness, flavour and nutrients
what’s actually in these grains and how we found out
how to bake the best of them
Not surprisingly, finding these varieties and getting to the point where there is enough flour to go round has been quite a story. How do you find the seed to revive and research these long-forgotten wheats? We have to thank Andy Forbes of Brockwell Bake Association in London for scouring gene banks round the world for tiny samples (typically 10 grams or less) of ‘accessions’ bearing the name of Rouge d’Ecosse. He also identified Golden Drop and Hunter’s as plausible ‘Scottish’ heritage grains. A total of 13 small packets of wheat seed across the three varieties were germinated under controlled conditions (‘vernalised’) by Mike Ambrose at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and the resultant seedlings brought up to Scotland in March 2013 for growing out on four farms in the Borders, East Lothian, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire. Each year the grain was harvested and re-sown, with the majority being grown at Mungoswells in East Lothian. It is this grain that we are now milling into flour.
A new way of milling
This flour has been milled for maximum nutrient retention on an innovative ‘cyclone’ mill called a Zentrofan. It’s a slow, small-scale process which reduces the grain to fine particles without either heating it up by excessive abrasion (as can happen with stone milling) or stripping it of its vital nutrients (which is the main effect of producing white flour on industrial roller mills). There is more detail about the mill and how it works here.
What’s different about this flour?
In 2014 the James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie tested all 13 samples of our wheat from the gene banks round the world. The initial results told us two things: first, that all the accessions named ‘Rouge d’Ecosse’ were genetically pretty much identical despite having spent many decades in seed stores as far apart as Poland and the USA, being periodically ‘grown out’ to maintain the viability of the seed; second, that all these ‘old’ varieties had generally higher levels of nutritionally-important minerals and trace elements than the types of wheat being grown commercially. Encouraged by this initial evidence, we collated all the accessions named Rouge d’Ecosse (and Golden Drop and Hunter’s) into ‘composite’ varieties, capturing, we hoped, a degree of diversity from their varied provenance which might help them thrive again in Scottish soil.
We tested samples of the milled grain (exactly as you will find it in the bags of flour that we are selling) in summer 2017. The results are presented and discussed here. Every bag we sell comes with a summary of the mineral values for that variety on a label. We don’t know of any other flour being sold with this amount of information, though we hope other millers will follow suit so that bakers can choose and use flours that have more in them. Although we can be confident that we are on the right track to improve the nutrient density of Scottish breadmaking wheat, we know that there is much more to do. Which is why we are planning to include well-researched high-mineral wheat varieties from Scandinavia into our growing programme.
Testing grain is expensive and we need to do a lot more of it to make sure that our research and practice follows the best evidence. We rely on donations and share sales to support our work even as we try to convince funders that our work merits support from the public purse. If you think we are on to something, please join us.
Baking with heritage flour
This flour is special. Apart from its above-average mineral content, It has
a full, satisfying flavour without the dry dustiness of some wholemeals
gluten that is naturally softer, less stretchy and more extensible (and arguably more digestible) than in common breadmaking flours
Top tips for getting good results:
Knead the dough gently and for less time than you have to when using a ‘strong’ flour
Be patient and ferment your bread slowly (using sourdough) to develop flavour and digestibility
If you’re struggling to get a longed-for lightness, sieve the flour to remove some of the bran or add a portion (up to 25%) of a ‘strong’ flour