This year, we helped our friend and neighbour Richard to grow some no-dig grains. We obtained seeds of Emmer, YQ wheat, Rye and Spelt from the Gothelney Farm and Schumacher College. In November 2021, Richard sowed the seeds in two beds, for a total surface of 50 sqm. The two beds were made on pasture in heavy clay, forked for aeration only once, then mulched with cardboard and a 10cm layer of green-waste compost.
In early August 2022, Richard performed the ancient ritual involving harvest, threshing and winnowing, to obtain some beautiful grains - ready to be sown again and multiplied, to be planted on a larger scale next year. This year’s harvest was very abundant and surprisingly early! The average yield of the YQ was 360g/sqm, comparable to yields obtained with modern wheat in Sicily!
Emmer (also called Farro) is a direct ancestor to todays durum wheat and has a rich nutty flavour and high protein and fibre content. Spelt is a hybrid of emmer and another wild goat-grass, more similar to modern wheat.
These ancient wheats were first domesticated almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Emmer has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries — it provided sustenance for the Roman legions around the turn of the first millennium — and is still cultivated in Italy. It’s also a traditional food in Ethiopia.
All types of wheat contain gluten, but these grains’ simpler genetic makeup means that their gluten has a different protein make-up. As a result, some people with nonceliac gluten sensitivity find that they can tolerate einkorn.
YQ (Yield and Quality) is a wheat landrace, bred at Wakelyns Agroforestry by Professor Martin Wolfe and the Organic Research Centre. The population is a crop of extraordinary diversity, that's emerged over time from a wide range of carefully chosen parent varieties, both from ancient and modern wheats, leading to fields of millions of genetically distinct individual wheat plants rather than the usual genetically uniform monocultures.