Ancient grains flourish again in Sweden

Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides Thell (Wild Emmer) - cultivated

Photo of wild emmer by Flickr user Arthur Chapman, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I’ve often sung the praises of spelt and other grains that predate modern wheat, but it’s a topic worth revisiting, especially with an engaging angle. Cole Ruth recently detailed for Modern Farmer how a group of Swedes is invigorating a market for grains other than run-of-the-mill (pun intended) wheat:

[Curt] Niklasson banded together with a group of five other farms and a mill to create a cooperative called Gutekorn. It became their mission to protect and manage Gotland’s ancient grains by making them financially viable….

Gotland is located smack-dab in the middle of the Baltic trade route between Denmark and Sweden. Originally, einkorn made its way from Persia, crossed with wild grasses and turned into wild emmer, was cultivated and crossed with another wild grass and became spelt. There is evidence that einkorn, emmer and spelt were all cultivated on Gotland as far back as 500 B.C. and seeds of all of these were found in Ardre, including multiple sub-varieties, like summer wheat, white, red, blue and black emmer, and borstvete, a variety of wheat that appears to be unique to Gotland. Borstvete, or “brushed wheat” is now listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste.

I recently visited Niklasson and his wife Lotta on their farm, where they also raise Gotlandish sheep. Niklasson made coffee and set rolls and crispbread on the table, all made from Gutekorn flour….

“A farmer today isn’t free,” says Niklasson. “Farmers are dependent on the seed distributors and since the modern seeds don’t have the right resistances, they are dependent on pesticide producers, and since the pesticides kill the healthy microbes in the soil, they are also dependent on the fertilizer companies. At Gutekorn we are some of the last free farmers.”

Check out the full post (with photos) here.

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