Grain & Seed Crops
– Most of my wheat collection is older varieties plus a couple of more recent ones that are recommended for wheat weaving. They generally grow 3’ — 5' tall and mature easily. They range from the Triticum monococcum varieties, which date back to the beginning of civilization, to the products of Canada's wheat breeding program this past century (with date of introduction in brackets following the name). Wheats are all very decorative but Utrecht Blue, the three Triticum monococcums, Polish, Vavilovii and Emmer would be especially attractive in dried arrangements. If you are thinking of growing your own wheat for eating, Spelt, Emmer, Utrecht Blue, and Triticum monococcum are very difficult to thresh by hand.
Each year I grow a part of my wheat collection at St. Peter’s Abbey. To view photo-graphs, visit the Abbey website, and go to the section called “Organics” and then to “Ancient Wheats:” www.stpetersabbey.ca
HARD RED SPRING WHEAT
(Triticum aestivum) has always been the main wheat grown on the prairies. Here is a selection of Canadian bred cultivars and ones used in early Canadian wheat breeding programs:
I also have small quantities of the following hard red spring wheats which were bred or grown in Canada. They were all the work of Agriculture Canada except Ceres, Red Bobs and Kitchener. Wheat breeding is a long process so the dates are somewhat uncertain,
(T. sphaerococcum) – Short and very upright. The heads are rather short and look like bottle brushes. The kernels are plump and almost round.
(T. compactum) – Widely grown for food before common bread wheat dominated wheat growing. CLUB WHEAT has short heads and beards, a good yield, threshes easily and produces plump blond kernels. Breeding work was done on club wheat in the northwestern US a hundred years or so ago and it became a minor crop there. A retired farmer from Humboldt gave me a sample that he called BARREL WHEAT or RED CLUB WHEAT. It has short plump beardless heads producing red kernels, a bit smaller than modern wheats, which are semi-hard and low protein. According to the literature it comes from a cross between a club wheat and a bread wheat in 1899 at Washington AES, was distributed to farmers in 1907 and has been grown almost exclusively in eastern Washington State.
(T. polonicum) – Has large bearded seed heads. The seeds are long and about twice the size of ordinary wheat.
(T. durum) – Has seeds a bit larger than bread wheat. It is used in the production of pasta and is also the preferred wheat for wheat weaving.
– Probably named varieties but I do not know their names.
(T. vavilovii) – Named after the great Russian plant scientist and collector. This old wheat has a very irregular seed head and is somewhat difficult to thresh.
RIVET or POULARD WHEAT
(T. turgidum) – An old wheat species with large blond grains that are used in the production of pasta.
(T. timopheevi) – An ancient grain cultivated in the Republic of Georgia. With its slender stems and flat heads, it looks like a larger, more robust T. monococcum. Also difficult to thresh.
- Has dark green plants with fairly short plump heads with long beards. Large blond seeds.
- Has tall blue-grey plants that are a bit late maturing. The heads are large and slightly branched with medium beards.
- Has grey-green plants with weak stems that lodge easily. The heads are slender with medium beards and the seeds are long and slender, looking more like a wheat grass than a wheat. Named after a city in Iran.
STONE AGE WHEAT or EINKORN WHEAT
(T. monococcum) – Is most likely the earliest domesticated wheat.
– My most decorative wheat. The blue heads with black beards bend over when mature. This variety was still grown around Utrecht (Netherlands) in the early 1900’s.
(T. dicoccum) – Along with einkorn and spelt are the oldest cultivated wheats.
(T. spelta) – Has long (up to 6") slim heads which break easily. Plants and heads bend over when ripe. Until now I have only been growing SPRING SPELT but late in the fall of 2010 I seeded a FALL SPELT. It came up perfectly the following spring and produced a good crop.
(Triticum X. Secale) – A cross between wheat and rye. The kernels are rather wrinkled and not as plump as those of wheat. WELSH (1978) was named in memory of the late Dr. John Welsh, who in 1955 performed the first wheat-rye crosses at the University of Manitoba. It has long bearded heads and is used for wheat weaving. BRAVEHEART has bearded heads not quite as long as Welsh and somewhat more plump seeds.
– was bred by crossing wheat with Haynaldia (a grass) to try to confer more fungus resistance to wheat. The plants have long, plump heads with medium beards. The seeds are a lot longer than red spring wheat.
– was created in Spain in the 1970’s by crossing a wheat with Hordeum chilense. The cross was done to add fungus disease resistance to wheat, but this crop is now grown on a limited scale in Spain. It is a fall seeded crop whose bearded heads look like those of 6-row barley and whose seeds are hulled like common barley.
– (Secale cereale) WHITE RYE has tall (over 6’) gray-green plants that are not very stooled out. The long slim heads with medium beards produce light coloured grains and are quite subject to ergot.
(Avena sativa nuda) –TERRA has large naked kernels and is (or was) grown on a field scale on the prairies. BATON is a newer cultivar, bred by Dr. Vern Burrows, Canada’s foremost oat breeder. It is a few days later than Terra, with a bit plumper seeds. It seems to thresh out more completely than Terra. VICAR was developed in Winnipeg in the 1940's and was the first licensed hulless oat variety in Canada. A mid season to late variety. Named after George MacVicar of Portage la Prairie. We cook the oats whole and use them as a substitute for rice. YUNG 492 is a Chinese cultivar with plump kernels and a good yield.
(Hordeum vulgare) – BERE has 6-row blond bearded heads. It is apparently the oldest barley cultivated in Europe. WARRIOR has fat 6-row heads with unusual beards which are folded like a grasshopper’s leg.
(Hordeum vulgare) – ETHIOPIAN has large dark brown pointed seeds. EXCELSIOR has attractive purplish bearded seed heads and purple seeds.
– PROSO MILLET (Panicum miliaceum) has heads of loose panicles of blond seeds. The seeds are dehulled for human consumption or with the hulls on for bird-seed. The hulls are shiny and range from blond to a rich red-brown. The heads also look good in dried arrangements. I have four samples that might or might not be distinct from each other.
(Phalaris canariensis) – Grown on a field scale in Saskatchewan for birdseed. The compact heads on tall stems are used in dried arrangements.
(Amaranthus sp.) – A traditional food, ornamental and dye plant. It is a domesticated variety of pigweed and a native American crop. The plants are sturdy, generally growing from 4'-8' tall. The large leaves are green or red and the seed heads are red, yellow, brown or multicoloured. The grain varieties are grown for their heavy yield of small blond seeds which are rich in protein (16-18%). They also complement corn and wheat to make a complete protein. Sow them after danger of frost is past. When the plants have dried after a heavy frost in the fall, cut the seed heads, thresh and winnow. The seeds can be popped, sprouted, milled into flour or cooked whole. The young and tender leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach.
(Chenopodium quinoa) – The staple food of the Incas, quinoa is grown for its seeds but can also be harvested young for its greens. It is a domesticated variety of lamb's quarters, growing 4'-8' tall. The seeds and seed heads vary greatly in colour. The seeds are higher in protein than cereal grains and somewhat resemble millet and sesame seeds. The seeds are covered with a bitter tasting saponin which is removed by rinsing in cold water. Cook the seeds whole (cooking time about 20 minutes) or grind into flour. Quinoa produces a heavy yield of seeds, resists frost and drought well, and tolerates poor soil. Perhaps this plant has a future as a field crop in Saskatchewan.
(Papaver somniferum) – I am growing 3 edible seeded varieties. They have
(Helianthus annuus) – Each year I seed a row of black-seeded RUSSIAN
– For the first time I have grown an oilseed in the garden. It is CAMELINA or SIBERIAN OILSEED (C. sativa) which has been traditionally grown in parts of
(Plantago psyllium) – An annual growing 1’ to 2’ high and about as wide that produces a heavy seed crop. The ground seeds are consumed as a natural laxative, can be consumed as sprouts or to produce an edible oil rich in linoleic acid.
(Salvia hispanica) – has highly nutritious seeds which were roasted, ground, and added to water, forming a gel which was consumed by California native people. The seeds can also be soaked in water or juice and consumed.
(Nigella sativa) – The least decorative of the Nigellas, it has the typical inflated pods. The aromatic seeds are used as seasoning in the Mediteranean, Middle East and India. Also medicinal and a moth ball substitute.