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New at GRAIN: Farro + Red Fife Wheat


Red Fife Heritage Wheat:

Red Fife is an ancient grain with a history shrouded in Canadian myth and legend. We can say with some certainty that the grain was first cultivated in Canada in 1842 by Dave Fife near Peterborough, Ontario and was the first wheat variety truly capable of handling the Canadian climate.

It’s origins, however, are less clear. For decades the grain went by various names, especially in America where farmers would simply add their own families to the mix, taking some ownership of its success: Herman Fife, Philsbury Fife, Wilcox Fife, and so on. It also went by Canadian Fife and Saskatchewan Fife, names that persist in America today. It even went by Glasgow Wheat on account of its supposed Scottish origins, which is odd because they didn’t grow wheat in Glasgow. A more careful analysis of the grain’s history revealed its true origins are a matter of happenstance, a stray few stowaway seeds from Ukraine, transported to Dave Fife in Canada with other European seeds via Scotland.

Regardless, the strain quickly gained a reputation for its superior milling qualities and suitability to Canada, eventually rising to command the highest price of any wheat on the British markets. It spread across the nation, replacing Russian and Indian varietals, and, some say, spurred the expeditious construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the settlement of Western Canada. It caused such a stir that in 1883 The Manitoba Daily Free Press declared, “Red Fife wheat is unbeatable.” It led Canada to international prominence, garnering our reputation as “the granary of the empire.” To this day, most Canadian spring wheats are derivations of Red Fife. It is the mother of Canadian spring wheat.

All we know for certain is Red Fife wheat is delicious, mills beautifully, and lends a robust, rich earthy flavour to breads. We are super excited to partner with Bernie Ehnes and his family in southeastern Alberta to bring Red Fife to our customers. Bernie is one of just a few Canadian farmers faithfully preserving this Canadian heritage grain and restoring its rightful place in the kingdom of Canadian wheat.

Farro:

Farro, also called Emmer, is a beautiful ancient wheat strain, only slightly more genetically complex than the very first wheat cultivated by ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Farro dominated the fields of the Near East, northern Africa and ancient Europe until early Roman times when farmers crossed wheat species to produce modern strains like durum.

Farro’s survival as a popular wheat strain in Italy is partially due to its symbiotic relationship with Arborio rice grown in the country’s north. Rice farmers plant Farro as a protective winter cover for their rice fields. Furthermore, just as Arborio rice is slow-cooked into delicious risotto, Farro makes another, equally traditional Italian dish called farrotto. Chefs around the world are rediscovering Farro as a hearty side dish, a protein replacement or a salad compliment.

Farro is very high in protein, with strong, cohesive gluten. It makes beautiful pasta flour—Italians have been making pasta with Farro for centuries.

Our Farro comes from Bernie Ehnes and his family in southeastern Alberta.

Both Farro and Red Fife Wheat are currently available for wholesale sales only.


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