Monday, 9 May 2011

Sometimes I wish...

that this was an emo blog, because just at the moment, I'm all about the emo and there's not a lot of room for anything or anyone else. But it's not, so here are some pictures of tomatoes. Badly positioned on the left is a picture of Latah, an American early bush tomato from Realseeds taken in 2009 and on the right Tondino di Manduria, a small Italian plum tomato from Kokopelli pictured in 2010. Today I've planted out a few plants of each of these, because I can. It will be interesting to find out which performs best under similar conditions. When I grew them previously I felt that neither variety offered much over my usual favourites the Salt Spring Sunrise but I think I may have damaged this year's Salt Spring by starving them in their pots. We'll see.

Now let's talk about wheat. A few years ago I bought a kilo of seed wheat from the mill at Anglesey Abbey. Foolishly I imagined that it would be a heritage variety, venerable and long stemmed, good for organic growing. I noted that the varietal name was on the packet and then, after eating a bit of it in salads (wheat berry salad is good) I put the rest away as seed for later. Some time passed, as it inevitably does, and it was nearly four years after my trip to the Abbey that I finally got around to deciding that maybe this year I'd give the wheat a trial. I knew I was late for planting winter wheat by about 5 months but I had a strategy planned.

Watermill gear

Not knowing anything about the variety, which is Hereward, I stuck a few grains in pots and waited to see if anything would germinate at all after such a long interval. Whilst I waited I thought I'd better research what I might be growing. Children, imagine my surprise when I found my 'heritage' variety was nothing of the sort. Hereward wheat is a premium high protein bread making grain, favoured by the big bakers and grown intensively up and down the country for big bucks.

The seed germinated. I studied best practice for its cultivation. It was not a pretty sight, a solid regime of spraying with fertilizers, fungicides and weedkillers is recommended for general use and I could find nothing for small scale or organic growers using it all. So not my sort of thing.

Anyway, I have 20 small pots of the stuff, so I'm going to carry on as I originally intended. The clumps will be planted out in a small bed, hand weeded and cut like lawn grass for the rest of the year. I'm hoping this will give it time to establish a strong well fed root system, then, if it survives the winter and I have little reason to imagine it will not, it can be allowed to complete its cycle next year. As a trial it's not really any worse than trying with the sort of grain I'd imagined I had. In the meantime, if anyone can recommend a source of some more appropriate wheat variety for the amateur corn farmer please leave a comment. I thank you.


Peter Mulryan said...

That must have been frustrating! Heritage grains are hard to come by, here in Ireland there is still (just about) a culture of saving seed, but mostly for barley as wheat was never that popular here. But you can get other grains like spelt from Irish Seed Savers:

And Quinoa from Brown Envelope Seeds in Cork.

Catofstripes said...

I should have known better, they were selling the wheat ground for breadmaking - which is of course, what I'd be growing it for too. Still, I've not given up yet. Thanks for the link. Quinoa is also available from Realseeds but I have a big stash back in the UK and no one there to send it on to me at the moment.