Growing Grain

Last October, I did a fall sowing of a variety of different grains (rye, wheat, oats, triticale, barley) in test plots.  I wasn’t sure I’d get good germination, although Dan Jason at Salt Spring Seeds recommends sowing grains anytime from late September through early November on the west coast of B.C.  His fall-sown grains outyielded his spring-sown ones, so it was definitely worth a try.

Well, every plot I sowed has grain shoots this spring.  Some plots are doing better than others, but that may be their location as much as the variety.  I have higher germination rates than last year, when I sowed in the spring, but whether this is because I avoided bird predation or because the fall conditions were better for germination that the spring ones is hard to know.  In any case, I’m a happy gardener!

A while back, I spent an afternoon doing some experimental milling, working with some of our homegrown wild oats and buckwheat.  The oats need to be steamed or roasted before they are ground, as the high oil content of oats makes the flour go rancid very quickly if they are not heat treated (got this tidbit of advice from our local miller).  So I roasted a pan of wild oats and then milled them.  What worked for both the oats and the buckwheat was to set the mill for a coarse grind, which cracks the hulls.  Then I sieved the results through a standard kitchen sieve, which removed most of the hulls (I put these into our compost, as they looked like a good source of “carbon” for the composter).  I set the mill to a fine grind and ran the sieved material through again.  Finally, I used a flour sieve (40 to 60 mesh) to sieve out the remaining broken hulls.  The end product was a “branny” flour.  I think the fineness of the flour sieve will determine how much bran remains in the flour.  Since we like bran, and it’s healthy for us, I wasn’t too worried about getting every last flake out of the flour.  The wild oat flour smelled absolutely wonderful.  I’ll have to make some pancakes one day soon to test these new flours out.