“Black wheat?!”, I hear you say. I hadn’t heard of either until a few months ago when I discovered it while browsing Hodmedod’s website.
If you haven’t heard of Hodmedod they were founded by Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson 10 years ago to supply beans and other products from British farms. They are probably best known for growing quinoa, lentils and chia seeds in the UK – crops which were thought to be impossible to grow in our climate. Based in Norfolk, Hodmedod got their name from the local word for hedgehog.
Today Hodmedod work with British farms to source a range of top quality ingredients and delicious foods and are particularly interested in searching out less well-known foods, like the fava bean – grown in Britain since the Iron Age but now almost forgotten – and black badger peas. Pulses were a staple food in the British isles, providing affordable, nutrient dense and delicious high-protein foods that were relatively easy to grow and store. The agricultural revolution saw the demand for beans and pulses drop, but the crops remained in production for their value as a ‘break crop’ that gives the soil a break from continuous production.
Back to black wheat! Thanks to Hodmedod’s support for farmers to experiment with the systems necessary to grow less proven crops, giving them the time and space to adapt varieties to local conditions – I could lay my hands on some black wheat. So what is it? As the name suggests it is wheat which has a black colour, which is retained after milling and baking and gives the bread an extraordinary deep purple, chocolate colour. The particular variety I am using is called Blacksmith and was bred in the UK by Owen Davies through traditional breeding methods. It is organic and stoneground.
What makes it special?
Loaded with fibre and nutrients
You will probably see this topic repeating over and over in each of our specials, but black wheat is particularly high in anthocyanins (thanks to its colour), vitamin K as well as the usual B vitamins and iron. The anthocyanins may make it beneficial as an anti-inflammatory food. The black wheat we use is also organic, wholemeal and stoneground which means most of the nutrients are preserved through the growing and milling process. It is higher in fibre, magnesium, zinc and iron. All essential for energy production and a healthy immune system.
Black sesame seeds contain many important trace and macrominerals, as well as healthy fats that may help lower the risk of heart disease, support healthy bone development and bone health. In addition to containing more nutrients, black sesame seeds have a stronger flavour and more crunch than white sesame seeds that have had their outer hull removed. There is some research showing that regularly eating black sesame seeds could reduce oxidation in the body, improve blood pressure, and provide antioxidants and other plant chemicals that help fight cancer.
Food provenance is understanding and knowing about our food supply chain. Where was this grown? Is this organic? Is this free range? Was this caught sustainably? How far has this travelled to reach me?
The answers to those questions are essential to us whenever we decide to source ingredients – apart from the black wheat used in this loaf the other flour is sourced and milled by Caroline and her family at Walk Mill. They have painstakingly rebuilt a traditional water powered mill which has stood on the farm since the 12th century. The River Gowy which flows between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal Main Line was once the home of 23 mills, today Walk Mill is the only remaining working mill. It is also the nearest stone mill to us.
By buying from Hodmedod and Walk Mill we know we continue to support local and ethically grown wheat. We invest money back into our local community and protect ourselves and you from the uncertainty of the larger food supply chains.
How to eat it?
Fill up on good fats: Mash smoked mackerel, horseradish and cream cheese, chop some dill and a squeeze of lemon, toast the bread and spread the mackerel pate, top up with some rocket leaves or a gherkins.
Need a vegetarian version?
Skip the mackerel and add some sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese.
Make mine vegan!
Fry some smoked tofu, mash an avocado with some salt, pepper and lime juice, add a colourful coleslaw and top up with some coriander.