The importance of biomes – communities of micro organisms – is only now being understood. You carry your own personal biome, on, in and around your body – more cells in your body proper – that works hard to keep you healthy. The yeast biome – a symbiotic community of naturally occuring yeast and bacteria are essential to baking tasty loaves of sourdough bread. A lovingly cared for sourdough starter carries with it the ability to generate its own flavor profile as it works on flour and other dough additions.
Spelt, one of the “Ancient Grains” – these originate in the Middle / Near East, was a staple crop in Europe through to the end of the Middle Ages. It is a hybrid produced from wheat and Middle Eastern grasses appearing before common bread wheat in that region. Spelt gets shout outs in the old testament and Greek mythology with evidence of it having been grown in the Caucasus, Northeast of the Black Sea. Spelt flour, which contains enough gluten it can be used on its own, generates a sourdough loaf that is tasty and hearty.
Over the years I have tried to source sourdough ingredients locally and, where not prohibitively expensive, use items with an organic provenance. I have purchased flour made with Sonora White grain from a farmer near Phoenix; interestingly this varietal was brought by Spanish monks to the missions of Northern Mexico and Alto California and spread widely. There was a time when farmers in the Central Valley grew a lot of wheat, most of which was Sonora White. I’ve purchased a varietal grown specifically for the Pacific Northwest from a farmer outside of Eugene; Edison makes a fine sourdough loaf – I like to mix it with the organic white flour I use.
Red Fife is an heritage varietal of wheat that was grown throughout the U.S. throughout the Midwest until modern hybrids, larger farms, coast to coast supply chains and industrial processes took over the grain production process after World War 2. It was grown by a Scottish immigrant farmer in Canada who had been sent some seed from his home country but how it made its way to America is unclear. Red Fife has similarities with a Ukranian varietal and may have come from there via Mennonites and its roots. The grain produces a rich flour that is high in gluten – excellent for making bread.
Like the Aztecs, we are “People of Corn”; since the 30s of last century, when scientists figured out how to make core grow bigger, sweeter, faster and in tighter spacing, so corn and its derivatives have come to dominate our food supply. Corn products are in everything – salad dressings, french fries, hamburger buns. baked goods, breakfast cereals. Corn provides 95% of the feed for livestock and poultry. We carry its genetic markers, we suffer from the obesity and diabetes overconsuming the processed food that it supports. And, we export both the grain and its food products around the world.