Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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My first experiment a success

bread-1319583_1920.jpg

Not my bread – for illustration purpose only

Marc Loiselle, a farmer from Vonda, Saskatchewan has spearheaded a revival of interest in Red Fife. The Loiselle farm also grows a selected strain of Marquis. A growing number of consumers are discovering the superior taste of bread made from Red Fife or Marquis flour.

I bought a bread machine a couple years ago and always had the dream of making bread with Red Fife wheat. Yesterday I drove out to Vonda and bought a 10 kg sack of Red Fife flour, organically grown, nothing added, nothing removed.
Marc told me that this flour does not behave quite like other flours, the dough needs to be more moist and sticky. Today I made a loaf with 50% white flour and 50% whole grain Red Fife flour. It turned out great. That was the first experiment, from here I will continue to increase the proportion of whole grain Red Fife flour until I can, hopefully, produce a 100% whole wheat loaf in the bread machine.

The Loiselle family has an informative website which includes recipes: http://sites.google.com/site/loisellema/

 

Background on Red Fife wheat and the gluten issue
David Fife arrived in Canada from Scotland in 1820 when he was 15. His parents settled in Otanabee township, east of Peterborough, Ontario. At that time Ontario farmers were growing a winter wheat variety known as Siberian. It survived the winters, but was low yielding and susceptible to rust, a fungal disease that weakened the plant.

David Fife wrote to a friend in Glasgow asking for a sample of a better wheat. His friend found a ship unloading wheat in Glasgow harbour and managed to obtain a few kernels to send to David Fife. The wheat had been loaded at Danzig and had probably been grown in Ukraine.

The package of wheat kernels arrived just before seeding time in 1842. David Fife didn’t know if it was winter wheat or spring wheat. He planted half the seeds in spring, planning to sow the rest in fall. It must have been winter wheat, as the spring seeded grain did not mature — except for one plant that produced three heads of ripe grain. David Fife planted the seeds from those three heads the next spring and continued to multiply the seed, until he harvested 240 bushels in 1848. By then he knew that he had a variety of wheat that yielded better than Siberian, matured early and was not susceptible to rust. It also made excellent bread.

Since the kernels were red and the variety was introduced by David Fife, people called it Red Fife. By the end of the nineteenth century Red Fife wheat had the reputation of being the world’s best spring wheat. Thus, Red Fife wheat is descended from a single kernel of wheat picked at random from a boat being unloaded in Glasgow. David Fife’s careful work in multiplying the wheat grown from that single kernel made it possible to nourish millions of people

In 1908 my father, his brothers, and my grandfather homesteaded south of Old Wives Lake in Saskatchewan. The wheat they grew the first few years was Red Fife. The prairie growing season was a little too short though and sometimes it froze before it was mature. Dr. Charles Saunders crossed Red Fife with Hard Red Calcutta and selected plants that were early maturing, high yielding, had stiff straw and whose kernels had the best milling and baking qualities. Marquis began to be distributed to farmers in 1912 and by 1918 was grown on 20 million acres from southern Nebraska to northern Saskatchewan. This was the wheat that made the Canadian prairies a bread basket for the world. In later years Red Fife and Marquis were supplanted by new, higher yielding varieties

I remember as a boy picking a head of ripe whet, rolling it in my hands to thresh out the kernels, then popping the kernels into my mouth and chewing them. Soon I would have a gummy wad in my mouth, somewhat like chewing gum. This was the gluten in the wheat kernels.

Gluten is the major component of the protein in wheat and this gummy characteristic is what makes bread rise. The fermenting yeast in bread dough produces carbon dioxide which the gluten traps in small bubbles.

About 1% of people have a problem digesting gluten. There is even a scare campaign being spread today that says gluten is bad for all of us. If that is so, why didn’t gluten cause as much problems in past generations?

Gluten is actually a compound of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. In old varieties of wheat, such as Red Fife and Marquis, the gluten is roughly 1/3 gliadin and 2/3 glutenin. These grains do not appear to cause celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. Modern bread wheat varieties may contain up to 80% gliadin.

There in a nutshell is the problem. Wheat varieties have been “improved” to boost yield and disease resistance. In the process, flavour has been lost and some people have health problems from eating bread made from these wheat varieties.Gluten is also added to a wide variety of other foods and this will be gluten from newer wheat varieties with a high Gliadin count. Those who are sensitive to this need to read the labels carefully when grocery shopping.

Red Fife wheat for people with gluten intolerance

I remember as a boy picking a head of ripe whet, rolling it in my hands to thresh out the kernels, then popping the kernels into my mouth and chewing them.  Pretty soon I would have a gummy wad in my mouth, somewhat like chewing gum.  This was the gluten in the wheat kernels.

Gluten is the major component of the protein in wheat and this gummy characteristic is what makes bread rise.  The fermenting yeast in bread dough produces small bubbles of carbon dioxide which are trapped by the gluten.

In perhaps the last forty years it has become evident that about 1% of people have a problem digesting gluten.  There is even a scare campaign being spread today that says gluten is bad for all of us.  If that is so, why didn’t gluten cause as much problems in past generations?

There does appear to be a problem with gluten, but not with all gluten.  Gluten is actually a compound of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin.  In old varieties of wheat, such as Red Fife and Marquis, the gluten is roughly 1/3 gliadin and 2/3 glutenin.  These grains do not appear to cause celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance.  Modern bread wheat varieties may contain up to 80% gliadin.

There in a nutshell is the problem.  It is not necessary to avoid bread altogether, or to use exotic flour substitutes, just go back to the old varieties if you have a problem with bread made from the newer wheat varieties.

Red Fife wheat is once again being grown in all parts of Canada, not in huge quantities, but it is available.  Marc Loiselle of Vonda, Saskatchewan is a major producer and promoter of Red Fife.  Two bakeries in Saskatoon make bread from the Red Fife wheat grown on his farm.  The Loiselle farm website lists other bakeries from Whitehorse, Yukon to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and from Sooke, BC to Skohegan, Maine.  The Loiselle farm is also beginning to grow a selected strain of Marquis wheat.

There is considerable gluten research going on today.  Wheat varieties have been “improved” to boost yield and disease resistance.  In the process, flavour has been lost.  Now it is becoming evident that we cannot tamper with the proportions of gliadin and glutenin in the gluten without causing suffering to at least some people.

I do not believe that we need to be too radical in seeking a solution to this.  There is no need to abandon bread, when there is flour and bread available from varieties like Red Fife and Marquis.  Nevertheless, gluten is added to a wide variety of other foods and it would be well to read the labels carefully when we go grocery shopping.

One kernel of wheat

How many people can be fed with one kernel of wheat?  David Fife fed millions.

The Fife family came to Canada from Scotland in 1820 when David was 15.  They settled in Otanabee township, east of Peterborough, Ontario .  When David was 20, he married Jane Becket and they began to farm on their own.  Farmers in this area were growing a winter wheat variety known as Siberian.  It did survive the cold winters, but was low yielding and susceptible to rust, a fungal disease that weakened the plant.

David Fife wrote to a friend in Glasgow asking for a sample of a better wheat.  His friend found a ship in the harbour, unloading wheat that had been loaded at Danzig and had probably been grown in Ukraine.  He managed to obtain a few kernels and sent them to David Fife.

The package of wheat kernels arrived just before seeding time in 1842.  Neither David Fife nor his friend knew if they were winter wheat or spring wheat.  David Fife planted half of the seeds in spring, planning to sow the rest in fall.  It must have been winter wheat, as the spring seeded grain did not mature — except for one plant which produced three heads of ripe grain.  David Fife planted the seeds from those three heads the next spring and continued to multiply the seed, until he harvested 240 bushels in 1848.  By then he knew that he had a variety of wheat that yielded much better than Siberian, matured early and was not susceptible to rust.   In addition, it had excellent milling and baking properties.

David Fife began to make this wheat available to his neighbours and by 1860 it had supplanted all other varieties of wheat grown in Canada.  Since the kernels were red and the variety was introduced by David Fife, it was given the name of Red Fife.  By the end of the nineteenth century Red Fife wheat had the reputation of being the world’s best spring wheat.

When the prairies began to be settled the first wheat grown was Red Fife.  The Prairies growing season was a little too short, though.  Charles Saunders crossed Red Fife and Hard Red Calcutta and selected the best cultivars to develop Marquis wheat, which made the western prairies a bread basket.  These varieties have been supplanted over the years, but are now making a small comeback, for reasons I will discuss in my next post.

It all started with a single kernel of wheat.  No one knows if that kernel of wheat came from a naturally occurring variant of the other wheat on that shipload, or if there were mixed varieties in that load.  Because of David Fife’s careful work in multiplying the wheat grown from that single kernel, that kernel has provided nourishment to millions of people.

Never think that the little bit that you have to offer is too insignificant to bother with.  ” For who hath despised the day of small beginnings?”  (Zechariah4:10, as it is in French translations of the Bible).

Canada Day trivia

Who was the first Prime Minister of Canada?  This is a tricky question.  The first Prime Minister after Confederation in 1867 was John A McDonald.  But the Act of Union of 1841 merged Upper Canada and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Québec) into the United Province of Canada.  The first elected leader of the United Province of Canada was Robert Baldwin, with Louis Lafontaine as his lieutenant.

The union of Upper and Lower Canada was the results of the rebellions in 1837.  The one in Upper Canada was led by William Lyon Mackenzie and the one in Lower Canada by Louis Joseph Papineau.  The grievances were the same: a colonial administration that was deaf to the aspirations of the populace.

Confederation in 1867 added the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to Canada and established the new nation as entirely self-governing.  The remaining five provinces were added from 1870 to 1949.

Montréal was named the capital of the United Province in 1843.  In 1849 the elected government passed the Rebellion Losses Bill to compensate property owners who had suffered losses during the rebellions.  An angry English-speaking mob torched the legislature.  They thought it was OK to compensate English-speaking property owners, but not those who were French-speaking.

French and English are the official languages of Canada and people anywhere in Canada can deal with the Federal government in either language.  Eight provinces are officially English-speaking, Québec’s official language is French and New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual, providing equal services in both languages.  All the other provinces provide some services in the non official language: especially education.

Fifty years ago the population of the USA was ten times as much as Canada’s.  Now it is only nine times as much: Canada 35 million; USA 315 million.

Québec City was founded in 1608 and is the oldest city in Canada.  The old part of the city is the only walled city north of Mexico.

The original French explorers and settlers (Jacques Cartier, Samuel Champlain, Marc Lescarbot, Pierre Esprit Radisson, Médard Chouart de Groseillères, for example) were Protestants trying to escape religious troubles in France.

Canadians you may not have heard of:

Jonathan Goforth of southwestern Ontario was one of the most active and effective missionaries to China (1888-1935).

William Featherstone of Montréal wrote the words of My Jesus I Love Thee before his seventeenth birthday.

Josiah Henson of Dresden, Ontario, an escaped slave, established an institute to teach agriculture and trades to fellow escaped slaves.  Harriet Beecher Stowe visited him and used the things he told her as the basis for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Laura Secord of Queenston, Ontario.  During the war of 1812 she overheard American soldiers talking of their plan to ambush the troops at Beaver Dam.  She walked twenty miles through the bush to warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon.  Two days later the Americans were ambushed by a party of 400 Indians and the American colonel, with 462 men, surrendered to Lieutenant FitzGibbon and his 30 soldiers.

Charles Saunders, the developer of Marquis wheat.  Red Fife wheat was the main variety grown in eastern Canada, but when the prairies began to open up for farming, Red Fife often froze before it was mature.  Dr. Saunders crossed Red Fife with Hard Red Calcutta and selected plants that were early maturing, high yielding, had stiff straw and whose kernels had the best milling and baking qualities.  Marquis began to be distributed to farmers in 1912 and by 1918 was grown on 20 million acres from southern Nebraska to northern Saskatchewan.  This was the wheat that made the Canadian prairies a bread basket for the world.

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