The world may have the Arctic seed vault, but the island of Gotland has “the treasure of Ardre.” Opening a chest left behind by a farmer whose breads were famous locally for their special flavors, a group of young farmers found a cache of seeds for scores of long-forgotten wheat varieties.
“What we discovered in Ardre was pretty much the history of wheat,” organic farmer Curt Niklasson, who was present that day in 1965, told author Cole Ruth.
Time moved slowly on the tiny Swedish isle. “It wasn’t until the 1990s when Hans Larsson, a researcher in plant breeding for organic farming at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, decided to unearth [the] seeds to take a closer look at their DNA,” Ruth writes in Modern Farmer. “He counted at least 70 different varieties of grain. Larsson enlisted the help of Niklasson and together they began experimenting with re-growing the ancient grains.”
The result was a farming cooperative called Gutekorn whose ancient-grain products are in demand throughout Sweden, Denmark and beyond. The chest found at Ardre was essentially a time capsule, filled with tales of adventure and chance discoveries — the journey through the centuries of grain.
“Originally, einkorn made its way from Persia, crossed with wild grasses and turned into wild emmer, was cultivated and crossed with another wild grass and became spelt,” the author notes. “There is evidence that einkorn, emmer and spelt were all cultivated on Gotland as far back as 500 B.C. and seeds of all of these were found in Ardre, including multiple sub-varieties, like summer wheat, white, red, blue and black emmer, and borstvete, a variety of wheat that appears to be unique to Gotland. …
“‘Because of the molecular make-up of what we call wheat today, the bread we eat is no longer worthy of its name,’ says Niklasson. He then explains how the ancient grains differ in the amount of gluten they hold and that they are rich in minerals, making them rich in flavor. Einkorn, for instance, has relatively little fiber, is fattier than wheat, is rich in beta-carotene and low in gluten. Emmer wheat is a good source of antioxidants and has higher protein content than bread wheat…
“‘Over time, growers selected the best-producing varieties, but that has created highly susceptible monocultures,’ Niklasson explained. ‘Gutekorn’s varieties are different from modern grains. They have deep roots and long hairs, and they are highly resistant to disease, drought and poor soil.’”
The treasure hasn’t made Niklasson wealthy, but he’s rich in many other ways: “‘A farmer today isn’t free,’ says Niklasson. ‘Farmers are dependent on the seed distributors and since the modern seeds don’t have the right resistances, they are dependent on pesticide producers, and since the pesticides kill the healthy microbes in the soil, they are also dependent on the fertilizer companies. At Gutekorn we are some of the last free farmers.’”
Discover lost treasure here: http://bit.ly/1ePgFwm