The Story of Red Fife

As One Degree fans know, the most flavorful seasoning for any really memorable meal is a good story. Red Fife wheat has more than one — a history, a legend and some delicious kernels of truth sprouting in between.

What we know for sure is that One Degree’s Red Fife, grown by farmer Bernie Ehnes in southern Alberta, is derived from the Keremeos strain that was brought to Canada from Scotland 170 years ago. Discovering how it crossed the Atlantic takes some historical sleuthing, or a vivid imagination.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia: “Red Fife is Canada’s oldest wheat. One legend states that a load of wheat grown in Ukraine was on a ship in the Glasgow harbour. A friend of Farmer Fife dropped his hat into the red-coloured wheat, collecting a few seeds in the hatband, which he then shipped off to Farmer Fife. The wheat grew. The family cow managed to eat all the wheat heads except for one, which Mrs. Fife salvaged. This was the beginning of Red Fife wheat in Canada.”

Red Fife ruled the Canadian prairie for 40 years, until new varieties were introduced at the end of the nineteenth century. It took another turn of the century for farmers, bakers and consumers to begin thinking again about the long-lost flavors and textures of this storied heritage grain. Recent articles in Canada’s National Post are examples of this reawakening.

Chronicling the Red Fife phenomenon, the Post’s Jennifer Sygo writes: “Red Fife is typically prepared as a stone-milled whole wheat, which means that not only retains the nutritionally mediocre endosperm that is found in refined grains, but also the bran and germ, the parts of the wheat where much of the fibre, B vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals — plant-based compounds that are thought to have disease-fighting properties — are found, along with roughly one-quarter of the protein content.

“Red Fife also attracts a certain amount of attention because it is said to possess a lower gluten content than most modern varieties of wheat. Gluten, a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye, as well as their derivatives, must be strictly avoided by those with celiac disease, but can also trigger fatigue and digestive issues for those with a more recently defined condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”

An earlier Post piece notes that Red Fife has been “eagerly snapped up by leading chefs, such as Toronto’s Jamie Kennedy, bakeries, such as Kingston’s Pan Chancho, and gourmet food companies, such as Evelyn’s Crackers. When Kennedy organized an organic dinner for Prince Charles at Toronto’s Brickworks, he asked [Ontario farmer Patricia] Hastings to attend and to contribute her [Red Fife] flour. Prince Charles was so taken with the heritage wheat with a Scottish connection, he took some bags home.

“Since then, when members of his family, such as the Queen or William and Kate, have visited Canada, Hastings has been called to deliver flour to Rideau Hall. But it’s not just royalty. The public is catching Red Fife fever, too.”

Discover more here: http://bit.ly/1pRYQ4g

Aquafarm Fish Angling for Organic Label

Can a farmed fish be organic? The U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks so, but dozens of advocacy organizations are mobilizing to prevent the agency from issuing regulations that will allow the sale of some aquafarm fish as organic.

“Permitting ‘organic’ aquaculture at sea [will] put the entire U.S. organic industry in jeopardy by weakening the integrity of the USDA organic label,” warns the nonprofit Center for Food Safety.

The Center is working hard to keep these types of farmed fish outside the organic umbrella:

“Open-ocean fish farms can never be organic. Inputs and outputs to the system cannot be monitored or controlled and neither can a farmed fish’s exposure to toxic synthetic chemicals, which are prohibited under Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and present in the marine environment.

“Farming migratory fish can never be organic. This statement holds true regardless of the type of system in which they are reared. That is because their confinement in fish farms would curtail their biological need to swim far distances, creating undue stress. Some migratory species are also anadromous, such as salmon, migrating between freshwater and the ocean during various life stages, a behavior not possible while in containment. The organic standards dictate that organic production systems must not [impede] the natural behaviors of farmed animals.

“Farmed fish fed wild fish, meal or oil can never be organic. That is because OFPA requires that all certified organic species are fed an organic diet. Feeding farmed fish wild-caught fish and related by-products — fish meal and fish oil — would increase pressure on already over-exploited and recovering fisheries that form the basis of the marine food web. It would also decrease the food supply of a wide range of native, aquatic species, including seabirds and sea mammals, contravening the USDA organic biological diversity conservation requirements.”

The Center also cites these additional environmental impacts of ocean aquafarms: “Twenty-four million fish escapes have been reported worldwide in just over two decades, based upon data compiled by CFS from available public records. Escaped farmed fish can carry pathogens and diseases, restructure food webs through the introduction of non-native species competing for resources, and could lead to extinction of wild fish of the same species in certain areas. This disruption of marine ecosystems violates one of the basic tenets of organic, which is to promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”

Discover more here: http://bit.ly/1sTFwHk

Fruits and Vegetables Boost Mental Health

A strong link between mental well-being and consumption of fruits, vegetables and possibly whole grains has been confirmed in a comprehensive study of English adults, published this summer in the medical journal BMJ Open.

Researchers at the University of Warwick Medical School in Coventry examined data from nearly 14,000 respondents who participated in the annual Health Survey for England to determine whether correlations exist between mental health and obesity, smoking and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

“The novel finding in our study is that, along with smoking, the behavioural risk factor most consistently associated with mental health was fruit and vegetable consumption,” the Warwick team concluded. “The latter was associated with increased odds of high mental well-being and reduced odds of low mental well-being and these associations could be observed in men and women.”

The findings confirmed earlier research that has consistently proven that beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables are not limited to physical health: “This is not the first study to draw attention to a relationship between mental health, and fruit and vegetable consumption. For example, one recent study showed positive affect to be predictable on the basis of the current and previous days’ fruit and vegetable consumption; likewise, nine different antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables have been shown in another study to be associated with optimism in middle-aged adults. We were only able to examine fruit and vegetable consumption up to five portions a day, but other studies have shown a dose–response relationship between mental and physical health up to seven portions a day.”

Although consumption of grains was not directly studied, the researchers believe that adults who are careful to include fruits and vegetables in their diet are also likely to be consuming generous amounts of whole grains: “Fruit and vegetable consumption might also be acting as a proxy for a complex set of highly correlated dietary exposures, including fish and whole grains, which might contribute to the observed associations.”

The research team acknowledges that it is not possible to completely separate physical and psychological effects. High mental well-being might be the result of simply feeling better physically, and avoiding debilitating disease: “Our finding is, of course, in line with a large body of epidemiological and trial evidence on the beneficial role of fruit and vegetable intake in general well-being and prevention of major chronic disease across several populations and age groups.”

Review the full study here: http://bmj.co/1rd82Fr

Gone With the Topsoil

“What if the world’s soil runs out?” Time asked not long ago. Since then, most of the trends highlighted by the popular newsmagazine have been accelerating in the wrong direction.

“A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left,” University of Sydney professor John Crawford warned in the Time piece. “Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded — the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. …

“Soil is a living material: if you hold a handful of soil, there will be more microorganisms in there than the number of people who have ever lived on the planet. These microbes recycle organic material, which underpins the cycle of life on earth, and also engineer the soil on a tiny level to make it more resilient and better at holding onto water.

“Microbes need carbon for food, but carbon is being lost from the soil in a number of ways. Simply put, we take too much from the soil and don’t put enough back. Whereas the classic approach would have been to leave stubble in the field after harvest, this is now often being burnt off, which can make it easier to grow the next crop, or it’s being removed and used for animal feed. Second, carbon is lost by too much disturbance of the soil by over-ploughing and by the misuse of certain fertilizers. And the third problem is overgrazing. If there are too many animals, they eat all the plant growth, and one of the most important ways of getting carbon into the soil is through photosynthesis.”

Nutrient-poor soil has far-reaching effects across ecosystems and societies. Fields shorn of rich topsoil need far more irrigation and yield crops that are comparatively deficient in vitamins and minerals:

“Even moderately degraded soil will hold less than half of the water than healthy soil in the same location,” Crawford told Time. “If you’re irrigating a crop, you need water to stay in the soil close to the plant roots. However, a staggering paper was published recently indicating that nearly half of the sea level rise since 1960 is due to irrigation water flowing straight past the crops and washing out to sea. …

“Crop breeding is exacerbating this situation. Modern wheat varieties, for example, have half the micronutrients of older strains, and it’s pretty much the same for fruit and vegetables. The focus has been on breeding high-yield crops which can survive on degraded soil, so it’s hardly surprising that 60% of the world’s population is deficient in nutrients like iron. If it’s not in the soil, it’s not in our food.”

Discover more here: http://ti.me/1l7AYI7

Amish Farmer Ends Chemical Field War

John Kempf is leading a counterrevolution against chemical-based farming. The founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, Kempf has already accomplished more to improve organic agriculture than entire research teams of large corporations. And, he’s only 26 years old.

Kempf is an Amish farmer from the American Midwest. As writer Roc Morin reveals in an intriguing profile in this month’s Atlantic, his incredible discoveries are rooted in hard experience wrung from the land, plus a dynamic curiosity:

“A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. ‘The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,’ Kempf concluded, ‘in much the same way as our own immune system.’ Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.”

Kempf is taking organic farming beyond a by-the-book approach that focuses on checking all the right boxes on an organic certificate. As he tells Morin, “Organic certification is a negative-process certification. You can do nothing to your field and become certified. In contrast, we focus on actively restoring the balance found in natural systems.”

The young farmer enjoys analyzing minute details of agricultural processes, digging deep to understand what is really going on in the soil. An example of that is a discussion of crop rotation that he recently posted on his Web site, www.advancingecoag.com:

“When farming the same land year after year, it is important to understand crop succession and the carryover effects that plants contribute to the soil for future crops.

“Some of the well known benefits are nitrogen fixation and nutrient retention. If we focus only on these benefits we miss some other critical pieces. There can be many potential crop carryover effects, ranging from improved soil aggregation to improved trace mineral availability.

“We expect a yield increase when we plant corn after soybeans, which we attribute to nitrogen carryover from the prior legume crop.

“But why is there a yield bump on soybeans planted after corn?

“Why is wheat resistant to [the plant disease] take-all for multiple seasons after a single planting of oats?
“Both corn and oats produce a strongly reduced environment in the rhizosphere surrounding their root systems; oats very aggressively so.

“In this environment, trace minerals, particularly manganese, are converted to the reduced form (Mn+++) which is the form plants can utilize very readily. Manganese in the oxidized state (Mn++) is not bioavailable, and does not contribute to plant health and immunity.

“When soybeans are planted after corn, they benefit from the reduced soil environment generated by the corn root system, and have access to better manganese nutrition, resulting in improved reproduction and better yields.
“When successive wheat crops are planted after a single planting of oats, they have access to higher levels of manganese and other trace elements, resulting in improved resistance to take-all.”

Kempf’s guiding philosophy is simple and elegant: “Farmers choose to farm because of a sense of responsibility to their families — and to all families,” he writes. “Farmers desire to work closely with life and living processes. Unfortunately, we have adopted a model of agriculture which directly antagonizes the core values that originally attracted us to the ethics of farming. We have replaced nurturing empathy with a warfare mentality — a combat mindset in which we are fighting diseases, killing insects, and destroying weeds. …

“We have proven there is a better way.”

Discover more here: http://theatln.tc/1rTBv5e

Recipe: Sprouted Khorasan Pancakes

I love pancakes. Waking up in the morning and smelling hot pancakes being made is a very favorite childhood memory. These fluffy pancakes are made with our new 100% whole grain sprouted khorasan flour and are an incredibly delicious way to start the day! Topped with your favorite seasonal fruit and drenched in pure maple syrup and coconut cream it makes an irresistible reason to get out of bed.

Sprouted Khorasan Pancakes

1 cup One Degree Organic Foods Sprouted Khorasan flour
1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar or raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon One Degree Flax Seeds, ground
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1 cup vegan milk (almond, coconut, soy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the ground flax and water and set aside to thicken to create a flax “egg.”

In a medium bowl whisk together the sprouted khorasan flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl mix together the vegan milk and lemon juice. Then add the coconut oil and prepared flax “egg” and mix together.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and carefully mix together. Be careful to not over-mix the batter.

Warm a large pan over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes and lightly spray with coconut oil or cooking oil of choice.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to create 4-5 inch pancakes. The pan should be warm enough that the batter should sizzle when it first hits the pan. Wait until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake and the bottom is golden before flipping, approximately 2 minutes depending on the heat. Flip and cook for approximately another 90 seconds. Continue this process with remaining batter.

Top with berries, fresh figs, maple syrup, chocolate, peanut butter, apple sauce or some coconut whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Simple Grains, Great Stories

“To be simple is to be great,” an American essayist once wrote, an idea as reflective and deep as the New England pond that inspired the famous literary insight.

It’s the same idea that has guided our company since its founding, and one that also provides the theme for October’s edition of our popular e-newsletter, The Storied Grain.

In all things, One Degree begins simply. We start with simple ingredients from family farmers who are devoted to the earth, the integrity of their crop, and your health. True sources, truly veganic.

After all, food shouldn’t be a calculus of chemicals. We believe in basic math: Add together a few select veganic grains, cultivated naturally and honestly. Multiply the nutrition, the flavor, the memories.

In keeping with the theme, this month’s Storied Grain features a profile of farmer Roy Brewin, whose family has been farming the land south of Taber, Alberta since 1906, the year his grandfather arrived from England by boat, train and ultimately horse. When he saw that the grass grew as high as the belly of his saddle horse, he knew he had discovered land that was worth homesteading.

By 1984, the family farm had become wholly organic. The growing dominance of chemical companies in the seed business was the catalyst. Aggressive conglomerates were offering farmers a choice of joining them in their genetically modified adventures, or doing without commercial seeds. Roy chose to do without their contracts and laboratory inventions, and began to develop his own seeds. And he decided he could live without the chemicals sold by these companies, too.

His own devotion to healthy living made the decision easy. “I believe we are what we eat,” he explains. “What the conventional farmer is doing with all the chemical and herbicide and everything else, it really scares me, and I think if the consumer knew what they were eating they wouldn’t eat it.”

Today Roy grows nearly 20 varieties of organic crops, including red wheat, oats, millet, sunflower seeds and hemp seeds, many of which are used in One Degree products, including the sprouted veganic cereals that are also featured in the October newsletter.

Our cereals don’t have much in common with the heavily-marketed varieties whose recipes for success center on sugar, artificial flavors and cartoon distractions. For decades, the large corporate mills have peddled the enticing message that breakfast is really dessert. We’re working hard to reclaim breakfast for healthy, wholesome grains. Our cereals use simple ingredients, organic and healthy, with pure cacao and low-glycemic coconut palm sugar as sweeteners. Honest, simple — and great.

If you haven’t yet signed up to receive our e-newsletter, we invite you to subscribe at www.onedegreeorganics.com. Meanwhile, start your own reflective journey into simplicity by unwrapping the October issue here: http://bit.ly/1nbj8tz

Non-GMO Month and the Great Grain Escape

As Non-GMO Month dawns, new discoveries of genetically modified crop contamination highlight the seriousness of the issue, as well as the importance of spreading the non-GMO message.

The October observance is the creation of the Non-GMO Project, whose labels on food products provide reassurance to consumers that the ingredients within are wholly GMO-free. Consumer awareness is key to slowing the encroachment of genetically modified organisms into the food supply, but recent news from America’s heartland shows that the threat is coming from many directions. Experimental GMO wheat has been found in Montana, one year after a similarly unapproved Monsanto strain was discovered in a field in Oregon.

As National Public Radio reports, the Oregon mystery was never solved, although the Montana outbreak seems to have resulted from careless handling of the experimental seeds: “Investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) say that they cannot figure out how genetically engineered wheat appeared, as if by magic, in a farmer’s field in eastern Oregon in the spring of 2013. Having ‘exhausted all leads,’ the agency has now closed the investigation. But that announcement was almost overshadowed by a new mini-bombshell: More unapproved GMO wheat was discovered this past summer at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center in Huntley, Mont.

“It was discovered when workers tried to clear a small field using the weedkiller glyphosate. Some wheat plants survived, because they carried the glyphosate-tolerance gene that Monsanto Corp. had inserted into its GM varieties. There were field trials of such wheat at that research station from 2000 to 2003, but all the grain from those trials should have been removed or destroyed. If some unharvested GMO grain remained in the field, it could have grown unnoticed in the intervening years.”

In Oregon, “genetic tests showed that [the] GM wheat was a genetic mixture of different types of wheat,” NPR says. “Wheat breeders create such mixtures in the course of their work, but seed companies don’t sell them or carry out field trials of them.”

Monsanto blamed that outbreak on “anti-biotech activists” who allegedly had access to the experimental seeds. The theory perhaps represents a new Monsanto product line: wheat field straw men.

Meanwhile, agronomists suggest both the Oregon and Montana cases are examples of how biotech companies are casually releasing into the environment altered life forms that cannot realistically be contained:

“Carol Mallory-Smith, a professor of weed science at Oregon State University, said the rogue wheat — and other cases in which genetically modified crops have wandered far afield from their designated research plots — show that APHIS needs to monitor field trials of genetically modified crops more carefully. People also need to realize that plant genes are likely to persist in the environment once they’re planted in open fields, she says. ‘Any time a new trait is put into the environment, there’s really no way of retracting that gene or bringing it back and saying, ‘We’ve changed our mind.’”

Soil Discovery: Kids Outpace Conglomerates

This year’s Google Science Fair Grand Prize honors three young soil scientists from Ireland, whose project to address world hunger focused not on chemicals or bioengineering, but rather nature’s own solutions.

Teens Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow discovered that seeds treated with microbes that are already present in the soil sprouted 50 percent faster, and the resulting harvests were often 70 percent more abundant.

As with the great pioneer Gregor Mendel, it all began with peas. Gardening at home with her mother, Émer observed bumps on one of the pea plants. At school she learned the nodules were formed by bacteria. As National Geographic explains: “The bacteria act as an early warning system for the plants, kickstarting growth. When the microbes sense the presence of compounds called flavonoids on plants, they begin to build nodules, swellings on roots that house bacteria able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into forms the plant can consume. The presence of the nodules then tells the plants it’s time to grow faster. …

“The trio’s experiment focused on three cereal crops found in diets around the world and used a strain of root microbes, Rhizobium bacteria, that is ubiquitous in soils. But the buck doesn’t stop with those specific crops or bacteria. ‘The great thing about our theory is [that] any crop that contains a flavonoid can trigger bacteria. It’ll work the same,’ Judge said.”

Scientific American adds: “Though many people told them that the bacteria would have no impact on cereal crops, the friends decided to test it on barley. They found that the microbes increased seed germination rates by 50 percent. Over the course of three years, the team has tested some 13,000 seeds and has a large controlled field site set up with another 3,600 seeds in their hometown. Hickey says the bacteria may also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, which can harm the environment.”

Discover more here: bit.ly/1vqEL9I

Recipe: Sprouted Whole Wheat Apple Crisp

It definitely feels like autumn has arrived in British Columbia. The leaves are changing color and there is a chill in the air first thing in the morning that makes you breathe a little deeper. It is a magical season.

The cool evenings just call for crackling fires, cozy blankets, candles, warm tea and a good book … with a delicious dessert to savor, of course.

This juicy crisp with flavorful apples, cinnamon and a crispy topping is a delicious way to welcome autumn. For a little extra treat top it with coconut ice cream or vanilla coconut cream.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Apple Crisp

Filling:
6 1/2 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced (approx. 6 large apples)
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Topping:
2/3 cup One Degree Organics Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup One Degree Organics Quick Oats
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 9 inch pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl mix together the sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch and place in the prepared pan.

In a separate bowl combine the whole wheat flour, quick oats, sugar and salt. Add the melted coconut oil and using your hands mix until moist and crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping mixture over the apples and bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden and the apples are bubbling.

Enjoy!