Brockwell Bake Association -From seed to loaf

This weeks blog is by Alex Vaughan a long standing Local Greens customer and creator of The Crowsrest microbakery in Camberwell.


Before I fell in love with baking bread – as I have always been in love with eating good bread! – I had never given much thought to its most common main ingredient: Wheat.

However, you can’t have any sort of love affair with a product without growing a serious interest for its components, and although I am far from an expert, I now know that there is bread and durum wheat, hard and soft wheat, Spring and Winter sown wheat, red and white wheat and a never ending series of other categories of, well, wheat. In fact, if you head down to the Wheat Gateway powered by the Brockwell Bake Association you will find out that they reference over 398,000 wheat lines held in the world's genebanks! 


The revival of artisan baking seen in the UK over the last few years, and an ever growing interest in making bread as it should be – slowly, with good ingredients, enhancing its nutritional profile and flavour– has created the conditions for organisations like the Brockwell Bake Association to flourish. And one of its goals is to reintroduce tall heritage wheat into the food chain, growing, harvesting, milling and baking with it in Lambeth. They also work with partner no-till, organic and bio-dynamic farmers in Surrey, Sussex and Kent as these are the farmers looking to avoid the fossil fuel powered mechanical and chemical interventions that the modern dwarfed wheats have been bred to be addicted to. Closer to home the BBA has spread seeds around schools and even local parks: if you strolled through Ruskin Park recently you might have noticed a small crop of wheat growing there?


Last week I received an email from Andrew Forbes, one of the founding members of the BBA, asking for volunteers to help with emergency harvest, between rain showers, of some of this wheat. I managed to enlist two friends that I was meant to have lunch with on Sunday to come and harvest with us instead, and we had an amazing day with scythes and sickles plus an 11am brunch in the field.

Varieties of wheat harvested on the day were Purple Naked Spelt, Hen Gymro S72 and Hen Gymro (Gimro)Red ChidhamBon Fermier andBlue Cone Rivet. All of these, together with most of the larger plots in these fields, are intended to be used as seed, after some samples being removed for test bakes taking place in a few months’ time at E5 Bakehouse. This project has now reached a stage where the BBA is hoping to have a commercial crop of some of these wheats with the next harvest. 


Personally, I can’t wait for a chance to see them become flour, dough and bread!