This spring I will plant all the old standby vegetables, but will add a few grains. I have historically relied on purchasing healthy grains for bread baking, but find it difficult to buy grains with full confidence of them being non GMO and non toxic.
This is new territory for me!
Even though I do not get a lot of rain over a year, New Mexico gets a summer “monsoon” season. I put that in quotes because it adds up to 2 or 3 inches per month in the summer and is not to be confused with tropical monsoons. I appreciate the extra rain in the middle of my growing season.
The US is a major grain producer, but that has mostly relied on our abundant acquifers. Many areas with depleting water resources are shifting to dry land farming. There are now about 12 million acres in dryland grain production. Some of those areas are expected to become too dry and fall out of production.
My area is supposed to get increased precipitation. We certainly are having a wet El Nino winter.
I will start my experiment with Spelt, which has a type of gluten similar to wheat that allows it to rise with yeast. I chose it because it grows in poorer soil than wheat and under drier conditions. Although I ordered the seeds today, they will not be planted until fall. They sprout and grow roots before going dormant in the winter. Spelt produces grain quickly once they start growing in spring. A serious advantage in my short season.
I have seeds for Rocky Mountain corn. It is adapted to mountain living and is a brilliant multicolor corn to dry and use ground. Not the insipid yellow cornmeal I buy at the grocery, but certainly more nutricious with more phytonutrients. Because I have high hopes for saving seed and increasing production, it will be the only corn I plant this year. This is a nice choice for longer term food storage.
Quinoa is also on the menu. It has been eaten in the Andes mountains for over 5000 years and domesticated for a good portion of that. I ordered this today as well. It is a cousin to my native Amaranth, and like Amaranth, it has edible leaves. I love the Amaranth leaves, so I expect to find Quinoa delicious too. When I harvest, I take leaves from several plants to allow plenty to mature the seeds. Quinoa is used in many dishes much like rice.
I also ordered barley. It is the only grain other than sweet corn that I have grown. I had one volunteer barley plant come up amidst my vegetables when I lived in Seattle. I do love volunteers that come up by themselves, no work to me. I don’t know what it’s name was, but was certainly willing to save such a happy accident..I barely saved it from my daughterinlaw’s weeding frenzy, it looked like grass to her! Which it is. I saved it’s seeds and multiplied them the following year. Before I moved, I passed them on to an avid gardener I met there so she could continue the line.
Wild Amaranth grows in my garden and it has fiddly little black seeds. The greens are tasty and they make good sprouts. They were devoured by birds the year the Junipers did not fruit. Last year I got very few. In the spot where the grew freely, I will plant domesticated Amaranth with larger white seeds. I hope they will grow without supplemental water like their native cousins.
This foray into growing a more complete food supply comes in part from having more room than a town garden. Another part is related to Monsanto’s desire to force GMO foods on us by law. They are currently trying to get Congress to pass a law forbidding companies to mark their products “non GMO” because they aren’t satisfied with not having to mark their products as having GMO foods in them.
I go out of my way to avoid GMO foods, but that may be impossible to distinguish in these United States by the end of this year.
I have no idea how well these grains will grow and will likely save all seed produced for the year after. Each year you save seed from your best plants, you select for those that produce best in your own garden. Our national seed companies, in their desire to breed seeds that can grow “anywhere” have dramitically reduced the gene pool for our most common vegetables. Using what we have available to us while seeds are still marked non GMO, we can develop new strains that are well adapted to our own gardens.
This was how heirloom varieties were developed, by seed saving. In that tradition I am planting grains in Mt mountain garden. Perhaps some will naturalize in my Food Forest. In the beginning hey were all adapted from wild grains.