The first time I heard about people that were gluten intolerant was about 20 years ago. As a wheat farmer, I did not quite know what to make of it. Surely the crops I grew with so much care could not create allergic reactions. In fact, a neighbouring farmer friend started to have issues with gluten. He told me then that as soon as he quit eating gluten-based foods, his aches and pains went away, he started feeling better and his health returned to normal.
I started to become interested in the subject.
Some gluten intolerant people told me that when they made a trip to Europe and ate bread there it seemed that they did not have any digestive issues with it.
From my research it turns out that there are 3 main potential factors that contribute to having a negative reaction to gluten. I do not believe each one on its own is as problematic as the combination of all 3 creating a compounding effect:
1) Newer varieties of grain seem to have a different protein profile compared to older heirloom varieties. These newer genetics aim to answer the demands of an increasingly industrialized baking process.
2) The grain may have been sprayed with products to hasten maturity to preserve quality. At times these compounds can find their way into the final products, more so when a multitude of farmers’ grain are commingled through the modern grain marketing logistics.
3) The product is highly processed including preservative products for long shelf life. The predominant milling process often results in a flour that has been devoid from the nutrients that were present in the original grain.
I was somewhat skeptical about these things, but 3 years ago I decided to see if our farm could find a solution so that sensitive people could enjoy eating bread, pizza and other gluten-based products again.
First, I sourced a variety of wheat named Rouge de Bordeaux. With a cool name like that, it could only be good right? But it turned out that the name was only a small part of its desirable traits. Rouge de Bordeaux has its origins going back to the 1800s in south-west France close to (you guessed it) the famous city of Bordeaux which lent its name to prestigious wines. It still contains gluten but its profile is different from modern varieties.
Second, our regenerative practices aim to foster a vibrant and diverse soil biology that in turn feed the crop, resulting in a naturally high nutrient content. These practices are also conducive for the crop to ripen more evenly naturally. Moreover, we are committed to not utilize products to hasten crop maturity.
Third, our on-farm mill is also a key component. No sense trying to do the best job of selecting the right variety and the best regenerative farming practices if the milling process takes most of it away. With its very low milling temperature and ultra-fine ability, our mill allows the flour to retain its wholesome quality. Furthermore, by milling our own grain ourselves we can ensure that that no other products get comingled, making sure the final result is a flour with high integrity.
Can these 3 factors implemented together truly help reduce or eliminate the negative side effects of gluten gluten intolerant people?
As they say, the proof is in the pudding or, more appropriately here, the pizza crust.
Mack, a friend our ours, is Celiac. He gets a severe reaction to any gluten and can usually tell by the first bite if the food he just ate contains any.
But how do you ask someone like Mack to test some wheat flour. It turns out, Mack is also passionate about soil health and regenerative agriculture. After explaining to him the above theories, he agreed to give our Rouge de Bordeaux flour a try.
As he tells the story, “First, my wife was quite impressed with the fine smoothness of the flour. She made our family a beautiful pizza. I had decided to try one bite and see. As the pizza was coming out of the oven it smelled so good”. That first bite was so delicious, he said, that he decided that if he was going to get sick from it, it may as well be justified, and he proceeded to eat a whole slice. To everyone’s surprise, including mine, Mack felt no ill effect from the pizza made from our Rouge flour. He added, “Ever since that day last summer I have been able to eat pizza again, but only made with the Rouge de Bordeaux flour from your farm.”
We have since had other people try this product with the same level of success. As a farmer, it gives me great pride and joy, to be able to grow crops that are not only nutritious but also help people enjoy again the simple pleasures of a home-made pizza or a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven.
Of course, I cannot guarantee that the results will be the same for everyone that may be gluten intolerant or celiac. But Mack and others would clearly tell you it’s worth the try. You can find it here on the Living Sky Grains website.
Rouge de Bordeaux on the left is noticeably higher by about 15” compared to a modern variety on the right. It also has a very distinct head shape and red color.