Daisy Organic Lancaster Red Heritage Flour
Harvesting WheatNutritionists and food commentators, concerned about the increasing health problems of our nation, have been looking to the farming practices that shaped the eating habits of our colonial forebearers for clues to improvement in our daily diets. They look at the most basic staples in our eating habits over the years. Grain, and especially wheat, is fundamental to all cultures throughout history.
In the United States, the colonial farm wife was limited to the flour made from grain grown in her neighborhood and milled at a nearby mill, close enough that grain could be taken by horse and wagon to the mill and returned as flour in the same day.
In southcentral Pennsylvania, our Annville Mill was established in the 18th century as a water-powered grist mill. Soft white wheat was preferred for this style of stone milling in which the grain was crushed between two horizontal stones.
Growing wheat in the northeastern United States is a challenge – then and now. Weather extremes of wind and rain, snow and hail are among the variables that have a strong effect on the grain in the field in any given year. To limit the damage and increase the variables, over the years, plant breeders experimented with the vintage wheat seeds and found ways to make the stalks shorter and to increase the size of the heads.
But now, in the 21st century, at Mcgeary Organics, we began to look at research that suggests these genetic changes may not serve us as well in our nutritional intake as much as they serve agriculture where the focus is to grow a reliable and cooperative annual harvest.
In 2004 we started an Historic Wheat Project to re-learn how to grow, harvest, and mill vintage varieties of wheat that have been waiting, dormant, in seed banks. These varieties date back, in the United States, from the early 19th century up to about the time of the second world war, when speed and volume took precedent in food growing and processing.
Inspecting GrainStarting with only a handful of a few varieties of this vintage wheat, McGeary increased our grain bank by re-learning the best agronomic practices. For example, a modern soft wheat crop stands about two feet high at harvest.
These historic varieties average four to five feet high. The return to original agricultural practices has been time consuming and full of challenges but very rewarding to our mission to create organic flour that is carefully organic from the field through the mill – no chemicals, no bleach, no additives.
And finally, now, in 2014, ten years later, we are ready release three varieties of historic wheat in Daisy’s Reserve Series of Heritage Wheat Flours. First, we milled Lancaster Red because it is perhaps the oldest of the three. (Watch for announcement of the later varieties called Fultz and Fulcaster.)
In 1819, John Gordon of Wilmington, Delaware, brought to American from Genoa, Italy, a wheat variety that he called Mediterranean. It took 100 years – and the invention of the more sophisticated roller-mill process – for this soft red wheat to take off in popularity.
Mediterranean grown and named according to the regions where the fields were located. For our purposes, we selected the Mediterranean variety that was named Lancaster Red because it was first grown in a field in our own home county: Lancaster, in southcentral Pennsylvania, where Daisy Flour was first sold. About the time the Daisy Flour label was established in 1890, roller mills had been invented and the Annville Mill was converted from a grist mill to a roller mill. This style of soft red wheat was ideally suited to the new roller mill process.
Lancaster Red has a higher protein count than most soft wheat flours available in the market today. For that reason, Lancaster Red has proven to produce a good loaf of bread with the hearty flavor of red wheat, while serving just as well as an all-purpose flour for pancakes, cookies, pies, waffles, cakes, scones, and as a thickening agent for gravies and sauces.
Because of the limited supply of wheat, Lancaster Red is available only in the 2-pound size. It can be purchased through our online store.
Average analysis of Lancaster Red shows a flour protein count of 11 to 12%. Average specifications may vary with each lot number.