29 October, 2010

Bread wheat in Denmark, days 4 and 5

backdate: 28-29 October

The night in Kolding was a good break, offering just enough time to use a gym and forage up some kebab before everything closed at ten. In the morning, it was back to Sjaelland, to visit Bregentvedgaard.

Windy in the field, it was in the shelter of Bregentvedgaard's barns that we at last saw the grain itself. At several mills, we'd heard excited talk of some unique grains - distributed and built up by a network including Aurion, Anders Borgen, and farmer Per Grupe. There was a unique tall "midsummer" rye, which despite low yields resisted disease and lodging and had small kernels with excellent flavor. Farmer Carsten Hvelplund also showed us a wheat cultivar from southern Sweden. Each of these grains had a story, and it was these cultivars that held the most interest to them in terms of specialty grains to join emmer, spelt, and barley among their rotations. The following morning, at Per Grupe's farm, we got to taste that midsummer rye sprouted.

The Friday grand finale of our trip was a corporate cafeteria - or, as they say here, kantin - in Hillerød, on the capital's outskirts. For this kantin, utilized by roughly 700 of the 3500 employees at Danish pension firm ATP, a team of chefs create a lunch menu and thrice-weekly take home dinner options using 60-90% certified organic - and mostly local - ingredients.

Using flour from Skærtoft Mølle and others, and largely inspired by Jøm Larsen of Aurion and the head chef of Copenhagen's world-renowned restaurant Noma, bakers Helge, Peter, and Jamie create artisan breads. Over a truly delicious lunch, we discussed the way chefs, creating a wider and shifting variety of menu item on a daily basis, may have more latitude than even artisan bakers when it comes to using local flours (which typically have more variation in quality than flours produced in prime wheat-growing regions).

Northern New England Local Bread Wheat - Denmark exchange participants

In sum, we discovered that while Denmark's organic bread wheat producers face slightly different agronomic and disease pressure challenges, they are perhaps not as far ahead of New England as we'd thought. There were plenty of things we didn't expect to learn, which we did, and other questions that remain unanswered, but after thirteen stops in four-and-a-half days, it was a relief to drop off the rental cars, and go our separate ways, settling in to Copenhagen for the night.