The use of “ancients grains” is not new to artisan bakers, gluten-free product developers, cereal manufacturers or many other parts of the food and beverage industry. Many consider them to be more nutritious than standard commodity grains that have been bred for higher yields. The perception is that they offer variety, health benefits and big flavour - but at a cost. As we see the phrase ancient grains cropping up more and more in our supermarket aisles, in parallel, new approaches to farming to promote genetic biodiversity, resilience, and other critical areas aimed at sustainability are headline news.
In this session, two experts take a step back and look at how we define ancient grains from a cultural, historical and botanical perspective and explore their potential benefits for farmers, millers, bakers and a broad spectrum of food and drink technologists.
Ruth Nieman, Author / Food Writer at Flavoured Books
Ruth Nieman is a passionate foodie who spends her time between Israel and London, writing, photographing and eating great food. Inspired by her Jewish heritage and living in Israel, working with the food of its lush northern landscape, Ruth completed a Diploma in Food and Wine at Leiths Cookery School, and set up a catering company providing fresh, exciting food, influenced by her travels. Having gained a Diploma in Food Journalism in 2016, Ruth was propelled into the professional world of food writing, self-publishing and her first cookbook, The Galilean Kitchen. Freekeh Wild Wheat & Ancient Grains followed, published by Prospect Books in 2021, a historical, biblical and cultural journey of the heirloom grains from hunter-gathering communities of the pre farming era, bringing the lost crops and forgotten staples of our ancestors to the forefront of the modern diet.
John Letts, Farmer, Plant Breeder & Director at Heritage Harvest Ltd.
John Letts is a farmer, archaeologist and plant breeder who has been growing heritage (i.e. pre-1900 non-hybrid) grains for over 30 years. In the mid-1990s, he discovered hundreds of examples of Medieval cereal crops perfectly preserved within the base coats of ancient thatched buildings in England. This guided two decades of research on the history of cereals and sustainable farming. His company Heritage Harvest Ltd. (2006) was the first to market genuine heritage grain flour in the UK. John grows his grain without chemicals using restorative, ‘agro-ecological’ methods, and supplies bakers, brewers and an award-winning craft distillery in Oxford.