Flour Power

22 07 2007

The majority of US wheat production occurs in the North and Central Plains states (Kansas and North Dakota being the top two in 2006). Washington comes in at a respectable #4 which shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve ever driven through the Palouse. However, if you buy Gold Medal white wheat flour, it’s probably been grown under contract to General Mills in Montana. While there is nothing nefarious about Montana wheat, wouldn’t it make more sense to be eating wheat grown in the Palouse? Is it possible?

Certainly!

Fairhaven Cooperative Flour + Bob's Red Mill

The crinkly bags indicate that it’s not the first time I’ve made blueberry cornmeal pancakes for breakfast, but this is real life not a test kitchen or a photography studio. 🙂

Of course, realistically, if you were to restrict yourself to Washington wheat, you’d also probably restrict yourself to a diet of wheat pancakes, cookies, muffins and some rye bread. Most of Washington’s wheat, a mere 15% is not exported, is soft white wheat.

“Washington wheat is marketed around the world, and is combined with production from Oregon and Idaho and sold as Pacific Northwest (PNW) wheat. In 2006, approximately 82.4 percent of Washington’s wheat crop was soft white wheat, 8.5 percent hard red winter and 9.1 percent hard red spring wheat.” [Washington Wheat Commission]

Next best thing then is to at least employ a local mill. Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Bellingham grinds organic grains into a variety of flours. The bag on the left shows their pastry flour which is Washington-grown. The product list on their website indicates where most of their different flours are grown. Yes, some in Montana even.

The bag on the right is probably more familiar since Bob’s Red Mill products are available in most of our local stores. They’re not local, but they’re pretty close since they’re just in Milwaukie, Oregon. I try to stop by the mill store if I’m visiting Portland and stock up on many of the excellent products that aren’t available in our stores. Remember that whole grains and white flour will keep up to a year, but milled whole wheat and cornmeal will get rancid more quickly.

Another option that I’m really excited about is Shepherd’s Grain. They are an alliance of farmers headquartered just west of Spokane that are producing high gluten bread flour amongst other things. Next time I plan to be out that way, I will figure out how to buy some of their products. The price of a 5 lb. bag of flour is $3.00 which is quite reasonable, but $9.00 for shipping negates the value. If nothing else, I’ll snag a 50 lb. sack at Spokane Bakery Supply. Make sure that you read about their farming methods too. More and more farmers are converting to direct seeding which is better suited to the rolling hills in the Palouse.

Meanwhile, have a pancake!

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