Reading week: The Third Plate

I am unfortunately going to be away this weekend so I won’t be able to take another shot at baking this week. As such I thought I would spend some time on a book that I just finished: The Third Plate by Dan Barber.

While the book is by no means focused on bread or baking, there is a considerable amount of discussion around wheat, wheat varieties, and growing more delicious food in general. If you are interested in food & cooking, I would recommend giving this book a try.

What I thought was very interesting in particular was the history of wheat itself in terms of the shift from a perennial plant (only plant it once) to an annual plant (must be replanted each year) by tearing apart the natural prairies originally, which greatly diminished the root structure of the plant and, in turn, increased the plant’s susceptibility to disease and drought with reduced nutrition (as well as flavour) overall. With a much shallower root structure, the plant is unable to reach as deep into the earth, with less available moisture from which to drink. The sad thing is, I’m not sure there is anything that is better about annual wheat than perennial wheat – perhaps a greater yield?

lex26_perennial1
Wes Jackson showing the difference in root structure of perennial and annual wheat. Learn more at lexiconofsustainability.com/grains

The book discusses various types of wheat which frankly gave me an itch to run out and buy some spelt flour. At one point the focus shifts to a seed breeder in Washington State, Steve Jones, who has bred (naturally, of course, not talking GMOs here) wheat that actually has the complexity of how we consider wine or coffee (notes of chocolate, anyone?).

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