Grain: the staff of life.
We’ve heard that before. And to an extent, it’s true.
Much of the world uses one grain or another as their staple crop. Wheat is popular in much of the temperate Anglosphere, rice reigns across much of Southeast Asia, barley is epically important as the main grain for brewing beer—and corn is king over all. Where would we be without Cheetos?
Beyond these, rye and oats are both of high importance worldwide. To a lesser extent, minor grains like millet and sorghum, plus pseudocereals like buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa, fill key food roles in some cultures.
Of course, as a paleo advocate who also doesn’t feel very well when I eat most grains, I tend to view medium-rare steak as the staff of life, not grain.
But for those of you with good digestions who like bread, are grains worth growing on your homestead? Let’s take a look.
Wheat, Rye, Oats and Barley: The Painful Truth
Yield-wise, most grains aren’t all that impressive. I have to confess, I have a great fascination with plants—including small grains—and have really wanted to grow bread from beginning to end, despite my wheat allergies. There’s a great book by Gene Logsdon titled “Small-Scale Grain Raising.” I enjoyed it and still own it.
Yet we have to be realistic. Despite my dreams of fresh bread, raising grain on a small scale isn’t a walk in the park.
For example, if you wanted to survive on a small acreage, you probably wouldn’t plant wheat, rye, oats, or barley. Not only are they cheap to purchase, these grasses are also out-yielded by potatoes and other root crops.
However, if you’re sold on trying something like wheat or rye, here’s a good place to start:
Hey! It looks like they’re growing it in a small space, right? I could do that! Yeah!
But wait—did you see all the work that goes into producing and harvesting from their small-scale rye plot? And at the very end, did you catch the yield?
Five 1-pound loaves of bread!
And this is grown in a biointensive double-dug bed, so the yield is about the best you’re going to get without delving into black magic or making sacrifices to Ceres.
I sometimes grow barley, wheat, and oats through the fall and spring, yet I rarely eat what I grow. The chickens get the stalks—seed heads and all—as bedding. Sometimes the kids and I pick through a few … but usually … forget it. The work is murder. Yet, fortunately, not all grains are like that…
(Read the rest of this post over at The Grow Network)