Red Fife marching into Quebec

Last year I enjoyed correspondence with Robert Beachamps, the founder and president of Meunerie Milanaise about Red Fife (as part of an attempt on my part to encourage him to grow more heritage hard red wheat strains), and today received a very kind email informing me that he has not only considered it, but they are already growing 800 tons this year which will be available this fall.

Always amazing when you deal with people who don’t just talk, but act. That’s bona fide private sector commerce for you!

Here is a picture of their Red Fife wheat just growing right now…

Red Fife field in St-Polycarpe Qc

I hope we will be able to try it!

You can Google Red Fife to learn a bit more about it. Here is one page that tells the story fairly well:

The History of our Red Fife Wheat:

Canada’s oldest successfully grown variety of wheat, known as Red Fife, has found a home at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Enough of the heritage grain was obtained from two remaining sources, allowing our staff to plant three acres at the Village.

It is named after David Fife, who first grew the wheat in 1842 in southern Ontario, and is known to have originated in what is now Western Ukraine. Wheat has always played a strong role in Ukrainian customs and rituals, and is associated with ancestry, fertility and prosperity. So it was natural that the early Ukrainian pioneers who farmed in Western Canada brought sacks of seed with them to replant familiar crops over here.

But they would refer to this wheat by one of the names used in the Old Country – “Chervona Vusata.”

The wheat had high milling qualities and was known for making exceptional baked goods with extremely white flour. The distinctive plant can grow from three to five feet tall, unheard of among today’s quick-maturing grains. Most varieties of red spring wheat owe their ancestry to this particular grain, including the development of the cross-bred Marquis variety, a true Canadian success story that helped change the world.

However, the original wheat that started it all, “rooted” in Ukraine and transplanted to the New World in Canada, is still Red Fife. We hope that you’ll experience this rare taste of things the way they were meant to be by our ancestors.


Grown and milled at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage VIllage.

(Note in the picture above how tall the wheat is: modern hard red is about half that height so that it doesn’t droop after being fed huge quantities of nitrogen in fertilizer which boosts growth but not corresponding strength, even though they also have unnaturally high gluten/protein levels to facilitate rapid industrial bread-making techniques. Vicious circle. Heritage grains are a way of getting back to natural breads. Rye and Spelt are essentially like this already and are featured prominently in my menu offerings.)


P.S. Robert in his email also warned me that it looks like Canada will allow GM wheat in the next five years. Although disappointed to hear this I am not surprised. NAFTA basically means that American corporations can do whatever they want in Canada one way or another. GM is a way to centralise and control food production to benefit rentier special interests who hold the patents. It is entirely disgraceful, reactionary, a huge step backwards and illustrates how even something essentially good like science can be perverted into something wicked. Of course we are all much too docile and polite in Canada to question our governments, so this development will probably take place with nary a whisper in our highly controlled press.


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