Our Field To Fork Approach Is In The Vanguard Of A Global Wheat Movement

Our approach to flour production, and the flours we use, is at the vanguard of a global movement aimed at re-examining the world’s relationship with wheat and grains. It’s an approach championed by luminaries such as world famous baker Chad Robertson, food writer Michael Pollan, upcoming film The Grain Divide, and The Real Bread Campaign.

The movement seeks a shift from an industrial approach to grain and flour that focuses on yield, speed and shelf life, whilst riding roughshod over health, taste and culture. It’s an important development, given that wheat, usually in the form of bread, is the world #1 source of food calories. But often calories absent of goodness – which is ironic, given that a kernel of wheat is one of the most nutritionally dense food forms.

In line with the movement’s approach, ‘our Michael’ has always made artisan breads, using traditional processes, with quality ingredients – but he’s now taken it one step further, by planting 10acres of world renowned archaeo-botanist John Letts’ heirloom wheat, for use at The Hearth. In a reciprocal partnership we’ve borrowed 2 tons of John’s grain, planted it near Southease, with the support of an enthusiastic local farmer, and will have our first harvest of 20tons of grain in the autumn.

The Hearth, Lewes, Heritage wheat field

We’ll then give John 10tons of grain back, which he’ll replant on his farm, and we’ll keep the rest for replanting and for our breads. It’s an approach that will hopefully inspire other bakers to follow suit – for not only does it diminish food miles, but it also allows you to create flour that retains its goodness and flavour. Both of which are removed in industrial flour-making – due to the manner in which it is milled, and then bleached.

Over his 40yrs as a baker Michael has seen the rise of soft white breads, with little nutritional value – and an attendant growth in wheat intolerance. Even though we’ve been eating wheat for at least 10,000yrs.  We now live in a society in which many people have never experienced a tasty, healthy loaf of bread. Most people’s experience is mass produced supermarket bread which are produced using accelerated leavening times – usually a couple of hours from dough to baked loaf.  Which is tragic given that it’s traditionally seen as the staff of life.

The Hearth Heirloom Bread

Hopefully we can, in our own small way, help change the situation. Because we use high quality flours, traditional sourdough starters and an extended leavening period – usually 12 to 16 hrs – which gives the bread a fuller flavour, and the fermentation process that takes place during this time makes the wheat more digestible.

The only other pizzeria to take such a field to fork approach is Pepe in Grani. The world’s most famous pizzeria, run by its most famous pizzaiolo, Franco Pepe.

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