The 2021 Harvest
Updated: Aug 11
What a great year! After the historically wet seasons of 2019, and 2020, we finally had a growing season that was (mostly) favorable to wheat. It's our best harvest since 2017. We have great products for sale, and much progress was made in propagating our seed stock.
The Wisconsin No 2 wheat was a four-acre planting at Simon's Gardens in Mukwonago. Since we lost space on the Newman rental field this year, Chris Simon generously offered us some space. It was a real thrill to fill up four acres with this variety, having started with just 5 grams of seed from the USDA seed archive in 2015. This is undoubtedly the largest planting of Wisconsin No 2 since the mid-2oth century, and I hope this wonderful wheat is back on the Midwest stage for good now.
Winter wheat across the US was affected by the early heat this season, especially in March and April. Commercial winter wheat is about 1% lower in protein as a result, and our Wisconsin No 2 is no exception. It's producing slightly less loaf volume and dough strength than it was last year, although it's still very good. Interestingly, pro baker Stephen Blanchard reported to me that his croissants are coming out much better with Wisconsin No 2 than other flour.
The 2021 Marquis came out almost exactly like previous harvests. I find this wheat to be the most consistent of any I have grown. No matter what the season, it feels the same in the kitchen.
The Red Fife is exceptionally aromatic this season and produces stronger dough with lighter loaves than either the Marquis or the Wisconsin No 2. I personally prefer the Red Fife for artisan bread, and the Wisconsin No 2 for pizza.
On the archival side, we are making progress towards bringing other forgotten Wisconsin wheats back to the marketplace. The Java wheat was once again the most consistent and productive heritage spring wheat here, The stock of Java is up to 120 lbs, and I will be able to do a kitchen test with the seed purged out of the combine when cleaning between varieties. I can't wait.
The Haynes Bluestem continues to be a puzzle. It grew so beautifully in the garden the first two years I propagated it, but since then in the field it's been very weak. The heads are small and it seems completely unable to fight back weeds. But the stock is now up to 75 lbs, and it will go in again next year.
Krymka was the easy one, every year of the propagation it's been healthy, strong, and productive in the field. This year for the first time I had about 20 lbs to mill, and it produced the lightest colored flour I've ever milled. There is now 350 lbs of seed here, and I plan to grow it for market in 2022.
I am most excited about Goldcoin, a soft white winter wheat. I have only ever milled red wheat, and Goldcoin has captured my imagination. The plant is stunningly beautiful, and the white berries are unlike anything I've ever seen. They are unusually plump, which I think accounts for the slightly sparse stand in the field. I plan to set the drill to a higher seeding rate this year to compensate for the large size of the berries. The seed stock is up to 250 lbs, and my friend Ron has already agreed to grow it on his field for next year. It will follow a planting of oats. Ron & Mary grew my very first crop of Turkey Red for me back in 2015.
I have continued propagating Early Noe, a French wheat that I got interested in a few years back. It does not have a connection to Wisconsin, but a friend suggested it and I'm committed to bringing it to market once there is enough seed. Several things interest me about Early Noe. To begin with, every book on baking French baking starts out by saying that you can't get flour like they have in France anywhere else. So I want to make some authentic French flour! Secondly, the Early Noe is distinct from other wheat I am growing. It matures 1-2 weeks later (contrary to it's name) than other winter varieties, and more than once it has been attacked by birds when other wheat is left alone. Why do the birds like it so much? Finally, I chewed on some Early Noe berries this season, and wouldn't you know it, the darn stuff actually tastes like a baguette made in Paris! So I want to mill this stuff eventually and see what's going on.