We are celebrating Shrove Tuesday with pancakes made from out own hulless oats. A coffee grinder full, and half an egg per person, seems about right, and then enough milk to make it the right consistency. Served with butter and honey it should power us up for the day.Growing cereals and and other small grain crops such as quinoa and amaranth is possible on a garden scale. I have blogged about growing quinoa and oats before. The main problem with the cereals is that birds like them too, and they may need to be netted or harvested while they are a bit green to save them from our wretched feathered friends. Drying them off in the polytunnel in a 'stook' works fine for this. The main drawback with quinoa is that the seeds are covered with a bitter coatng of saponins that must be removed before they are edible. This is a tedious task, and I am working on different ways of doing it. Amaranth likes a good summer.
Grains can all be grown in more or less the same way, on a garden scale. I sow them directly in the ground in rows about 20cm apart. I throw a piece of mono filament fish-netting over the bed, after sowing, to keep the birds off. As soon as the rows can be seen I take off the netting and hoe the bed. This kills the weeds before they get established and the space between the rows leaves room for my swivel hoe. Some cereals such as spelt and perennial wheat do better if sown in autumn, whereas oats, quinoa and buckwheat do fine sown in spring. So long as they are kept weeded they need very little attention until they are ready to harvest. The bird will alert you to this fact. They will be watching them constantly. Then you must act fast and get them under cover. Threshing and cleaning is a bit of a job but very satisfying.
We are running the first of a two part course on growing your own staple foods on the 18th of March. The course will include calculating your food needs, planting potatoes and sowing grains and pulses. You can book here, buy quinoa and amaranth seed here or buy cereal seeds here. Sooo....what is everyone giving up for lent?