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Forgotten Foods: Use Them or Lose Them


Ancient Grains: What are they?

Why is everyone talking about them? And what do we do with them? Grains like barley, millet and spelt have become popular over recent years, as have pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat. Because they are grown less intensely than standard cereal crops like rice, wheat and corn, they create a more diverse crop rotation and diet for us, plus they are popular with vegetarians and vegans looking for alternative sources of protein. There are a couple of Scottish so-called ancient grains though that have our attention.

We love shining a light on artisan producers at Fresh Food Express - the guys who are growing and breeding using traditional, sustainable methods, handed down through generations - who without your support could potentially disappear. We also know how our FFE customers like to get cooking from scratch, and both of these grains are officially on the endangered food list so this week we're looking at Beremeal and Peasemeal - ancient Scottish grains which are rare and special. Get to know them better and enjoy some simple recipes and tips on how to cook with them.


Bere is an ancient, genetically pure variety of barley which is kiln dried, providing and earthy, nutty flavour and then stone ground to create a creamy coloured whole flour - Beremeal. It dates back to around 2000BC and is only grown these days in the far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, and the Western Isles. Beremeal makes excellent traditional Scottish bannocks and blinis and adds flavour and texture to other baking. We're loving Neil Forbes' (chef at Café St honour Edinburgh) super-simple Beremeal Bannock recipe on Oh! Taste. And for recipes straight from one of our producers, take a peek at Golspie Mill's recipe page.


Peasemeal (as the name suggests) is made from roasted yellow field peas. It is a protein-rich alternative to wheat, oatmeal and barleymeal, and more versatile too - from making brose and bannocks to noodles, soup and pate. We found some innovative uses for peasemeal, with Slow Food chef Paul Wedgwood coming up with an Asian peasemeal noodles recipe. Or for something a bit more traditional, Red Book Recipes offers bannocks and brose.

Thankfully both of these ingredients (which also happen to be low gluten) are enjoying a renaissance, as top chefs and whole food outlets bring them into the public's consciousness. One of our artisan suppliers, Golspie Mill, produces both of these. In fact, they are the only remaining producer of Peasemeal in the UK. One of the few remaining water mills in the country, they refurbished in 1992 and have been traditionally producing Peasemeal, Beremal, Wheat, Oats and Rye ever since.

And we also source Beremeal from Barony Mill in Orkney, which was taken over by the Birsay Heritage Trust in the 1990s.


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