Most of the food grown at Black Cat Farm is the result of lots of experimentation and trial runs. Growing some things, like spinach, is fairly straightforward. Plant it (and take care of it) and it produces green leafy deliciousness. Other things, like arthichokes, remain in the experiment phase more than 5 years after the first stab at growing them. We had our best artichoke crop ever in the summer of 2016 (it would have led to hundreds of globes), but a pig got into the archichoke field and inhaled half of the crop.
We began growing millet and buckwheat last year, and the year before raised corn meant for polenta. But this year, it’s Grain Palooza. Wheat. Emmer. Farro. Barley, Buckwheat. Amaranth. Millet. Oats. Spelt.
To help with the harvest — as you can imagine collecting wheat from the fields is nothing like plucking tomatoes — we bought a 1958 Allis-Chalmers Model A at auction near the Nebraska border in the spring. In July, we harvested our first wheat, ever — check out the video for the inaugural harvest. This is red winter wheat, and after harvest we mill the berries into flour, which we will use to bake all of the breads at both of our restaurants and will also sell at our farmers’ markets in downtown Boulder and Denver’s Union Station.
This year, too, we harvested some of the grain while still green, and roasted it in metal chutes we had sitting around on the farm. Roasted green wheat is also known as freekeh in the Middle East, and it is a gorgeous thing in a number of dishes, including a widespread soup called, appropriately enough, Freekeh soup. Check out the video for some on-the-farm fun — blow torch!
The grain-growing experience has been eye-opening. Some grains, like wheat, are much easier to harvest than most vegetables, and produce enormous volumes of food. While we treasure our vegetables and legumes, we welcome the addition of grain to our farm-to-table operation. The difference between fresh, just-milled grain and most of the stuff you buy on shelves at markets hinges on flavor. Unsurprisingly, the fresh stuff simply tastes better. And taste is one of the main reasons why we grow our own food!