The Living Field has supported local crop landraces and traditional varieties. We have grown them, saved their seed, used their products to make food, promoted them on open days and shared them with growers and gardeners.
Grains are the staple diet of any settled population. Neolithic ancestors brought them to these islands thousands of years ago. People sustained themselves on locally grown grain crops such as oats, wheat and barley. This is no longer the case. Most of our grain foods are now imported, apart from oats which occupies a small area of arable land, and a few fields of special barley and wheat. We are highly vulnerable to loss of this essential staple food through blockade or import restriction.
So it is specially good to hear the continued and growing interest in projects like Common Grains  and Seed Sovereignty . They operate outside the conventional channels of crop varietal breeding and depend on local and often unfunded commitment for their success. Here we pass on some recent news and upcoming events from both projects – with images of the Living Field‘s cereal landraces and some old methods of grinding and milling grain.
With emphasis on both growing and baking, Common Grains is showing that short food chains work. It aims to reduce the physical and commercial distance between seed, crop, harvest, (saved seed), processing, baking and eating. As a result, the eater will likely appreciate the growing and have an vested interest in soil health and biodiversity .
Common Grains is developing ambitious annual and five-year plans, where again the joint emphasis is on growing grains and supplying nutritious food. Several farmers are experimenting with crop mixtures as a means to reduce inputs and improve the agricultural environment.
A summary of their conference in late 2019 is given on the We Knead Nature web site . Long term plans include a hub for growers, customers and businesses, a Seed Bank of local saved-seed grain crops, and greater community engagement through formal education and kitchen skills. Contacts through Facebook and Instagram .
Seed Sovereignty UK and Ireland Programme
The Programme’s web site explains its aims and purpose: “The Seed Sovereignty Programme of the UK & Ireland aims to support the development of a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system here on home soil. Working closely with farmers, seed producers and partners across the seed sector, together we want more agro-ecological seed produced by trained growers, to conserve threatened varieties and to breed more varieties for future resilience.”
One of the main aims of the project is to establish regional and national hubs, networks and collaborations. Contact details of regional coordinators are given on the web site’s About page . Activities include raising the main issues and current difficulties around saved seed, encouraging networks and support hubs, training, databasing, field trialling and participatory plant breeding.
There’s an upcoming Seed Week. Sinéad Fortune, Programme Manager, writes “From 18th – 22nd January Gaia will run our fourth Seed Week, which aims to raise awareness of local, open pollinated, agroecological seed being grown and sold in the UK and Ireland. The timing coincides with growers shopping for seeds for the coming season, and we hope to raise general awareness of the importance of agroecological and locally-grown seed with a wider audience.”
There’s ample opportunity to get involved and if you use social media then here is the tag #SeedWeek.
Sources / contacts
 Common Grains is on Facebook and Instagram. A note on the Common Grains Conference Scotland in 2019 is published on the We Knead Nature web site. Thanks to Rosie Gray for recent updates.
Following the Nourish Scotland conference in November 2019, the Living Field began thinking about how it might best support those working towards a sustainable future for food and agriculture . Then early in 2020 the pandemic hit, raising searching questions as to whether the food system could cope.
In March 2020, Pete Ritchie from
Nourish Scotland, wrote a blog  putting the case that once the initial panic
has receded, the international food system would adapt, the empty shelves would
be re-stocked and no one in this country ought to go hungry. Nourish, through
their blogs, web sites and conferences are at pains to point out that no one
should go hungry in the UK because of shortage of food. Where they are hungry
or malnourished, it would be due to other factors, such as social inequality, not
the amount of food available.
Nourish were correct, but they were
not giving the thumbs up to the current state. The blog writes that the food
system – “ … generates massive environmental damage, monumental food waste,
exploitative work practices and a disastrous mismatch between what we need to
eat for health and what we are being sold.”
Dysfunction and mismatch are not simply other people’s problems. The blog continues – “ …..it would be good if Scotland were to produce more of what it eats, and eat more of what it produces.”
The argument raises the greater
issue of the choices that can be made – whether to create a more equitable food
system or stay with the current dysfunctional mix of hunger and plenty. Analysis
by the Food Foundation  indicates the pandemic is driving more people into
malnutrition and hunger: the food is there, but unaffordable or out of reach.
Yet on the continuity of supply
during the pandemic, the food system has adapted. Would the same be true
following any global emergency?
The food-feed system is resilient …..
but it could fail catastrophically
The food system supplying Scotland and the UK was able to recover because of particular features of this pandemic. Farming and food stocks in most parts of the world have been little affected so far. With some exceptions, channels for imported food have remained open. It is too soon to say whether more will be restricted if lockdown and social distancing continue, but the chances are they will not be. However, other global crises could have far greater consequences.
Imagine if imports had been shut off. The Food Atlas  produced by Nourish Scotland in 2018 shows the country’s reliance on imports. While some food supply chains can be satisfied by local produce, those supplying the staple carbohydrates, plant protein and vegetables are particularly vulnerable.
Scotland almost entirely relies on imports for staple, healthy carbohydrates. (The UK is less reliant but still has a major deficit.) The main local crops providing carbs are oats and potato, but on current areas they could not ensure sufficiency. Bread in particular – almost none of the bread we eat in Scotland is grown here. Nearly all other cereal carbohydrates are grown outside the UK (pasta, rice). Yet the country’s arable land could grow all the staple carbs needed.
Pulses – peas and beans – are, with cereal carbohydrate, the staple food of all settled civilisations. As for cereals, most pulse food is imported (e.g. canned baked beans) as is most pulse feed for livestock and farmed fish (e.g. soy bean from the Americas).
Vegetables – about half the vegetables eaten in Scotland are produced in the UK, most of the rest being grown in the EU or elsewhere.
If imports had been closed down,
the country would be in trouble. Could this happen? There are two main possible
causes: the food is there but imports are stopped, for example, by blockade due
to international hostilities; or the food is not there to buy, because the
countries producing it keep it themselves or have suffered a catastrophe in
their producing regions (e.g. ash from volcanic eruption). Both have happened in
the past. They will happen again.
It’s the balance that preserves
After the food insecurities the 1940s, a post-war
Agricultural Expansion Programme was initiated to raise production and shift
the balance more towards grain than grass. The programme worked, aided by
technological advances in machinery, agronomy and crop yield potential. Yet within a few decades, the country came to
export much of its agricultural production and was again dependent on imports
In an uncertain world, a country needs to keep its borders
open for trade, both ways. But it also needs to ensure it can feed itself if it
has to. The balance needs to be redrawn: local production raised, more food
grown than feedstocks for alcohol and livestock, with a shift in emphasis to ‘building’
rather than degrading the agro-ecosystem. All this is possible.
City University London, Food Policy: Parsons K, Hawkes C, Wells R. 2019. Brief 2: What is the food system? A Food Policy perspective. In: Rethinking Food Policy: a fresh approach to policy and practice. London: Centre for Food Policy. PDF file available through this link.
More from our correspondent Grannie Kate ….. broad bean and chickpea ….. eat pulses ….. stay healthy ….cut pollution
“I first acquired a recipe for chickpea patties from an Indian student of Sayed Azam-Ali  in 1991 during a field trip to the Highlands of Scotland! I have adapted it to add in extra tasty baby broad beans but be careful not to overdo the spices, otherwise the flavour of the broad beans will be masked.
You could add peas to the mix as well if you wished, or other types of cooked bean according to the season and availability. These are highly nutritious, very tasty and filling! Serve with mixed leaves and maybe some peppers and tomatoes with a light drizzle of olive oil. This recipe makes about 10 patties.
What you will need
1 cup of baby broad beans, boiled for three minutes
1 cup of cooked chickpeas, from a tin
1 cup of seasoned mashed potatoes
2 spring onions plus one medium onion, finely chopped
One garlic clove, grated
Piece of ginger about 2cm square, grated
Half a fresh red chilli, chopped finely and including the seeds
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of garam masala
5 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 beaten egg for binding the mixture plus gram flour (chickpea flour)
What to do
Start by preparing the spices. Grind the cardamom seeds in a pestle and mortar and then add the turmeric and garam masala, salt and pepper. Grind them all together.
Add vegetable oil to a frying pan and when it is hot, add the spices. Fry for about half a minute then add the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry gently for around 5 minutes, stirring continuously and then remove from the heat.
Lightly mash the chickpea and beans. Add them to with the potatoes to a large bowl and then add the fried onions and spices and mix loosely together with a fork. Add a beaten egg to bind the mixture together.
Sprinkle the flour onto a chopping board, and also onto your hands to stop the mixture from sticking. Place a large spoonful of the mixture onto your hand and make a ball, then roll in the flour.
Place each patty onto baking paper on a tray, cover and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
Fry gently in a frying pan, turning each patty over until a glorious golden brown colour.
Notes from the editor
Thanks again to our correspondent Grannie Kate for this recipe.
 Pulse crops such as broad beans and chickpeas are of the legume family and can be grown without nitrogen fertiliser, which if used to excess, is one of the most damaging pollutants of atmosphere and water.
Flatbreads or bannocks made from oatmeal, beremeal or peasemeal are a traditional food of this region.
I decided to try and make some quick and simple flat breads to serve with soup, but instead of these I decided upon gram or chickpea flour. It’s a fine flour, yellowish in colour. Chickpea is a legume plant like pea, but usually grown in warmer countries.
Gram flour makes an excellent cheese sauce, by the way, for cauliflower cheese or a pasta bake.
These flatbreads are tasty, nutritious and filling. Keep them wrapped in foil and they will retain their freshness for a day or so.
2 cups of chickpea flour
1 cup of natural yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
What to do
Put the salt, baking powder and flour into a medium sized mixing bowl and mix together.
Add the yoghurt a little at a time stirring with a spoon.
The dough seems to be wet and sticky, but keep mixing and then turn out onto a floured surface.
Make sure your hands are floured then knead the dough lightly for about a minute until it is a smooth ball.
Divide the dough into 6 floured balls, then lightly flatten each one, using either a rolling pin or the palm of your hands until about 2 – 3 mm thick.
Spray some cooking oil into a heavy frying pan, bakestone or skillet until lightly coated, then, when the oil is hot add one or two of the flat breads. Add extra oil in between each batch of two flatbreads.
The flat breads will rise as the baking powder starts to work, so cook each flat bread for 1 or 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Keep warm and serve with a fresh leek and potato soup!
Add a sprinkling of sesame seeds with a little oil onto the surface of your flat breads before frying them on the bakestone or frying pan. Or try cumin seeds in the same way.
 Gram flour is make from chickpea seeds Cicer arietinum – a legume plant grown in many mediterranean and tropical regions as one of the staple protein crops.
 Like most legumes, chickpea fixes its own nitrogen from the air, so needs little if any mineral N fertiliser to help it grow and yield. Since mineral N is one of the main pollutants and sources of GHG emissions, growing and eating chickpea and other pulses is good for soil and the planet.
One in a series on vegetable markets around the world: this one in ‘Little India’, Singapore.
Fresh vegetables, unpackaged, mean local production, short food chains, fine taste and a high nutritional content. The Living Field encourages local growing and use of vegetables, most recently through its Vegetable Map of Scotland.
Here we look at some of what’s on offer at Tekka, in the district of Singapore known as Little India . As in most other vegetable markets, the goods offer a range of storage times from a few days to weeks or even months.
Here are some unusual ones … unusual to us that is. They are widely eaten throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. To the left of the three above are flowers of the banana or another plantain, encased in their reddish sheaths. The tough outer layers are usually discarded then the softer inners used in soups, salads and curries.
To the right are custard apples, not so appetising on the outside but split them with a knife to get at soft tasty fruits inside. In the middle, fresh coconuts, pared ready for extracting the ‘milk’, jostle on the central shelf, gourds above them and more banana products below. Just visible above the banana flowers (left) are two jackfruit, their rough surfaces protecting luscious, tasty, orange fruits inside.
Next are two types of fruit that will be more familiar in European supermarkets. Lower right in the panel above is a mass of gooseberries and above them the shiny purple fruits of brinjal (also known as aubergine and eggplant) of which there are many forms. The brinjal’s botanical name is Solanum melongena, relative of the potato therefore (Solanum tuberosum) and some poisonous nightshades. The wall poster to the left of them is advertising a vegetable mart.
And here are some more unusual ones. To the right of the flower stall (centre) are spiny gourds Momordica dioica, a fruit usually cooked as a vegetable, fried with meat for example. They are a little larger than a golf ball.
To the left are clusters of green ‘berries’ – the fruit of the pea eggplant or turkey berry Solanum torvum, used to give some bitterness to various dishes including curries.
So brinjal, pea aubergine and potato are part of the same plant group. People throughout the world have learnt to eat the safe parts of these Solanum species and leave or neutralise the inedible or poisonous parts (usually the leaves). Potato’s edible parts are tubers rather than fruits – though if left to flower and fruit, potato produces berries similar in appearance to those of pea aubergine .
And finally there are things both familiar and exotic. To the left are limes and next to them sections of banana stem. Then in the panel of three to the right are what looks like a type of okra or cucumber, green but characteristically streaked with white, then tomato in the centre and at the bottom a collection of carrots, beans and what are probably long tubers locally called ‘radishes’ but which are not a bit like the small oval radish grown in Britain.
Further sources and links
 Little India, Singapore: vegetables, herbs and spices at and around the Tekka Centre off Serangoon Road and Bukit Timah Road.
 Potato plants can form fruits in fields in Scotland and if dropped, persist in the soil for many years, giving rise to ‘volunteer’ populations that occur as weeds in subsequent crops of potato or other species. The role of potato as a weed is described on this web site at Crop-weeds.
What a great day, 9 June! Yet another successful Open Farm Sunday at the Hutton Dundee. Crowds of visitors enjoying themselves in sunny weather. The Living Field garden did its bit as before – exhibits on barley and legumes in the polytunnel, potato varieties in the west garden and further science exhibits in the cabins.
Our friends from Dundee Astronomical Society were here again showing people round the new observatory and explaining about the sun, moon and noctilucent clouds. And this year we were helped for the first time by a workshop on cyanotype imagery run by Kit Martin.
The centrepiece was the new Vegetable Map of Scotland, shown top left and centre in the panel above. For more on how it was made, see Vegetable map made real. The map occasioned much comment and wonder that the country was already growing such a wide range of vegetables and could grow much more of its own.
The two posters located next to the Vegetable map are available to view or download here.
The Vegetable Posters
One of the posters – The Vegetable Products of Scotland – explained the background to the original Vegetable map which was first shown at Can we grow more vegetables? The poster is reproduced below as a low resolution jpg image. It is also available as a pdf file printable up to A3 size.
The other poster – Vegetables in the Living Field garden – showed many of the vegetables typically grown in the garden, grouped into leaves, fleshy fruits, roots and seeds. More on the plants can be seen at the garden pages under Vegetables. This poster is also reproduced as a jpeg below and available as a pdf.
Since its publication on these pages in 2017 the Vegetable Map of Scotland  has attracted much interest. There is a growing awareness of the benefits of local, nutritious food – especially if bought from short supply chains that use the least possible carbon.
People want to know where their food comes from, how much is imported and how much grown locally and whether the country can grow more of its food within or near its borders.
These questions are asked especially of vegetables, including pulses and potato, because they are (or should be) mostly eaten very fresh, such as leaf, or else, like carrot and swede, kept not too long on the shelf before being cooked.
With this background of interest, the Vegetable Map was constructed by researchers at the Institute as part of joint interests with Nourish Scotland . The group interrogated EU databases provided by the Scottish Government  to locate the fields in which the various vegetables and soft fruits were grown.
An example of part of the region is shown above. The Map remained available through this web site, then in late 2018, ideas began to form about making the map real – complete with vegetables – and it would be constructed in the Living Field garden .
Time went by. Ground was weeded, cleared and cultivated – a rare barrenness in the otherwise plant-rich garden. Then gradually, over the winter, tectonic plates shifted.
People began to wonder about the strange earthworks dotted with rocks that appeared in the plot. Was the garden being visited at night by strange forces or was the Living Field community finally just losing it? Rumours were rife.
More time went by. Turf was laid in a great rectangle over the whole patch, but people were still unclear of what it was all for …. and what lay underneath.
The turf rooted and formed a fine carpet. But what were the rocks? A ritual landscape? Tayside’s answer to the Ring of Brodgar?
Then one day in late spring 2019 an outline was traced and the turf was cut to reveal the unmistakable shape of ….. Scotland ….. its indented coast now clear and the land inside complete with hills and mountains.
All well so far ……. a map of the country covered in grass and rocks …… nothing new there. But then in May, holes were cut in the turf and plants put in the holes: and you’ll guess what plants – Yes, vegetables.
And that is where we are at the beginning of June 2019. The Farm’s drone was flown to photograph the Living Field garden from the air on 5 June. The image of the map appears below.
Different types of vegetable are being planted in the parts of the country where they are typically grown. It is possible to see the early plantings to the right of the image. The brown holes in the turf are where circles have been cut in readiness for later plantings. (The ‘corners’ and lower border are spare turf in case of need.)
Planting will continue well into the summer. There will be some surprises which we shall show later.
For now, you can read more about the history of vegetable growing at the original page . photographs of the construction will follow – link to be provided. And there will be more articles on what can and can’t be grown in the soils and climates of our northern latitudes.
Living Field people will be on hand at Open Farm Sunday 9 June 2019 to explain more about the Vegetable Map of Scotland. See you there!
With apologies to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, presently missing from the map but to be included.
 The original digital map was produced during work on the distribution of crops as part of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme.
 Gladys Wright had the idea of constructing the Vegetable Map in the Living Field garden and was soon offered enthusiastic help by The Farm. Together, and with other coopted helpers they measured out the grid, made the mountains (like Titans), laid and cut the turf and raised and planted the plants. A great effort by the Living Field community!
The famousBeans on Toast Project was started 7 years ago by student Sarah Doherty and artist Jean Duncan with Geoff Squire and other members of the Living Field team . The project looked at the origins of this seemingly simple meal.
Not so simple in fact – 10 crops, grown in four continents and using masses of water and other precious resources – the product of a highly complex supply chain leading to a tin, a packet and a tub.
This example of the worldwide growing and sourcing of products that go into the food we eat has been used many times by the Living Field, most recently at a Citizen’s Jury event at the Scottish Parliament in March.
Beans on toast a few years on…
Sarah’s been reflecting on the project. She writes –
“Seven years on, I look back at the ‘water footprint’ for the Beans on Toast project as an eye-opening experience!
It was a reminder that there is a story behind everything. Almost everything we eat has travelled a long way to get on our plates. For so much water to go into the humble beans on toast – it baffles me how much more water and effort goes into producing other things.
I recently took up sewing and have been struck at how expensive it is to buy material for making home-made clothes. When mass- produced for high street stores, clothes may seem easy and cheap. However, making material is an energy and water intensive process too often involving crops for fibres such as cotton and linen.
I’m certainly more mindful of this now which is why I’m learning to cut my wardrobe down to what I really use and like the most!
At the Citizen’s Jury Scottish Parliament
Geoff was asked to attend a Citizen’s Jury as a specialist assisting the Jurors with background information on the topic being considered.
He used the Beans on Toast example  to show, first, that much of the food we eat is not grown here but imported, and second, that most of our pre-prepared food is made from mixing the products of many different crops grown using the resources of other countries.
Beans on Toast relies on haricot bean, tomato, oil palm, soybean, wheat, maize, sugar cane, paprika, onion, and oilseed rape ….. and that’s just the main ingredients. And the food on one plate of it needs several bathfulls of water.
The famous Beans on Toast project continues …
Beans on Toast is an excellent example to show that we need to use less of other countries’ resources and more of our own.
What’s known as the legume-gap or protein gap – the difference between home grown and imports – is massive. We grow just a few percent of the plant protein needed for feeding peole and farm animals.
We have been adding to the information on sourcing food and estimating how much water and nutrients it takes to grow and process food like this . Beans on Toast lives ….
 Sarah was studying at Durham University when she worked at the James Hutton Institute for about a year in 2012 . She has kept in touch. She last visited in summer 2018. Jean Duncan who worked with Sarah on educational projects with local schools still works with the Living Field project.
 The EU TRUE project runs currently, coordinated at the James Hutton Institute. Among its aims is to study the global food and feed supply chains, to cut waste and and to raise local production. It’s full title is Transition Paths to Sustainable Legume-based systems in Europehttps://www.true-project.eu
Three flours that sustained life on the Atlantic seaboard for centuries. Commonly grown as a crop mixture in the field. Mixed and cooked into tasty bannocks in the kitchen. Decline to near extinction in the 20th century. Now with a great future as sustainable low-input crops, bringing diversity to the farmed landscape and healthy, nutritious food.
Peas, bere (barley) and oats have been a staple plant mixture giving protein and carbohydrate through the centuries of farming on the Atlantic seaboard. Yet in Scotland, as in much of Atlantic Europe, their role diminished within living memory.
Peas declined in area from the mid 1800s to to almost nothing in the 1930s. Bere dropped out of census records in the 1880s but was then nearly lost except in a few northern fields. Oat fell from being the dominant grain crop over the last few hundred years to covering less area than barley and wheat by 1950 . Their decline is now being reversed.
Peas as crops and food
Traditionally peas along with bere and oats, and sometimes beans, was the staple protein food of the rural working population in Scotland. They were the local pulse and grain – the sustaining combination of plants that once fed the world and still feeds large parts of it.
Fenton’s Food of the Scots  cites many records from the 1400s to the late 1800s of peas, beans and cereal grains grown alone or in mixtures. Similarly, the flours of peas, oats and bere were eaten as bread and bannocks, either as sole constituents or baked in combination.
The pulse crops were certainly recognised and widely appreciated here for hundreds of years. A 1426 Act of Parliament in Scotland stipulated that a farmer should sow 1/12 of his labour in peas , not just for protein food but to fertilise the soil with nitrogen (though the process of biological nitrogen fixation by legumes was not understood until many centuries later).
The products of peas and beans were grown locally, traded across the country or imported by sea, often from nearby Atlantic and Baltic ports. Though peasemeal was demeaned as a food of the labouring classes in some regions, the inclusion of peas in the subsistence diet was recommended by Hutchison in 1869  as contributing to a healthier and longer life for the rural worker and their family.
Decline of peas
The records cited by Fenton indicate peas as a crop and food were more important here than beans Vicia faba. Yet by the mid-1800s, that order was reversed. At the first crop census in 1854, beans occupied 6 times more area than peas . The cause of the decline of peas as a crop is suggested by MacDonald (1908) as due to ‘the extended use of potato’ in the subsistence economy  and by Porter (1925) to the replacement of pulses by clover and grass mixtures  that are better at maintaining soil fertility.
Well into the period up to the 1950s, both pulses were named individually in the census and classed as grain crops to be harvested like cereals, yet unlike the cereal grains, they continued to decline in area despite a short-lived revival in the late 1940s (when food imports and nitrogen fertiliser wererestricted).
Peas became a minor crop by the 1930s and disappeared from the annual census in the 1950s. Beans went a decade or so later. They covered too small an area to be recorded in the annual summary. They reappeared gradually from the 1960s in different forms, such as ‘vining peas’ for human consumption, but that’s another story, and despite a rise in sown area similar to that of the 1880s, peas and beans together now cover 1-2% of the cropped surface, a very low percentage.
The benefits of all three products – peasemeal, beremeal and oatmeal – to health and environment are increasingly recognised today. Here, we wonder what peasemeal-beremeal-oatmeal bannocks tasted like and decided to find out.
For much of recorded history in these islands, wheat was not as widely grown as oats and barley, and when it was grown or imported, it was more to feed the wealthy. Beremeal and oatmeal do not ‘rise’ much by themselves, so were most commonly eaten as bannocks, a form of flatbread . The flours were mixed with water, patted into a round, typically 1 to 2 cm thick, and baked on a hot surface on or by a fire.
To try out the method, flours were sourced from water-powered mills at Golspie in Sutherland and Birsay on Orkney . Then trial and error – peasemeal and oatmeal, peasemeal and beremeal and all three together, the latter preferred for the blend of tastes.
The oatmeal was medium-ground and gave some granularity to the mix. The peasemeal had a yellowish colour, while the beremeal was more of a light brown than a standard refined wheat flour. On the packets, peasemeal had a protein content of 20.4% and oatmeal (as most unrefined cereals) around 13%.
The three were placed in a bowl at about 1:1:1, or slightly more oatmeal than each of the other two, mixed into a thick paste or dough with water, turned out onto the board with a little beremeal on it to stop it sticking and then pressed into a bannock (about 10 -15 cm wide and 1 cm thick).
It took 10 to 15 minutes to cook the bannock slowly in a cast iron pan, very lightly oiled with cold-pressed rapeseed, though oiling is not essential. Heat sources tried were a modern gas stove, an indoor wood stove and an outdoor fire.
The three-meal bannock was tasty and filling, eaten with butter or marge (could try a drizzle of oil), marmite, various cheeses and dipped in soup. A satisfying experience.
Yield and environmental benefit
Pea Pisum sativum is now grown in various forms, for animal feed, for canning and freezing to feed people and as a fresh vegetable. The peas traditionally used for peasemeal or flour tended to be marrowfat or similar types, harvested when mature [but see note 4]. Peas need no nitrogen fertiliser and less pesticide than most non-legume crops.
Bere, the traditional landrace of barley Hordeum vulgare, is now grown only in a few localities, but appears to need less fertiliser and pesticide than modern two row barleys. Oats Avena sativa were overtaken by barley in the middle to the 1900s as the Scottish cereal crop of choice, but they too need less pesticide and fertiliser than barley and recently oat yields have increased to rival those of spring barley. Oat is also nutritionally superior to barleys and wheats.
Many records over recent centuries describe the growing of two or three crops mixed together in one field. ‘Mixed grains’ was recorded in the crop census for most of the 1900s, while mashlum – a mix of peas or beans with oat or barley – was common enough to be cited as a distinct crop category from 1944 to 1978 . As related elsewhere on the Living Field web site (see Mashlum – a traditional mix of oats and beans) these crop mixtures disappeared from the census records but are still grown by a few farmers who value their contribution to fertility and nutrition.
The yields, nutritional content and environmental benefit of traditional landraces and mixed grains are being researched and quantified at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee [6, 7}.
Teaching about grains, milling, flour and food at Open Days
The Living Field bought its own hand-powered corn mill a few years ago. It consist of a stone base and two grinding stones. The latter were honed by Mr Roberts from the Hutton’s workshop and the whole was supported by old tyres. Grain (in this case oats, centre top) is fed into a vertical channel in the upper stone and falls down through to the gap between the stones.
The stones are turned by the wooden rod, as shown by Mr Young and two visitors at an Open Day (this one in 2012). The grain is ground between the stones to a mix of meal and bran (the husks of the grain) which gets pushed out and collects in the stone base from where it is brushed off into a container (lower right). The meal and bran are separated by hand using a sieve (lower left).
At Living Field open days – at Open Farm Sunday for instance – visitors can see the whole process from growing the plants from seed, harvesting grain, grinding the grain and separating the meal from the chaff. Gill Banks shows how to make bread from the flour made from these ancient varieties.
Sources, references, links
 Census records for the main crops began in 1854, then continued from the early 1880s through to 1978 as Agricultural Statistics Scotland, a fine source of information. Yearbooks are available online from the Scottish Government web site at Historical Agricultural Statistics. More on the 1854 census on the LF site at Thorburn’s diagrams and Bere country.
 Fenton A. 2007. The Food of the Scots. Volume 5 in A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology. Edinburgh: John Donald. Peas, peasemeal and bannocks appear in Ch 17 Bread and Ch 14 Field crops. Fenton cites: MacDonald J (1908) Editor of Stephens’ Book of the Farm for the loss of peas in preference to potato; and Hutchison R (1869) Report on the dietaries of Scotch agricultural labourers, (Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society, 4th, 2, 1-29).
 Porter J. 1925. The pea crop. In: Farm Crops, Ed. Paterson WG, The Gresham Publishing Company, London.
 Sources of the meal. Golspie Mill in Sutherland makes a range of flours and meals including the peasemeal ‘made from roasted yellow field peas’ and the oatmeal used here. Barony Mills at Birsay, Orkney makes the beremeal. Barony have appeared many times on this web site e.g. at Landrace 1 – bere. Suppliers who stock these products include Highland Wholefoods in Inverness.
 The James Hutton Institute carries out a wide range of studies on pulses and grains. The nutritional and environmental properties of pulses and pulse-grain mixed crops are examined in the EU H2020 TRUE project, coordinated from the Hutton Institute and with many partners across Europe. For further info, see TRUE Project EU and articles on the curvedflatlands web site at Transitions to a legume-based food and agriculture. Contact at the Institute: email@example.com.
Links to related articles on the Living Field web site
The page on the Bere line (rhymes with hairline) gives links to comments, images and articles on bere barley, including our correspondent Grannie Kate‘s recipes and experiences using bere meal and our Gill and Co’s breadmaking with various ingredients at Bere and cricket.
Can we grow more vegetables? looks at the current geographical distribution and status of vegetable growing in Scotland, including areas with peas and beans. Other links to pulses include: Scofu – the quest for an indigenous Scottish tofu and Feel the pulse – our travelling exhibit on peas, beans and their products,
The Living Field web site Editor, normally averse to the alchemy and incantations of cooking (best left alone!) managed to make (and eat) bannocks from the constituents bought from the sources indicated at . Peasemeal brose is even easier – just add hot water to a couple of teaspoonfuls of peasemeal, stir and eat with toast or dips. Caution – beware the three-meal bannocks are addictive. Reconnecting with primordial tastes?
Our correspondent Grannie Kate sent these recipes for scones made with a flour mix that includes bere meal. Bere is a traditional landrace of barley grown mainly in northern Scotland but now confined to a few fields in Orkney.
Find out more about the bere plant, its origins and its products, and also Grannie Kate‘s other recipes, at the links at the bottom of the page.
Grannie Kate’s fruit and nut scones with bere barley
Makes about 6/7 scones
3 oz (75g) self raising flour
3 oz (75g) bere barley flour
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 oz (25g) soft brown sugar
1 oz (25g) butter or margarine at room temperature
1 large egg
2 oz (50g) sultanas or sliced cherries or mixed fruit (whatever you have in the cupboard)
2 -3 tablespoons milk
What to do
Pre-heat the oven to 200/220 C or gas mark 8
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then add the fruit
Beat the egg in a small bowl, add the milk to the egg and then add both to the mixture, stirring it all in. If the mixture is a bit stiff add in a little more milk
Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and make into a round about 1 ½ – 2 cm deep, patting it with your hand until smooth
Use a cutter (whatever size you like ) to cut out the scones, putting them onto baking parchment on a tray. Add flaked almonds to the top of each scone
Brush a little milk onto the top of each scone
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown with slightly singed almonds.
Grannie Kate’s cheese scones with bere barley
Makes about 6/7 scones
4 oz (110g) self raising flour
2 oz (50g) bere barley
1 oz (25g) butter at room temperature
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
2-3 tablespoons milk
3 oz (75g) grated strong cheese ( e.g. cheddar, Prima Donna aged Gouda)
1 large egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
2 good pinches of cayenne pepper
A liitle extra milk
What to do
Pre-heat the oven to 180/200 C or gas mark 7
Mix the flours, mustard powder and salt in a large bowl but just one pinch of cayenne pepper
Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then add most of the grated cheese. Leave a little to add to the top of each scone before putting in the hot oven
Beat the egg in a small bowl, add the milk to the egg and then add both to the mixture, stirring it all in. If the mixture is a bit stiff add in a little more milk
Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and make into a round about 1 ½ – 2 cm deep, patting it with your floured hand until smooth.
Use a cutter (whatever size you like) to cut out the scones, putting them onto baking parchment on a tray. Or you could just leave it as a big round and make wedges by pushing down with a knife until it almost, but not quite, cuts the dough
Brush a little milk onto the top of each scone, then add a little remaining grated cheese and the last pinch of cayenne pepper
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden with the cheese on the top melting down the sides.