Wasp nest, the size of a small football – cool living space built early summer, vacated mid-August 2018.
The Living Field’s resident bread expert, Gill Banks, has been out and about, speaking to people on the merits of real bread, as part of The Crunch.
At the first event, at the Maxwell Centre, Dundee, on 1 July 2016, Gill and Linda Nell contrasted some of the ancient grains grown in Scotland, such as emmer wheat and bere barley, with modern cereal varieties, and showed how fine, nutritious bread could be baked from bere and other corn.
Here we look at the raw materials used to make bere bread ……. and also Gill’s experiments with something more exotic.
Bere is an old form of barley, known by that name for at least a few hundred years. It is still grown in Orkney, from where the Living Field got its first stocks of bere seed. The crop is now grown in the Living Field garden each year. Seed is harvested and saved for next year’s crop.
Bere grows easily to form an attractive stand shown in the lower of the images above. As the heads or ‘ears’ fill with grain, they bend on their stems and hang down (upper left). Each grain has a long thin awn sticking out from near its top. The grains are typically 7-10 mm long but the awns are 15-20 cm long. (A long-awn corn!)
The image top right shows mature grain (light brown) harvested in a previous year, the awns removed; and for comparison, some green, unripe grain from this year’s crop, the awns still attached. The thin panel centre right is a closer view of the grain.
To make meal or flour, the awns and outer protective coating of the grain have to be removed and then the grain is ground between stones. The Living Field can grind bere and other grains in its heavy rotary quern, but the meal Gill uses to make bread is bought from Barony Mills in Orkney.
[Gill’s recipes for making bread with bere will be published in separate post.]
Following the first event in The Crunch, at the Maxwell Centre Dundee, Aisha Schofield from Dundee Science Centre suggested adding cricket flour to one of the bread recipes. Cricket flour is made from insects.
An experimental insect loaf was duly produced from Gill’s kitchen, using a meal mix that included ‘cricket flour’ from Cornish Edible Insects (images of their insect produce below).
A tasting panel was quickly assembled. All agreed that the bread had the taste and texture of a wholemeal or ‘ancient grain’ loaf. Nice and fulsome with butter. There was no evidence (by sight, feel or taste) of insects in the bread – there were no wings sticking out of the slice and no unusual pincers or other crunchy bits. It was just tasty wholesome bread.
A student from AgroParistech France, Benjamin Lepers, visited the Institute in 2015 as part of his project year. He studied diversity of wild plants in farmland and also the invertebrates (insects and spiders) living on different types of vegetation, such as the barley crop, grass patches and mixed dicot weed patches.
He then went on to work for a few months at a new enterprise called Entomo Farm – Farming Insects for Animal Feed, which started in 2014, based in Bordeaux France. Their web page states that Entomo Farm has developed a self contained and transportable system for insect farming called the Entomo Box, which enables mass production of insect meal and insect oil anywhere with very few resources.
Benjamin was intending to move on to Laos. He’ll find plenty of insects and exotic foods there. The Living Field would love to hear from him about his exploits.
…. and more on Gill Banks’ experiments with bread to follow ….
Barony Mills bere meal http://www.birsay.org.uk/baronymill.htm and see the following on the Living Field site Landrace 1 – bere and The bere line – rhymes with hairline. And for other bere recipes – Bere shortbread, Bere bannocks and Seeded oatcakes with bere meal.
The Crunch – The Wellcome Trust https://thecrunch.wellcome.ac.uk/
Dundee Science Centre The Crunch
Other Hutton Crunch events: Feel the Pulse
Cornish Edible Insects http://cornishedibleinsects.co.uk. A business started 2015 aiming to produce ‘high quality foods and cooking ingredients using some of the finest insects the world has to offer.’
Entomo Farm Read more about the Entomo people and their aims and methods at: (link disabled, Jan 2017).
Plant power day (also known as the fascination of plants day!) is an annual joint venture between the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute which aims to engage members of the public and encourage exploration into the fascinating world of plant biology!
Held at the University Botanic Gardens, 17 May 2016, on what turned out to be quite the sunny Saturday, the event had a range of activities centred on plant biology with activities ranging from: DNA extraction from raspberries, exploring the plant-soil biome, an adventure trail which took the public on an educational journey through the wide diversity of plants housed at the Gardens and, our personal favourite, an exhibition of plant insect pests.
Our stall, as you can probably guess, was based on the insect pests of a range of economically and agriculturally important plants and the natural predators of these insects which form a diverse biological system. Primarily consisting of many wonderfully coloured – pink, green, purple, black and brown – aphids (all confusingly referred to collectively by visitors as ‘greenfly’) and the vine weevil, alongside the natural predators of aphids, including the ladybird (the overall star of the show) and parasitoid wasps (a hit with children who were fascinated by their lifecycle, the oviposition of an egg inside an aphid with the subsequent larvae eating the aphid from the inside out – imagine Alien 1979).
We used ‘hands on’ digital microscopes, Dinocapture devices, to allow the visitors, mainly the kids, but a few adults gave it a go as well, to explore the insects we had brought along and see what cannot be seen with the naked eye (there are a few pictures below to whet your appetite). We also supplied interesting plant and insect activity and fact sheets for the visitors to take away, the insect mini-factsheet and the factsheet on plant defence were winners with kids eager to take these to show and tell on Monday.
Overall there was a good attitude towards the event and some engaging questions about the work that goes on at the University and the JHI, we even provided impromptu pest-control advice to gardeners struggling with ‘greenfly’ infestation (diluted washing up liquid rubbed onto infested leaves/stems works well). To conclude – A good day was had by all!
Daniel Leybourne & Jenny Slater
Images above show adults and nymphs of the different varieties of aphid on display (top left clockwise): the Rose-Grain aphid Metapolophium dhordum, the Bird-Cherry Oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi, pea aphid Acrythosiphon pisum and a second pea aphid biotype (images taken at the James Hutton Institute).
Unremitting wet since solstice-time in late June. The field scabious Knautia arvensis offers bee-food en masse for months in most years, and in June the mauve flowers promised a fine show, already thick with bumble bees.
Since then they have been thrashed by the heavy rain and wind and grasses now dominate the meadow. Yet on the rare sunny afternoon, the insects take their feast on the Garden’s wild plants.
Chief among them are the nitrogen fixing legumes, offering high-nitrogen, high-protein take-away. The images (above, top left clockwise) show white melilot, the blue-flowered tufted vetch, sainfoin, alsike and lucern.
Only the tufted vetch is common in the margins and lanes here. The others have been tried as forages in the past but are now rarely found. Other legumes flowering (not shown) include red and white clover, the yellow-flowering melilot and greater bird’s-foot-trefoil, all well attended by bees.
The other plants that most years offer months of rich flower-food fare no better.The striking, blue viper’s bugloss in the medicinals bed is almost finished bar a few, one of which is shown above right. And the remaining field scabious, bottom left above, will continue to put out their sumptuous floral parts for bees to drain and trash.
Yet again, the benefits of growing in this small space a diversity of native and medicinal plants pays, because teasel, knapweed and greater knapweed, and a set of annual composites including cornflower and corn marigold are all offering their wares in return for chance pollen.
Teasel will now flower along its bristly head for some weeks – the ladybird in the image top left above just slotting in between the spikes, jostling several aphids that may not be visible at this magnification.
What’s to come – the deadnettle family – the labiates – will sustain the insects through to the autumn equinox. Many are only just in flower – betony, wild marjoram, some field mints, hemp-nettles, a calamint, sage, lemon balm and hyssop.
Flower head of chicory (Cichorium intybus) with four insects, the small one perhaps grazing pollen, the others going for the rich centre and trampling the (male) pollen bearing anthers held bifurcating on thin blue-lined tubes and curling inwards like muscle-flexing stick-men
… on an organic farm, East Lothian, 15 August 2014 (Image by Squire).
In 2013, we looked for the plants in the Living Field garden that were most attractive to bumble bees and hive bees, from the first flowers in late March, to the time of the first heavy frost in October. Most visitors were bumble bees of the commoner species, but occasionally hive bees foraged around.
We did not grow plants for the particular purpose of feeding bees, yet three areas were particularly active. One was the 10 year old meadow, where field scabious was the favourite; another was the legume collection set up in the west garden; and the third was a piece of rough ground in transition from a sown, annual cornfield to a more perennial community and containing tufted vetch and viper’s bugloss.
By mid summer, many of the bumble bees looked battered and ragged, hardly enough wing left to fly, the result of repeatedly navigating the tangle of vegetation. It’s in a bee’s nature to work itself to death for the hive, eventually falling to the ground or hanging under a flower head. We did not look for nests of the bumble bees to see how many were inside the garden; not did we observe the directions from which the bees entered and left, but that could be something to do in 2014.
Photographs and notes on these and other plants and bees can be viewed at The Garden / Bee plants. All species, including first-year plants of the two melilots, should be around in 2014. (The melilots died after flowering in 2013.) Several plants in the medicinals bed should flower well this year, labiates such as betony, and borages and foxgloves.
[Update 10 September 2014]