The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation is working in conjuction with the Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center to save several varieties of historic grains on the verge of extinction in the South Carolina lowcountry.
According to CGRF President Glenn Roberts, the team has revived a grain called English May wheat, which was lost provisioning the War of 1812.
“Essentially, the entire culture of that wheat collapsed and that was the elite of the elite pastry wheats of the south,” Roberts said. “That’s very important on two fronts: it makes superior booze and it makes incredible pastries, which we haven’t tasted in 150 years.”
Brian Ward of the Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center is responsible for harvesting the first batch of English May wheat. Before it is available to farmers and consumers, he will test its potential liabilities, making sure it is safe to farm and consume.
Ward and the CGRF have also been working on reviving Scot’s Bere, the oldest malting barley for whiskey and beer production known to be introduced to Colonial America. The barley had a documented presence in Scotland around 1100 and was brought to the area from Norway by Vikings.
“Again, another one from our Colonial period that we thought was gone is now back,” Roberts said. “[Ward] is just planting that seed. It only takes 90 days to mature and he just received that seed for a [Clemson] study. He’s also going to increase it and make it available to farmers to grow.”
While the CGRF’s research to save historic grains can be extensive, Roberts said the end goal is quite simple.
“The idea is to get it out there so it’s fair trade, so it’s just normal food.”