What Do Whiskey, Biscuits and Cake Have in Common?

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson August 3, 2016 09:40


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Just like your great-great grandmother’s brooch, Purple Straw Wheat is a South Carolina heirloom.  It was found to have been cultivated continually in the South from the 1700s up until the 1970s when it was abandoned by modern hybrids that were more productive.  But Clemson University has an ongoing quest to revive and preserve ancestral grains, and Purple Straw Wheat was one of them.  Glenn Roberts, president of Anson Mills (a company based in Columbia) kick-started Clemson’s Purple Straw project, and his first challenge was to secure some seed.  The hunt began with an Amish family inhabiting an isolated area east of Cleveland, but they barely had enough for their own needs and so could not give any away.

Next Roberts visited the Agricultural Research Center at Washington State University in Mount Vernon where  a small plot of Purple Straw was being cared for.  They too, could not give any up because it was being reserved for further research.

Ultimately, Purple Straw seed was obtained from two places: the USDA’s National Small Grains Collection in Aberdeen, Idaho, and from the Sustainable Seed Company operation in Chico, California who was already making it available for growers.  Roberts was able to secure everything that was currently available from the California company by reassuring them that Clemsons’ number one goal was to achieve biosecurity, which is critical to any restoration.

And so the process of revival began by Clemson research specialist Brian Ward – a half pound of this seed planted late in 2015 produced several hundred pounds when it was harvested this past May.  A second, larger planting in late 2016 should produce more than a thousand pounds in 2017; and several tons should of this rare and valuable seed should be realized after a third harvest in 2018.  Once tonnage is achieved, Clemson will have enough to store in the seed bank as well as supply to growers who can then ramp up their production.

So what are the attractions to Purple Straw wheat?  David Shields, South Carolina food historian simply says:

Purple Straw had certain culinary qualities that impressed people from the first….But it’s a high-protein, low-gluten wheat that mills white and is soft and easily handled, making it great for whiskey, cake flour and biscuits.  And of course, what’s more Southern than whiskey, cake and biscuits?

Take some time a view the video below.  It has some very interesting information regarding the whole revival and preservation process.

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team





Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson August 3, 2016 09:40
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