Monday, May 10, 2010

Kamütlichkeit

That would be the state of contentment with one's ancient wheat. We finished our spring grain planting a week or two ago, spotted any damaged or disappeared plants last week, and can now settle in for the joy of watching it tiller and grow. While we're doing everything else, that is. You can find the varieties we planted below in The First Transplant. Next year we will put in some less common varieties of barley and spring wheat that we ordered from Bountiful Gardens to see how they do in our climate.
But back to our featured star. Kamut, like an ancient anything, is kind of a funny bird. Its past, previous to its appearance in the US in 1949, is foggy. A concise assessment of the story can be found here. And a briefer one follows: A US Airman stationed in Portugal was approached by a man who offered him 36 grains of this wheat, telling him it was found in a pyramid tomb in Egypt. He mailed them home to his grain-growing Dad, who grew them to great satisfaction.
It makes for an entertaining story, which could be embellished (but not verified) to a great extent. Without knowing more it could be taken as a complete hoax. But Kamut, compared to modern improved wheat, has a much larger kernal, and despite its 30% higher protein content it doesn't illicit a reaction from many who have wheat allergies. Adding that its DNA is different enough from modern varieties that geneticists have had a hard time figuring out its definite origins, you have a compelling case that it has remained out of breeding circulation for a long time.
(Here are images comparing Kamut with a variety of hard red winter wheat. I would have taken them myself, but, um, we planted all of ours. These are from thenibble.com and homestylemercantile.com, respectively.)
And don't bother looking it up on wikipedia. As of this posting the entry for Kamut looks like it was written by the company that holds its patent. What? It's patented? Yes, I was skeptical too, but I can see where they are coming from. They got the patent in 1990, which made it one of the only 5 non-genetically engineered patented plants (there were already 65 patented GE plants by then). The company gives their explanation on the "Why a Trademark?" portion of their site. And, I have to say, it seems like an ok idea. Especially because Kamut is already in wide circulation, its growing is not in any way prohibited, and the trademark seems to be applied only to the marketing of it. As opposed to Monsanto, who might sue you into bankruptcy for unknowingly having one of their patented seeds in your field. Instead, it seems that Kamut International is trying to maintain the purity of seed claiming to be Kamut. Which is fine by me.

We were aided in our planting by my sister Anne, who was visiting for a few days. As you can see, we were all working together on a strict timeline. That's me, behind, double-digging the bed just before they move their digging board back. Not standard operating procedure. But good, wholesome, community agriculture fun all the same!

4 comments:

  1. How are they doing with the cold - no worries about frost? Wish I was in the garden again right now...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Come on down! You're welcome anytime, to plant or just sit and expound on botanical classification.
    The spring grains actually like some cold weather. Frost is fine, and even layers of snow are alright. We could have probably planted them in early March (or earlier) and they would be alright.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry to go off subject: I like to jump into the comments section to ask questions. Here goes.

    A woman in the area mentioned to my mother that she’d made an outdoor compost pile which then attracted rats and she said she’d never do it again. My compost bucket is full and I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to be the one responsible for a rat infestation, but we need to start building compost.

    Rat fencing? Seb says they’re good at digging.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love your play on words in the title! From one Marburger to another!

    ReplyDelete