The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ultimate Starter from Wild Wheat

azuredrupe's picture

Ultimate Starter from Wild Wheat

Hello! I am a long-time reader, first-time poster. But I just had to! Here is the story:

I have tried making wild starters two separate times (both BBA method), but each failed. On a recent trip to Montana, I got a crazy idea: why not get some of the tops of some wild wheat plants and see if I could culture yeast from them? Well, it was a great success!

I collected wheat from Paradise Valley, the Bridger Mountains, and the Hyalite Mountains. When I got home I put the wheat into jars and mixed in some water and pineapple juice. I let the three jars sit for about three hours, shaking vigorously every 20 minutes or so. Then I strained out the wheat plant and mixed in some bread flour. I then followed the BBA instructions. The Paradise Valley only took 2.5 days to get to a roaring state, the Bridger took four days, and it looks like the Hyalite batch may not grow.

Yesterday I cut my Paradise barm in half, fed it and put it back in the fridge. With the rest I mixed a wet dough (maybe 1/3 starter by volume) with a bit of whole-wheat flour and rye flour, and some salt of course. Autolyse (~20 minutes), knead (~5 minutes), then placed in an oiled bowl in the fridge overnight (trying to get the pain l’ancienne effect of BBA). I folded three times (30-45 minutes apart). The next morning I let it warmed up for about three hours, shaped into a boule and let rise on a whole-grain cereal cover cloth set within a colander for about 3 hours. Baked at 450o on a stone with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven for about 30 minutes.

Wow! Some of the beast bread I have ever made! Thick crust, open crumb, and great taste. Also, the crust has many different colors in it, which has never occurred before. I have frozen portions of my Paradise starter and my Bridger starter and intend to keep these lineages alive for many years to come.









Some additional thoughts:

I have really found that a small amount of yeast, high water content, and long cool proofing time are the three biggest factors for getting a big crumb. Now, these have been noted many times on the FreshLoaf, but I have also noticed that the best flavor, crust, and crumb seem to come from cool dough that has proofed for a long time and doesn’t seem to be raising very well. The batches that seem to be raising very well end up with a good moderate, but not huge, crumb (see the last photo – the bottom loaf is the Paradise boule and the top is a batard made from a separate batch I made at the same time with a bit more instant yeast than I typically use).

Lastly, sorry for the absence of exact measurements. I know that is a sin for baking, but I take an improv approach similar to my cooking (which I have been at much longer than baking).

All the best!




Floydm's picture

What a great idea.

Your photos are beautiful. Congrats! And welcome!

browndog's picture

Azuredrupe, this is a work of high-end conceptual art. Wild wheat starter--what a gift from the planet, and beautiful loaves as well. (Plus I love your name--makes me think of pies I have known and cherished...)

leemid's picture

Is there a chance you can come to the Oregonian get together in September and share your starters?


Paddyscake's picture

what a great inspiration you had! Those look awesome and your technique will spur others into trying this method!

azuredrupe's picture

Thanks for the nice comments everyone!

Leemid, I unfortunately do not live out west anymore (though I am trying to get back there) and won't be making the Oregonian festival. I would be happy to send you some starter though.

pumpkinpapa's picture

Great to see someone trying this method. I wanted to try this with local wheat but it is all laden with pesticides, so I will wait until I can get some organic types like some heritage wheats.

Did your wheat actually sprout before you strained it out? 

azuredrupe's picture

Nope, I put the wheat in jars for only about three hours before I strained them out - not enough time for the wheat to do anything. I did shake the jars vigorously every 20 minutes or so.

The nice thing about Montana, is that wild grasses grow all over the place. My guess would be that you could use any wild grass with a grain inflorescence to do this - grab some on your next hike. Although I don't known the species I harvested, all three grasses were different. I am shooting myself now for not keeping some of the grass or at least taking some pictures.


beenjamming's picture


what a great idea and it has certainly paid off for you. maybe i'll raid some wheat fields one of these nights...

azuredrupe's picture

Update: After a few more days, the Hyalite batch took off. Interestingly, it also smells more sour, though I haven't baked with it yet.

That's 3 out of 3 for the wild wheat cultures.



BROTKUNST's picture

Great approach, azuredrupe ! That is surely an interesting variation of the 'normal' starter procedures - with impressive result as your excellent pictures show.



Sparkie's picture


It has been years since this post and I wonder if you kept the strains going. If so can you dry some (a schmear ) and send some to NY ?

This is a shot in the dark. I did a freebie I got from the net (oregon trail 1865 , or like that, It was useless. I managed to get one to bloom using the pineapple juice  I read in a book sold here on the Fresh Loaf, that was tasteless. Sour doughs are great if you really bake a lot of bread, I do not. I need to steel myself to use it, dry a bunch then vacuum it and freeze it, then I can use it  in the winter and leave it be until the summer/fall end.

now it is prime bread soup and stew weather, and I would like to use this to make the British Museum Eyetalian Bread.




Have a great day

dobie's picture

Hi Sparkie

I'm from NY and would be glad to send you some of my locally bred starter.

Now, it's only about 9 months old or so, but is quite active and capable of good sour if treated right.

If you could allow 'Personal Messages' on your Profile page and send me a PM, I'll be glad to get back to you and send you off some.

Try it, you might like it. I know I do.

I will charge you one 'thanks', if you like it. No charge if you don't.