The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can someone explain 'Aerobic new crop cereals'?!

AlisonKay's picture
AlisonKay

Can someone explain 'Aerobic new crop cereals'?!

Abe has shared with me this recipe, which I'm planning to make with a Shipton Mill biodynamic flour over Christmas.

The preamble to the recipe includes this information about the Anson Mills grain (called Red Fife) which has piqued my curiosity and, frankly, confused me! I'm hoping more experienced bakers here might be able to help explain it:

"properly grown, the seed isn’t dormant or dead but breathing oxygen like the rest of us. Aerobic new crop cereals are the foundation of live versus provision flour bread making. Red Fife can be new crop live or dormant provision, but ours is always new crop and aerobic."

I thought that when a grain is attached to a plant it is alive and the thing that determines it 'dying' is the act of harvest?!

Can anyone explain what this means?

suave's picture
suave

It means "We are willing to say anything to attract moneyed and well-meaning, but ignorant buyers".

Abe's picture
Abe

Let's not dismiss them completely all on a few sentences which wouldn't make sense to someone without in-depth knowledge. My self included. 

They are talking about the seed not the crop. Of course the plant is alive! So I have quickly googled the words such as - wheat, seed, dormant, live, aerobic etc. And there seems to be something in the seed stage touching on all of these points. 

I can't say I've understood anything yet, not being a farmer nor a botanist, but articles such as this one are a plenty. 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

I agree with Suave that this pitch is more New Age marketing fluff than credible botany. 

Seeds are considered "dormant" if they display a genetically mediated mechanism that requires more than just water and mild temperature to germinate.  Dormancy mechanisms evolved to prevent seeds from germinating under conditions that would not favor adequate growth and development to reproduce.  They include, among others, a cold requirement (to assure germination occurs in Spring, not Fall), scarification (disturbing the seed coat to permit water entry - interestingly believed to have evolved so as to assure that the seed has been exposed to the digestive acids of an animal that eats it and transports it, intact, far from the mother plant with whom it would otherwise have had to compete) and even light (to prevent germination if the seed is buried too deeply to send its sprout to the soil surface).  Seeds are said to be "quiescent" if they require only water to germinate.  Those are the seeds we buy and that farmers plant.  Dormancy mechanisms are not much use to plant husbandry by humans, but essential to the evolutionary success of plants.

A seed might be considered dead if it has been toasted or has rotted.  The terms "aerobic" and "anaerobic" are never applied to seeds themselves.  They might, on the other hand, describe germination conditions.  A flooded farmer's field in Spring challenges seeds to germinate under anaerobic conditions, which they usually can do, grudgingly and inefficiently.

Being a botanist but not specializing in seed germination physiology or development, I will concede that it is likely that seeds retain residual metabolism into the period during which harvest takes place.  Young growing seeds are actively metabolic from fertilization through maturity, elaborating endosperm (monocots) or cotyledons (dicots).  Once that process draws to a close through a period of desiccation, the seed is dormant or quiescent.  It is possible that immediately after harvest, some portion of the cropped seeds still display residual metabolism that could be measured as oxygen consumption (i.e., aerobic respiration).  What bearing that could possibly have on milling and baking quality is more the domain of a marketing team than bakers and millers.  Perhaps someone should write to Anson Mills for their explanation.

Tom

Abe's picture
Abe

Thank you Tom.

I retract my previous comment :)

P.s. I might just write to Anson Mills and invite them to comment on this question. 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

I have tremendous respect and admiration for those who grow and mill the grain that ends up in our baked goods.  I am grateful that we have the luxury of superb products from some mills today.  Anson, marketing Red Fife, is obviously trying to do a good thing, making this heritage grain more widely available.  And if they're sourcing organic seed, all the better.  So I don't mean to cast aspersions on Anson Mills - 95% of what they're doing is probably admirable.  But the 5% that they've turned over to whoever wrote that copy is what's at issue here.

The proof is in the baking.  If Anson's Red Fife produces a loaf that pleases, the disappointing 5% can easily be forgiven.  But still begs clarification.

Tom

Abe's picture
Abe

And I will be following this recipe come Monday evening. I'm sure whatever the article means baking with Red Fife is a good choice and a tasty one too.  As you say, we can forgive them for these few sentences. At the end of the day we want a tasty and healthy bread. I'm sure they deliver on that. 

AlisonKay's picture
AlisonKay

Thank you, Tom!