RED FIFE WHEAT
What's so special about Red Fife?
Red Fife is quickly gaining popularity. It is characterized by an exceptional robust flavour and baking properties. Artisan bakers, pasta makers, health food stores and discerning food-origin conscious cooks who want to work with and use non-GMO products are searching the countryside for this unique heritage grain.
HISTORY OF RED FIFE
Red Fife wheat fed Canada for 60 years in the 1800's. By 1860 it was distributed across the country, adapting to a wide range of diverse growing conditions. Red Fife is the parent to several offspring wheat varieties, with "Marquis" being the #1 wheat in the early 1900's. Marquis, along with other derivatives ripened a few days earlier and eventually became the farmers choice for planting. Many of the bread wheat in Canada owe part of their genetic lineage to Red Fife and Canadian wheat are some of the finest bread wheat in the world.
Red Fife is a 'landrace' which means the kernels have uniform shape but with the genetic diversity, common to old varieties, able to adapt to diverse growing conditions. Often referred to as 'folk seeds' or 'farmer varieties', landraces tend to provide farmers with some yield regardless of seasonal conditions.
One legend states that a load of bread wheat originating in the Ukraine was on a ship in the Glasgow harbour. A friend of Ontario farmer David A. Fife accidentally dropped his hat into the red coloured wheat, collecting a few seeds in the hatband, which he then shipped off to the farmer Fife. The family cow managed to eat all the wheat heads except for one, which was the beginning of 'Red Fife' wheat in Canada.
RED FIFE REBORN
From 1900 to 1988 Red Fife was grown in very small quantities by plant breeders' seed collections. Then the 'Heritage Wheat Project' which began in 1988 was an initiative to revisit the heritage wheat varieties.
It is challenging to grow and there are very limited quantities being produced for the surging demand of Red Fife.
Learn more at these resources:
"Canada’s oldest successfully grown variety of wheat,
known as Red Fife, has found a home at the Ukrainian
Cultural Heritage Village..."
"Red Fife is a variety of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) that David Fife and family began to grow in 1842 in Peterborough Ontario. Legend goes that a friend of Mr. Fife collected a sample..."
"Red Fife wheat is characterized by 3 little awns at the top of the wheat head but is otherwise awnless. The straws can be from 0.9 to 1.5 metres tall..."