This Saturday we are going to test drive flour made from another Landrace or heritage variety of wheat, White Sonora. Landrace refers to breeds of plants or animals that have local roots and that are well adapted to local conditions.
Landrace wheat varieties typically have lower yields that the hybrids planted at industrial scales, but often are more resistant to pest, and require less fertilizer and water. Industrial hybrids have much shorter stalks (to ease harvesting) but shorter stalks require more herbicides to kill weeds which can grow around the wheat. Landrace varieties have longer stalks that shade the surrounding earth, making it harder for weeds to take root.
White Sonora was brought to the Sonora Desert, which stretches from Arizona down into Mexico, crossing our rather porus Southern border, and West into California, by Jesuits in the 1600s. White Sonora had a strong influence in local cuisine, including the ability to make large flour tortillas, ones quite different that the small corn tortillas founds in much of Mexico. The wheat can withstand drought and grows well in poor soil, making it the go to crop for farmers throughout the Southwest in the 1700s. White Sonora was planted extensively in the Central Valley: by 1880, over 2.75 MM acres were being grown there, the largest concentration of wheat production in one area in the world at that time.
Interestingly, Norman Borlaug, the Nobel prize winning "father" of the green revolution, used White Sonora to breed one his first drought resistant wheats, which, when combined with heavy fertilizer and pesticide use and a lot of irrigation, radically improved yields and prevented the starvation of 100s of millions of people in the latter part of the 20th century.
Use of this wheat varietal began to decline in the early 1900s as newer fertilizer and irrigation driven hybrids were introduced to the region, promising farmers higher yields and bigger profits. White Sonora stopped being produced commercially in the 1950s.
Bolted (white) flour made from White Sonora has a delicate golden color, with a soft, sweet nutty taste.
This Saturday's Bake
I plan to bake white loaves (Likely Batards) made with White Sonora flour. Some sources recommend mixing it with some regular white flour, to compensate for its low gluten content (about 10%, vs 14% for regular flour)., so I am mixing it with 45% organic hard red winter wheat flour.
Let me know how it tastes!
Your Canadian Baker