Red Fred & Project Little Red Hen
‘The Little Red Hen’ was one of my favourite storybooks as a small child.
A virtuous mother hen finds a grain of wheat and decides she will sow, harvest,
mill the wheat and ultimately bake a loaf of bread. Entreaties for help to the other
farm animals fall on deaf ears. When its time to eat the bread, warm from the oven,
only the Little Red Hen’s chicks are allowed to enjoy as they were her only
helpers. This tale appealed to me so much as a child. I loved to bake, I especially
loved to eat bread and this story added just a whiff of moral superiority to my
When our friend Gary Griffin suggested to Steve and I that his cousin, farmer Bob
Marquis, might be interested in growing Heritage Red Fife wheat for us, we were
immediately enthusiastic. Our very own wheat - grown right here in Ontario on the
Marquis family farm near Sunderland! We met with Bob at his farm in late winter
and agreed that he would plant 35 acres with organic Red Fife seed in the spring
of 2010. We were thrilled that Bob, an affable fellow and dedicated farme,r would
work with us. Next we spoke to George Biranyi Sr., owner of Grain Process Enterprises,
and the miller that we have been using for our organic stone-ground flours from
day one. George agreed to mill the wheat for us in September. Incredibly, the plan
fell into place. We would have our very own wheat to celebrate our 15th year!
Why Heritage Red Fife?
A grain of wheat changed the history of Canada. There are a number of theories (tales)
about how Red Fife made its way to Canada and onto David Fife’s fields near
Peterborough. One refers to a friend of David’s who dipped his cap into a
container of wheat headed to Canada from the Glasgow harbour. It’s said he
carried the wheat in the lining of his cap to David’s farm. Mrs. Fife’s
cow got into the field and enjoyed all but 3 heads of that first planting before
she was stopped. Regardless, there is record of the Fife’s receiving a shipment
of ‘Hirka’ wheat sent from the Ukraine to Scotland, forwarded by a friend
from the Glasgow harbour in 1842, from where my own ancestors hail. Farmers share
successful seeds, and Red Fife began being planted in the Western Canada - the rest
Manitoba Free Press 1883
“…top grade Manitoba #1 hard (Red Fife) commanded the highest price
on British markets, Red Fife is unbeatable.”
Ultimately, looking for earlier ripening wheat, researchers crossed Red Fife with
an early ripening Indian wheat ‘Hard Red Calcutta’ and the result was
‘Marquis Wheat’ (yes, named after an ancestor of our farmer Bob Marquis).
Red Fife was saved in the grain gene banks of the Federal Government’s Grain
August 1933, The Canadian Magazine, R.S Kennedy
“…a wheat variety that not only strengthened the foundations of the
Old Canada and built the new province of Manitoba, but…one of the ancestral
parents of all of the most important new varieties that have been formed through
crossings and that made the New Canada an actual fact and not some dubious experiment”
Strong sentiment. With its excellent yield, natural disease resistance, adaptability
to extremes of climate, early ripening and excellent baking qualities, Red Fife
began to be planted, not only in Ontario, but across western Canada and ultimately
established our international reputation for the highest quality wheat.
Its historical significance notwithstanding, if Red Fife weren’t truly delicious,
we wouldn’t be baking with it.
Grain Process milled a portion of the seed to be planted and we have used that initial
flour to create our brand new ‘Red Fred’ breads. Red Fife heritage wheat
has a distinct nutty flavour, and is slightly sweet and rustic red in colour. I
had worked with it over the years and appreciated the unique qualities it added
to the loaves. It can be tricky to work with 100% whole grain flours but Red Fife
is particular in its strength and bakes up well even in loaves with no white flour.
For our anniversary celebration we will introduce:
- 100% Red Fred Whole Wheat and Honey sandwich loaf
- 100% Red Fred Fruit, Nut and Honey Batard laced with cinnamon, nutmeg clove, dried
fruits, walnuts and almonds
- A Red Fred Rustique, hearth baked and crusty, in a baguette, dinner roll and square
- Red Fred Joystyxs, perfect for dipping and munching.
- Red Fred Whole Grain Paninis
- And, of course, we thought it only fitting that the very first loaf we developed,
City Sourdough, be made with our very own Red Fife whole wheat flour, full of flavour,
delicious and chewy. Red Fred City Sourdough.
We can’t wait to share them with you…
Ask for them at our list of specialty retailers.