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Back to the future

Back to the future

Throughout the West Australian grainbelt shimmering crops of wheat, barley, canola and oats stretch as far as the eye can see – glowing liquid gold under the outback sun. Harvested with larger and larger machinery each year, these massive monocrops have dominated our agricultural landscape since the 1950’s, with Western Australian grain exports contributing around $4 billion to the state’s economy each year.

These highly homogenised grains are shipped all over the world, to be processed into noodles, cereals, finely-ground flours and thousands of baked products. They return to us in an array of brightly coloured plastic packages as biscuits, pastas, pastries and snack foods – a part of our daily food consumption since the industrial revolution.

But the consumer tide is turning. Fuelled by emerging research and diet trends like keto, paleo, low sugar and gluten free, health-conscious foodies are demanding more raw, unprocessed foods with a nutritional edge. High protein, low GI wholegrains like teff, spelt and quinoa are a much richer source of vitamins and minerals than processed wheat. Relatively unchanged since ancient times, these healthy grains are being embraced as the best thing since sliced bread.

Roger Duggan, founder of Black Barley Australia, is surfing this ancient grain wave – bringing a welcome diversity to our local food landscape with a little-known variety of barley. Beginning with only a handful of grain he procured from a seed bank in a NSW university, Roger has grown out his black barley crop to an almost commercial level, dropping this ancient grain back to into our food future.

“It’s a great alternative to other grains. It is good nutritionally and low in gluten. What I really found attractive was that it is the only grain that is eaten with its bran layer intact – it’s an added health benefit and also means it doesn’t need that extra level of processing.”

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