Sylvia Davatz’s Wheat Berry Salad | Kitchen Vignettes for PBS

I initially fulfilled Sylvia Davatz at a grain growing workshop she was featuring at the Northeast Natural Farmers Association’s yearly meeting. Her enthusiasm for expanding grains on a little-scale was contagious and at the finish of the workshop, she invited all the individuals to make their way to a table at the front of the space.

The table was packed with meticulously labeled jars of unusual varieties of heirloom wheats, emmers, sorghum, barley, spelt, and so considerably much more. The gorgeous diversity of grain seeds was a sight to behold and every person buzzed close to the table, excitedly accepting Sylvia’s generous invitation to consider property some of the seeds she experienced so lovingly grown. I ceremoniously transferred tiny amounts of the seeds that most appealed to me from their jars into little seed envelopes. Anyone remaining experience like they’d received the lottery, with their samples of unusual and usually virtually unattainable to uncover seeds. We were being also crammed with a newfound comprehension that developing grains in your garden is a great way to diversify the food items crops you’re growing, even if only on a small-scale, and that the wonder of seeds indicates that in just one particular season, we could multiply those handfuls of seeds lots of periods in excess of, with not only far more than more than enough to replant once more the adhering to yr, but perhaps also to share with other people and sooner or later add to our pantry for baking and having.

Wheat Stalks

We normally believe of the planet of fruits and veggies as richly biodiverse, and several of us have manufactured it a precedence to source refreshing and domestically-generated veggies, meat, and eggs. Still when it comes to grains, we frequently discover ourselves restricted to the conventional bag of white flour or rice sitting on a shop shelf, rarely giving much believed to how and the place the grains were being developed, how contemporary they may be, and what types they may well be. But just as there are hundreds of distinct varieties of potatoes or apples or tomatoes, the exact range exists for wheat, barley, oats, rice or any other grains. And whereas numerous locations utilised to be self-reliant with their individual thriving regionally-developed grain offer, the “get massive or get out” farming insurance policies of the earlier century drove lots of modest farmers out of business. As wheat output and flour milling grew to become ever more centralized in the Great Plains, wheat breeding turned mainly focussed on establishing substantial-yielding types destined for big-scale monoculture, and several of the older heirloom grain versions began to disappear. Globally there are close to 30,000 wheat versions, but many are at possibility of likely extinct. China for instance has already shed additional than 90 p.c of its native wheat kinds, and Mexico has missing extra than 80 % of the corn kinds once grown there.

Black Winter Emmer

The loss of agricultural biodiversity and narrowing of our agricultural gene pool has profound ramifications on the resilience of our food stuff system and farming techniques, as properly as the flavors and nutrient content of what finishes up on our plates. When big supermarkets offer you us an illusion of range, the reality is that our seeds and crops have turn out to be significantly standardized about the past century. Around the entire world, food stuff is getting extra alike and significantly less numerous. Cultures that utilized to prosper on eating plans of locally-developed millet, sorghum, teff, and other extremely wholesome grains are significantly taking in white bread and low cost rapid foodstuff imports, and diet-based illnesses are as a consequence on the increase globally. Standard seeds and food items close to the environment are disappearing. This is why the work of escalating out endangered crop types and sharing their seeds is these types of exceptionally vital do the job. As Sylvia claims in the video clip, “it is of the utmost urgency” to make sure these older plant kinds do not go extinct. They are part of our heritage and, “once they are absent, they are absent for good.” I think this is why people like Sylvia are sometimes referred to as seed preserving heroes, the get the job done they do in preserving our biodiversity is genuinely heroic.

Sylvia Davatz

To stop by Sylvia’s yard in Vermont is to be swept away into a magical planet of outstanding natural beauty and abundance. There are berries intermingled with flowers and veggies, beds of wheat and rice, and fragrant herbs. It is clear that Sylvia has observed her lifestyle calling and there is a special vitality that emanates from people who are carrying out what they appreciate. Browsing Sylvia and her garden gave me a minor window into the supply of inspiration and the enthusiasm that she transmits to people in her workshops and I felt extremely lucky to get to devote time with her in her yard and kitchen area.

Sylvia Davatz Garden

Sylvia is part of an considerable world-wide community of seed savers and I was fascinated to hear that she has been able to deliver grain farmers with scarce wheat seeds that had been nearing extinction and are now getting grown on a huge-scale all over again, and applied for bread baking. I have listened to equivalent stories from seed savers and wheat growers who have brought again kinds on the brink of extinction in Japanese Canada, exactly where I’m from. It’s a profound thing when you bite into a flavorful loaf of bread, recognizing the kind of wheat made use of to make it virtually disappeared permanently but was brought again in the nick of time.


Sylvia’s wheat berry salad is a flavorful and nourishing expression of her perception in the great importance of self-sufficiency and thinking of gardening as more than just a resource of summer time greens, but also a supply of pantry staple grains and crops that can sustain us by our extended wintertime months. It’s also a celebration of the joyful obstacle of sourcing food stuff regionally. As she clarifies in the video clip, most ingredients occur from her yard and are complemented with crops developed by friends (the hazelnuts) and neighboring farms (the feta cheese). The greatest factor is that the recipe is adaptable to what ever is in year in your area. So experience cost-free to make it your own!

Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berry Salad

Sylvia’s wheat berry salad is a flavorful and nourishing expression of her belief in the great importance of self-sufficiency and thinking of gardening as additional than just a supply of summer veggies, but also a resource of pantry staple grains and crops that can maintain us as a result of our long winter months. Read through extra about this recipe in this Kitchen area Vignettes write-up.

    Table of Contents


  • 1 cup hard wheat berries
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts)
  • 3 oz. feta, cubed
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. minced refreshing dill
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh new parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. Soak the wheat berries overnight in drinking water (this step is optional but will permit the grains to prepare dinner extra immediately and make their nutrients additional digestible). The next working day, drain and then prepare dinner the berries in a pot of boiling h2o, accurately as you would cook dinner pasta. The cooking time can change so at the 30-moment mark, commence to style the grains just about every 5 or 10 minutes. The grains are prepared when they are soft, with a pleasant chew but no crunch (ordinarily immediately after 30 to 45 minutes of cooking). Take out from warmth, drain, and give a fast rinse with cold drinking water. Let them drain and great entirely just before transferring to a salad bowl. (This is the identical method for farro, spelt, einkorn, whole oat, barley, and rye berries so once you have made this wheat berry salad, you can experiment with other grains far too. Just retain in mind some prepare dinner a lot more immediately than many others.)
  2. Increase all the remaining ingredients and toss the salad effectively to mix almost everything alongside one another. Flavor and if necessary, add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to accommodate your style. Enable the salad to sit for 30 minutes or so before serving, so the flavors intermingle. Love!

Produce: 3-4 servings

Aube Giroux is a foods writer, a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker and a passionate natural and organic gardener and household cook dinner, who shares her appreciate of cooking on her farm-to-desk website, Kitchen area Vignettes.