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Ancestry seeds or modern ones?

Ancestry wheat are cultural inheritance elements. They contributed to the history of a region. So we can not compare them with modern seeds. We should see them as the most important element of cultural inheritance. We also have to pay importance to certified seeds, yield, protection against plant diseases and tolerating harsh climate conditions. Our aim should be to transfer those seeds as an inheritance to next generations. 

mine_ataman_bbm31Mine Ataman
Bread and Bakery Products Consultant
Humankind started to take root on earth after a wise woman sowed a handful of wheat to the soil and birds carried wheat to all over the world. Women have carried seed and hope from one generation to another for thousands of years in wedding chests to floor tables and leavened the culture. All genetic inheritance of seeds have been transferred to soil via necklaces of women through housed of families they have been married into. Amazon women inherited their dominant personality traits as decision makers of agricultural work from many centuries. The woman packed the seeds of their era and geography with necklaces into cotton clothes. The seed inside necklaces represented the heritage she inherited from her mother; her ability and knowledge as a farmer and her desire to transfer those traits and take root and exist.

Wisdom was the greatest talisman of the woman. Because she was responsible from protecting home and looking after children when her man went hunting. She was the observer of the nature. Observer of spring rains, ant nests, working bees, seed’s journey to offshoot and harvest day and night, summer or winter, for thousands of year relentlessly. As she knows and understands the nature better, she built the sculpture of her wisdom. As geography became the destiny, the humankind achieved to comply with the nature, to take roots, produce and become richer thanks to wisdom of the woman. She was the one always leavening the culture at the table she set and in the farmland she cultivated.

Access to food is a fundamental human right and governments guarantee this for everybody. On the other hand, the gastronomy means eating-drinking culture and it is closely related with the economy. Governments recently pay great importance to gastronomy to stand out in tourism and create value. Thus, the gastronomy is driven by certain trends which change every year all over the world. Those trends are determined by a small circle and lobby activities are planned to support them. Medical doctors, nutritionists, Hollywood stars, opinion leaders, social media stars… They talk about the same trend. What a coincidence! But in fact, they all serve a well-planned economic policy.

Yes, I am going to talk about ancestry seeds. But this issue is a bit complex and it is not limited with Turkey. In recent years, ancestry seed is among the trending topics. Concepts like ‘from field to fork’, ‘farmer markets’, ‘young farmers’ are generally in the same trend package we usually encounter. In 1950’s Hollywood films and America serials were about families with many children. Those families had tidy houses with washing machines, dish washers etc. Nowadays, the trend is gastronomy. Clean, delicious, good food; return to the nature; escaping from the city life, healthy diets became the subject of Hollywood movies. Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Eat Drink Man Woman, Reservations as well as Turkish movie Issız Adam can be shown as examples. How they define the love was also cool. World-renowned chef Hasan remembers that one day his mother said him: “Sea urchins taste like life.” Jamie Oliver introduced Italian food culture to the world with prime time TV show. The Basque cuisine was also in a rush in this competition. Scandinavia, Peru, Vietnam, Far East cuisines were also on the spot for gastronomy tourism with the help of Micheline star chefs. Those stars really helped restaurants to grow their business but street food also became famous. So, big chefs could not miss this trend. They started to use local materials and work on street tastes. Endemic plants are used and traditional cooking methods reinvented.

They have rich genetic variety
Ancestry seeds that are available now are luck enough to exist despite natural and artificial selection. They comply with local palatal delight. They have rich genetic variety.

There are many local wheat varieties in Turkey. For example; Karakılçık and Sarı Özberk of Çanakkale, Kobak and Havran Kızılcas of Kütahya, Çankırı’s Üvieyik, Kastamonu’s siyez, Iza of Bolu; Şahman, Antik Hitit, Zız of Kırşehir. From the Southeast Anatolia; Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep’te we have Bağacak, Sorgül, Beyaziye, İskenderi, Mısri, Havrani (Hocaoğlu and Akçura 2014; Demirel 2013; Koyuncu 2009; Sönmez et al. 1999; Çağlar et al. 2006). Thanks to cultivation, local varieties are transferred to different areas. After many many years from the first agricultural activities breeders appeared and thousands of varieties were developed. Because the most convenient way to feed growing population was applying cost-effective methods. Vitamin and protein values of the food consumed were also extremely important. Therefore, graminae and leguminosae have been the most popular families for breeding.

Agricultural developments also affected the technology. Partitioning agricultural lands, observing them moon and the sun, building irrigation channels paved the way for architecture, urbanism, astronomy and other disciplines. Controlled use of fire and heat and metal using affected food culture. Settled life allowed common dinners and socialization. Social classes occurred. After the industrial revolution, food items were packed and carried the culture to far away lands. Restaurants first appeared in France in the 18th century. But restaurant was a place for herbal remedy. It was serving herbal soups for patients.

LACK OF INPEKTION CAUSES LOSS
As the human solved to problem to eat his/her fill, he/she started to look for taste. Cooked/prepared various food and created a food culture. And the overall culture was carried by the food. Sometimes it was possible to find same tastes in various places of earth. Sometimes different tastes were created using same ingredients. Spice route and silk road brought herbs, spices and resins from the east to the west and changed tastes quickly. Indian spices, Anatolian wheat varieties, African coffee types dominated the cultures all over the world. Human-plant and human-agriculture relationships were also affected by rapidly changing trends. Molecular gastronomy, fusion cuisine, street food vehicles, fast food, slow food were recent trends but today’s trends are local raw materials, traditional cooking methods etc. But molecular gastronomy and fusion cuisine are still trending subjects. As local cuisines rose, food with a story, cooking methods with rituals ans local food materials also started to rise. Ancestry seeds are the most important elements of local raw materials. Grains ans pulses stand out among ancestry seeds.

In the light of all these historical information, we can say that ancestry seeds are used as a marketing argument most of the time and projects about those seeds usually deviate from the aim. There are hundreds of local varieties of wheat and all of them definitely are not productive or tasty. Local variations may be very similar to each other in terms of taste and other characteristics. Anatolia has 75% of wheat gens. But most of the local varieties have taste problems. Local wheat varieties like siyez, karakılçık and ıza are very similar to each other. As a result, all ancestry seeds are valuable but all of them may not give the best result when transformed into the end product. Trying to use ancestry wheat for making bread is narrow-mindedness. Instead, they can be used in other flour products.

Wildcat ancestry seed planting may also cause many risks. At the moment, we have no certified ancestry seeds. Ayten Salantır, from Filed Crops Central Research Institute applied for the first ancestry seed certificate. But most of the seeds that are said to be ancestry seeds are varieties from other regions or even other countries. There are also many problems with siyez wheat. There are differences between Kastamonuz siyez wheat and other siyez wheat cultivated today. Certification for ancestry seeds is a crucial issue to be addressed.

Another important issue is the difference between amount of harvested and marketed product. Siyez wheat has become popular in recent years but the amount of marketed “siyez” is much more than the amount produced. Some producers are mixing siyez wheat based flour with other flours. Flour mixtures are also among the biggest problems in the market. Local wheat prices also two or three times higher than other wheat types in the market because they have low-yield. As a result, breads made of local type of wheat becomes 4 or 5 times more expensive than regular bread in the market. The main advantage of those kinds of wheat is the gluten content. They are poor in gluten so they don’t swell much and their glycemic index is low. As a result, consumers believe that those breads are more artisan and functional. These consumers want to eat siyez wheat for healthy and tasty consuming but when the flour is mixed he/she can not obtain these advantages. And it causes unfair competition. Furthermore, bakers have difficulty in making breads with those types of wheat. So they blend them with high-gluten flour to obtain a better shape. The end product may be ‘siyez bread’ but definitely not the low-gluten product the consumer demand.

It is true that ancestry seeds are an important opportunity for Anatolian bakers since they are in the category of functional food but innovative efforts are needed to realize this potential. Innovation may allow Turkish bakers to penetrate into world markets with functional products. In order to do that, local wheat types should be processed with other local raw materials and a strong bakery brand should be created.

Food futurism is also a very trendy concept. Creating new products from local wheat varieties for future expectations and needs. For example Kastamonu pastrami, thin-skinned (üryani) plum and siye wheat may used to form a new product. Another example can be given for Göbeklitepe which is thought to be the first place of agriculture. A brand can be created in Şanlıurfa province to produce gift products for world bakery market. If you want to market local wheat you have to sell its historical background also.

LIFE TIME OF SEEDS IN NATURAL ENVIRANMENT
There were many projects about ancestry wheat types in recent years but most of them were useless efforts expect being marketing activities like collecting ancestry seeds and redistributing them. In addition to this, claims of breeding seeds that are thousands of years old are baseless and unscientific. Because, if seeds are not kept at a place like genbank, their life can not exceed 4-5 years. Older seeds can not give crops. Burned seeds also can not be bred. It is safe to say that using those seeds is not possible with today’s technology.

Ancestry seed swap festivals may also be fun but they are not found to be scientific.

One of the contradictive issue is about using ancestry wheat for breading. Some breeders see this possible while some others object it. We have to think about what the advantage of ancestry wheat is. They have relatively low gluten content, low glycemic index and slightly higher protein rate. It is widely thought that they can tolerate harsh climates but may not always be the case. Making generalisations would be a mistake since harsh climate toleration may change between years. Furthermore, most of the ancestry whet types have low yield. In addition to that pesticides or chemical fertilizers are not be used with those wheat types so they will possibly vulnerable to pests and and become extinct. Another contradictive issue is hybrid seeds. There are claims that they may cause infertility and this claim do not reflect the reality.

Ancestry wheat are cultural inheritance elements. They contributed to the history of a region. So we can not compare them with modern seeds. We should see them as the most important element of cultural inheritance. We also have to pay importance to certified seeds, yield, protection against plant diseases and tolerating harsh climate conditions. Our aim should be to transfer those seeds as an inheritance to next generations.

The wheat became a source of energy and life for the humankind thousands year ago and people are still in a struggle of finding bread to eat and they maintain emotional ties with food items, especially the bread. In this article we tried to evaluate ancestry seeds issue and create awareness.

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