Making Hay

Posted on April 7, 2013

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When I first started researching for my book, I had a conversation with a very distinguished food historian.  As I enthused about the marvels of wheat, she warned me that people who begin to immerse themselves in the history of grain tend to bore everyone around them, as inevitably, no-one finds the subject as fascinating as they do.  How right she was.

Bear with me. I am simply enthralled by the shaggy green-gold grain, thick on the fields and hills around my home.  It is the purest expression of this land in its prime, at the height of spring.

Over the past few weeks, the wheat harvest has been unfolding, as it has year after year for millennia.  Yet unlike in the past, the vast majority of the wheat grown in this part of the Galilee is destined to become animal feed.

Fields of tender green wheat have already been cut for making silage during the Passover holiday. And now, in other fields, wheat shorn by a combine and deposited in long strips lies drying in the sun.  Why is that wheat cut now, I asked Ron, the former dairyman, and left out for days on end?  To make hay, he answered.  It must dry before being collected into bales. Nutritious and easy to store and keep over time, wheat for cows offers many of the same advantages as it does for humans.

The danger, Ron went on, is rain. If the drying grain gets soaked, fermentation and rot can set in, ruining the entire crop. The gathering gray clouds suddenly seemed more ominous.  This, I realized, is the unspoken imperative of why one should make hay while the sun shines.

wheat for hay