When most people think of sourdough, they think about the full, rich favor and the wonderful texture of the bread. But, they may be missing the best and most important part of real old-fashioned sourdough: health and nutrition. That is because true sourdough, not the fake stuff (which is often just mass-processed commercial breads with “sourdough flavoring” added to it) is not really like other commercial breads. To fully understand why, we need to take a little bit of a lesson on the history of bread…
For thousands of years, bread (mostly from wheat flour) was the staple of the human diet. It provided important proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, enzymes and vitamins to sustain healthy people, so much so that it was literally called the staff of life. These days, that is no longer generally considered true. And a growing number of people are having difficulties even digesting bread, or other wheat products. That is not because humans have changed. We have, however, changed the wheat, changed the yeast and changed the way we process wheat into bread.
Wheat, and many other grains, are naturally difficult to digest. Granivores (animals that eat a lot of seeds and grain) tend to have more specialized digestive systems than humans have. They work to ferment grains into more digestible materials. Ancient bread making practices fermented the grains before the bread was made. Prior to the mass commercialization of breads and yeasts, people cultivated wild harvested yeasts and bacteria that thrive on the digestion of the grains. Over a period of days the yeast and bacteria break down the sugars and starches in the wheat and convert them to proteins, enzymes and vitamins, and they produce that classic sour smell that we associate with good sourdough bread.
Most commercial bread producers don’t want to take the time to let nature work the old fashioned way. So, they use commercially produced yeasts to artificially puff up the bread, so they can crank the loaves out really fast. But that results in a bread that is less flavorful, less nutritious and harder to digest.
Today, a new generation of small bread makers are bringing back the rich, nutritious goodness of long-fermented sourdough bread making and bringing back all of the original benefits of real sourdough bread.
In our industrialized agricultural system no plant seems to have been compromised as much as wheat. Today’s non-organic wheat is comprised of acre upon acre of mono-culture fields that have been heavily sprayed with a variety of chemicals, including some that have been directly linked to a variety of health issues. At the top of that list is Glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup that kills plants, other than those genetically modified to survive being sprayed with it.
Glyphosate is used in the wheat industry to clear the fields and prepare them for planting. Many people know that. What many people don’t know is that Glyphosate is also used as a desiccant, sprayed directly on the ripe wheat plants, just prior to harvest, in order to dry out the plants and help the wheat bran to separate from the softer, inner part of the wheat seed.
In other words, when people eat commercial bread today, they are eating wheat that is not fermented, as it has been for millennia, and they are consuming an array of chemicals that have been proven to be harmful to digestion, and worse.
Real fermented sourdough bread, made by hand, the way it has been made for thousands of years, using organic wheat and other organic ingredients, helps us to bring bread making back to its roots, and helps us to make a healthier, more sustainable planet, one delicious meal at a time. At Our Urban Farms, that is our vision. We hope you will join us.