Nick Fradgley worked with the ORC at Wakelyns between 2012 and 2015. He is now a PhD student in quantitative genetics at NIAB in Cambridge, but is also breeding developing several non-commodity cereal varieties and populations, and that has led him back to a personal collaboration with Wakelyns, which is really great. One of Nick’s projects at Wakelyns is his Purple P wheat. We grew some in 2022 and have more drilled for 2023 in Willow Field.
The purple wheat is a normal bread wheat but with strong antioxidant pigment in the grains.
The purple grain trait is thought to have originated in Durum wheat landraces in the Ethiopian highlands where purple anthocyanin’s is an adaptation to growing at high altitude as protection from intense sunlight. The trait has since been inter-crossed into many other bread wheat varieties around the world but these purple wheats are still rare because of lack of interest from the industry.
There is now increasing interest in the potentially huge health benefits of cereal anthocyanin pigments: ‘The claimed health benefits include anti-oxidation, anti-cancer, glycemic and bodyweight regulation, neuroprotection, retinal protection, hypolipidemia, hepatoprotection, and anti-ageing.’
Not only that, it seems adds some great flavour to bread too! Just ask Henrietta…
Hen says: “We love baking with our friend Nick’s purple wheat. It adds a mystical mauve hue to our loaves, as well as creating a tender, soft crumb, and deep, complex flavours – chocolate springs to mind when we eat it, and much more. We’re so excited about these two beds of it and baking with it more after this year’s harvest. Bring on more colourful, rainbow wheats, we say!“