Where Can I Find – Red Fife Flour?

multipleflourThe “Where Can I Find?” column is a new bi-weekly feature here at TasteTO starting this week. We’ll research and track down hard to find items and let you know where they’re available. Got a question for the “Where Can I Find” lady? Drop us a line.

I see red fife flour showing up on restaurant menus that have a local food theme, but where can I get this product to bake with at home?

The hot ingredient this summer is most definitely red fife flour. Restaurateurs and bakers from Jamie Kennedy and Marc Thuet to St. John’s Bakery are using this wholly Canadian product, and articles about the history and near extinction of the grain are popping up in a variety of publications from MacLean’s and Toronto Life to Edible Toronto.

The short version – red fife wheat was first planted near Peterborough in 1842 by David and Jane Fife, and it became the backbone of the Canadian wheat industry, giving Canada the nickname “granary of the world”. Immigrants were given free seeds to encourage them to settle on the prairies and become farmers. Over the years, red fife fell out of favour as other varieties derived from the red fife strain became more popular because of shorter growing times and higher yields. The original strain was on the verge of extinction by 1988 when a seed-saver activist named Sharon Rempel got her hands on a pound of seed and planted it in Keremeos, British Columbia.

By 2007, approximately five hundred tons of red fife wheat was being harvested annually from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, with the majority going to artisanal bread bakers. The distinctive nutty taste makes for an earthy and unique final product that is winning raves everywhere it is served.

While there are now a number of artisanal and organic farmers in Ontario growing red fife flour, tracking it down in Toronto, especially for home baking, can still be a bit of a goose chase.

We found the Grassroots Organics brand of red fife flour at both Culinarium (705 Mount Pleasant Road) and Multiple Organics (1545 Dundas Street West). A 1.5kg bag of whole flour (as opposed to a sifted version) runs approximately $5.95.

Merrylynd Organics sells their red fife flour at the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market on Thursday afternoons.

For those not inclined to bake their own bread, red fife flour is in use at the above-mentioned St. John’s Bakery, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens and at Atelier Thuet. Chef Marc Breton is also using red fife flour from CIPM Farm in a number of bread items including bread and biscuits during the weekly Harvest Wednesdays series at the Gladstone Hotel.

Readers should note that red fife flour is almost always available exclusively in whole wheat form – it is not bleached, and therefore creates a hearty, earthy end product. It is suitable for breads, biscuits and some pastas, but may not be desirable in items where a finer texture is required, such as cakes, cookies or thickened sauces.

If our readers know of any other places using or selling red fife flour, please leave a comment and share your info.

October 4th/08 – Rube’s in St. Lawrence Market is now carrying red fife flour for $2/pound.

August /14 – Domino’s in St. Lawrence Market carries both red fife and buckwheat flour that appear to be from CIPM, based on visual inspection (staff could not verify the source).