How the Godfreys Brought Einkorn to Old Wye Mill

Are you concerned about the amount of gluten you consume? Thanks to Mount Zion Farm in northern Caroline County, MD, and farmer Gerry Godfrey, Old Wye Mills is now offering flour made from an ancient grain, einkorn, that is low in gluten. Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) was first cultivated about ten thousand years ago in the Middle East, where it still grows wild. By breeding it with other plants, early farmers created our modern wheat (Triticum aestivum), which, compared to einkorn, yielded more grain; had a softer husk; and contained a highly elastic gluten. No wonder einkorn is rarely grown today, while common wheat covers 525 million acres of the Earth.


The hitch is that people are discovering that the gluten in common wheat can cause inflammation of joints, skin and eyes, as well as respiratory and digestive problems. The Godfrey family were among those experiencing symptoms like asthma, joint pain, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. Godfrey’s two daughters-in-law, Christina and Bailey, shared a passion for healthy food and the science behind it. By systematically eliminating potentially inflammatory foods from their families’ diets, they pinpointed wheat as a chief dietary culprit. And, in fact, a wide range of ailments cleared up when the family started abstaining from wheat. The Godfreys began to bake with gluten-free rice, almond, and coconut flours, which can produce good sweets. But decent bread, with its crispy crust and moist interior, proved elusive until the Godfreys considered some ancestral wheat varieties such as spelt, farro, kamut – and finally einkorn. Bread made with einkorn has less gluten, and the gluten is in a low-density form that is easier for most people to digest. After studying einkorn scientifically and tasting a delicious sourdough loaf baked by a family friend using the ancient grain, the Godfreys decided to have a go at growing and using einkorn as their primary baking flour.


In 2019 Gerry Godfrey, who grew up farming and has a degree in horticulture from the University of Maryland, planted a half-acre test plot of einkorn, harvesting it late that summer. It made some very good bread! So that fall, tilling the soil as little as possible, he planted three one-acre plots with three different strains, sourced from Oregon and Idaho.

Last year, the Godfreys grew ten acres of the best performer among their samples, a spring selection from Idaho. The plants, which emerge about a week after planting, ripen unevenly, making it harder to harvest efficiently, and the yield is low, compared to that of modern wheat. As Gerry Godfrey points out, this kind of farming won’t be replacing modern agriculture.


Harvesting einkorn on the Godfrey family's Mount Zion farm, 2020. Photograph courtesy of Gerry Godfrey
Harvesting einkorn on the Godfrey family's Mount Zion farm, 2020. Photograph courtesy of Gerry Godfrey

Once the grain is harvested, its hull must be removed and separated. Since einkorn has a much tougher hull than conventional wheat, Gerry Godfrey built machines to carry out these tasks on a small scale. He cut up old cylinder rasp bars from a combine to make a dehuller, and combined a fan with a homemade gravity table to winnow and separate the grains from the lighter hulls. “The ideas are not new,” he says modestly.


The machine to de-hull einkorn built by Gerry Godfrey. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021
The machine to de-hull einkorn built by Gerry Godfrey. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021

Gerry Godfrey in his barn with the winnower he built to separate einkorn grain from its hull. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021
Gerry Godfrey in his barn with the winnower he built to separate einkorn grain from its hull. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021

Godfrey delivers 50-pound bags of dehulled einkorn to Old Wye Mill regularly, and our Millers grind it into fine flour, available for you to purchase from the Mill Shop during regular open hours or by appointment. Once milled, we keep it in a freezer to preserve freshness; we recommend you keep it chilled until you bake with it.


Gerry Godfrey, ready to deliver a bag of einkorn to Old Wye Mill. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021
Gerry Godfrey, ready to deliver a bag of einkorn to Old Wye Mill. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021

Baking with einkorn takes some getting used to. The grain is small, but with a higher percentage of germ and bran – and thus offers a richer taste and more nutrients than modern wheat. The Godfreys recommend sifting it through a #30 mesh sieve – or for pastry, a #50 mesh. The finer flour will be more forgiving, and the sifted out bran makes very nice cereal flakes for breakfast!


Sifters used by the Godfreys to make fine flour and separate bran flakes. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021
Sifters used by the Godfreys to make fine flour and separate bran flakes. Photo by Barry Kessler, August 2021

If you haven’t baked with einkorn before, try it first in biscuits, cookies, and pancakes – or in a peach cobbler, such as the one featured in the Godfreys’ recipe below. Bread, of course, is more dependent on gluten to produce a satisfying loaf. You can substitute a half-cup of einkorn for conventional flour to add a sweet, nutty flavor to your favorite bread. If you’re making an all-einkorn loaf, allow the dough to rest longer than you otherwise would to ensure that the moisture permeates the flour. (Einkorn flour absorbs water more slowly than conventional wheat flour.) Then let it rise on a sheet of parchment paper, and use the paper as a handle to support the dough as you lift it into a hot clay or iron pot for baking.

Here’s to flavorful, healthy baked goods made with flour from Old Wye Mill – sustainably delicious since 1682!


Bread made from einkorn flour, courtesy of Gerry Godfrey
Bread made from einkorn flour, courtesy of Gerry Godfrey

Peach cobbler from the Godfrey family's recipe Photo courtesy Gerry Godfrey
Peach cobbler from the Godfrey family's recipe. Photo courtesy Gerry Godfrey

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