Couch Grass Bread

Ark of taste
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Couch grass (Elymus repens or Triticum repens) is a common perennial species of grass, typical for most of Europe, Asia, Arctic zones and parts of Northern Africa. It grows at forest edges, in bushes, on meadows and on cultivated fields, where it is considered particularly a rampant weed. The old Polish proverb says: “What means thief for house, wolf for shed and pigs for crops, this means couch grass for garden” (Polish: “Czym złodziej w komorze, a wilk w oborze lub świnie w szkodzie, tym perz w ogrodzie.”).
Called also dog grass (both in English and Polish), the plant used to have many applications. In medieval Northern Europe it was a substitute of the resin-based incense. Also brushes and brooms were produced from the rhizomes. Then, the plant has many medical properties too, mentioned already by Pedanius Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder. Believed to “clean the blood” it was applied against rheumatism, gout, acne, or diverse problems with metabolism. Nowadays, it may be still found in herbal blends recommended in case of diabetes, hemorrhoids, gallstones, and problems with upper respiratory tract or liver. In Poland, the couch grass found historically application in preparation of soups (with milk and porridge), beer, coffee substitute, pumpernickel and bread. The flour obtained from the dried grounded rhizomes, which contain up to 20% starch, 5-6% proteins, 30-40% carbohydrates as well as potassium, iron and some vitamin C, makes bread sweeter and spongier. The whitish to yellowish rhizomes are collected especially in early spring and autumn. The flour has a pleasant smell and taste, and slightly yellowish color. In order to prepare a traditional sourdough bread with couch grass flour, the latter was blended with other types of flour, usually rye or wheat one. The percentage of couch grass flour rose in the periods of famine, and especially in early spring, when the old food reserves were finishing, and there were still no new crops. Today, the bread with couch grass is considered a healthier alternative to white bread and is still baked, however mostly in private houses of Southeastern Poland (Podkarpacie region). Nevertheless, most consumers have no good associations with couch grass, which is considered a mere weed.

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Marianna Blaszkiewicz