Despite its French name, rouge d’ecosse wheat is an ancient Scottish variety that probably descended from the English variety blood red. The French name, which literally means “Scottish red,” seems to be attributed to a French wheat merchant, a certain Henry de Vilmorin. In 1880, he published Les meilleurs blés (“the best wheats”), in which he described sixty different old wheat varieties. This variety is grown mostly in the area of East Lothian, where it originated; in the past, it was also cultivated in other parts of Scotland.
Rouge d’ecosse is planted between October and the end of November. During the winter, the plants can be distinguished because their leaves are a light amber color. This variety is quite hardy, resistant to severe climates and especially to wind. It is a relatively high-yielding variety, like many red wheats. The grains themselves are of an average size and amber to yellow in color.
Until the 19th century, rouge d’ecosse was common and appreciated for its flour and in some cases for bread-making; but other, more productive cereals gradually replaced it—indeed, rouge d’ecosse almost disappeared completely. A few years ago, this grain was brough back from the brink thanks to the efforts of a few farmers and an association, and sustainable activities are being organized, such as the exchange of seeds and promotion of other old varieties.