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What grains to grow?

 
Chris Holcombe
Posts: 97
Location: Zone 8b Portland
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Hey I'm a new resident just outside of Portland and I'm new to the pacific northwest. I have a little over an acre which is mostly pasture with some tall oaks and maples on the edges. I've been trying to figure out what grain is worth growing here. Corn, oats, barley, etc. I know the hot season is pretty short here. I've heard some people struggle with getting corn to come to completion. I'd love to give corn a try since it requires minimal processing when finished to be usable. I don't have a grain mill yet. If anyone has a suggestion for something that is well adapted to this climate and doesn't require crazy processing afterwards I'm all ears ( pun intended lol )
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Grain crops fall into two broad categories....the summer growers, which need warmth and summer moisture (corn, sorghums and millets, and rice); and the winter growers (at least in climates where winters are moderate), which grow in cool weather and need winter and spring moisture (the "small" grains...wheat, rye, oats, barley).
Corn is by a good margin the highest yielder per area, provided water, warmth, and nutrients (it is nitrogen-hungry, especially) are adequate. It is, as you have surmised already, the easiest to process for eating. There are some corns for dry use (the short "strawberry" popcorn comes to mind) that can mature in only 90-100 days.
In my Mediterranean climate I'm becoming more enamored of the small grains....wheat and barley so far. They need a lot less water and that's the limiting resource for me. They don't yield as much, they are itchy and "dithery" to work with, and take several steps of processing before eating. Wheat is even more versatile in the kitchen than corn is, and barley (besides fueling my fantasy of homemade beer---for which I need to get some hops started too!) makes an acceptable substitute for rice as a boiled grain. Barley needs even less water than wheat does and matures faster....but each grain is in its own little husk, unlike wheat and similar to rice....this must be "polished" off before use. A heavy blender (like a Vita-Mix) does a good job of it at a medium speed, followed by winnowing......
 
Chris Holcombe
Posts: 97
Location: Zone 8b Portland
food preservation forest garden fungi
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Thanks that was really insightful! I'll look into wheat and barley more. I was reading in an oregon state university article that the pacific northwest has one of the highest yields in the world for oats I think it was. I have a nice flat area out back that would make a good grain growing area. I'm also getting pretty decent with a European scythe
 
Rick Howd
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Location: McMinnville Oregon
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I'm in Yamhill county.

The corn we grow locally is primarily for fresh eating and is usually at it's peak at Labor day(4-8/$), while most people don't grow grain corn it shouldn't be an issue to complete, I get popcorn easily every year when I try it. Most grains have an issue with pulling an element from the soil. I do like the idea of growing legumes below corn to balance the cycle.
 
Ann Torrence
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We've had fun with the Painted Mountain Corn for grain, which does well in cooler areas. There is an offshoot, Panted Desert, which is for table corn. I planted extra of the Painted Mountain this year because DH said he liked it raw. I want to try it in my corn salsa recipe, if nothing else. It is one of the most beautiful plants I've ever grown too.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Not that it's actually a grain, but buckwheat might work well for you, too. Supposedly it has a short growing season and does well in our climate. I found this article discussing the recent research on growing quinua (not so easy) and buckwheat in our area (http://cahnrs.wsu.edu/news-release/2010/08/30/buckwheat-quinoa-may-be-new-options-for-organic-grain-growers/). Buckwheat also makes a good cover crop, fixes nitrogen, attracts and feeds bees, and grows well in our acidic soils. I don't really eat grains, nor really desire to spend time processing them, but buckwheat sure looks tempting. Here's Mother Earth New's article on growing it: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/how-to-grow-buckwheat-zmaz86mjzgoe.aspx

As for corn, I've never grown it, but I grew up eating it off the cob from my mother's garden, and that property is a good three hours north of you, in Washington. I don't recall any problems with it coming to completion until recent years, and that was likely because she grew it in the same spot, year after year...
 
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