While there is not enough wheat in Scotland to fulfill demand, you can still source local organic wheat for a price or more affordably buy great organic loaves of artisan bread from a variety of great bakeries in the Lothians, Scottish Borders, Edinburgh and Fife areas — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell
When shopping for bread, it often pays to use your loaf…So what are the options for buying high-quality Slow Food bread and flour in the Lothians, Edinburgh, Fife and the Scottish Borders? A brief analysis is that the options for bread are much better than for flour, due to the relatively low production of milling wheat (used for baking) in Scotland, which is of course, largely due to it’s geography and the predominance of barley and oats.
There are many wonderful bakeries throughout the East Lothian, West Lothian, Edinburgh, Fife and Scottish Borders regions offering either bread with a high content of Scottish flour or fully-certified organic breads. Organic bakers tend to be a little more expensive than the bread at the supermarket, though the more people buy organic products, the quicker the market usually responds in providing products.
Organic bakers are not always ‘artisan bakers’ – though just because a bakery lacks the full organic certification from the UK Soil Asociation, it does not always follow that it is not a form of Slow Food. A good example of this is The Manna House Bakery & Patisserie, an Edinburgh artisan bakery and cafe at 22-24 Easter Road, Edinburgh, EH7 5RG – which offers some great ‘daily breads’ and a rotating offer of ‘speciality breads’.
Matthew Halsall, the Operations Manager at The Manna House says they source their flour from ADM Milling in Leith and that approximately 70% of the flour they buy is from Scottish wheat fields. The organic certification is not feasible for the business he says due to the audit time required by the Soil Association and the requirement for separate storage areas. So while it is not an organic bakery, some efforts are made to source the food locally, which makes it partly a Slow Food bakery. He adds that mostly from their point of view it relies on demand from consumers.
One of Edinburgh’s classic delis, Valvona & Crolla at 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh, EH7 4AA, offers one fully-organic loaf amid it’s excellent selection of artisan breads – the San Francisco Sourdough. For more choice of organic artisan breads, you may want to head over to Henderson’s at 94 Hanover St, Edinburgh, EH2 1DR.
If you live in the Scottish Borders (and even if you don’t!), then the excellent non-profit Breadshare Community Bakery is also a good option for an organic loaf and also not a bad investment! This network is connected to Whitmuir – the organic place – which is a wonderful place for those looking for a great variety of organic ingredients.
Bread is an essential component of many of our meals and is difficult for many to pay a high price for, but even one organic loaf a month can help reduce the overall market prices and you could always invest in Breadshare! — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell
As with most organic foods, bread made from organic ingredients is more nutritious and has only trace or usually zero elements of pesticides and fertiliser, some may also get a slight satisfaction from knowing that your bread comes from a farm that the bees like and supports more biodiversity. Hence buying an organic loaf may be a little expensive, but does help support an important area of the agriculture of Scotland and the rest of the British Isles.
Another great option for organic breads (plus many other great foodstuffs) is Edinburgh Farmer’s Market held each Saturday and also Carlops Farmer’s Market (the first Saturday each month near Penicuik) and Howgate Country Market (the last Saturday each month, also near Penicuik). Readers in the Fife area may want to take a look at Fife Farmer’s Market and it’s satellite markets. I hope to cover farmer’s markets in more detail in the future.
Major supermarket chains also sell organic loaves, often at cheaper prices than artisan bakers. Though part of the fun of eating organic breads is going to some lovely little bakery with friendly staff to buy some and it helps keep the economy bouyant. Look around, ask friends and you will often turn up a good organic baker that is not too far away. Or indeed, keep visiting this blog, as I aim to feature many such establishments in the future.
Another option of course is to indulge in the hugely satisfying pastime of baking your own bread. Many classes are available and while it is time-consuming, if you get it right (don’t use bread-making machines as they often turn out poor results), your main problem will be an advancement of your waistline! Artisan flour is increasingly common and one good place in the Lowlands is Bacheldre Watermill – which has been producing flour since 1575, when all the bread was organic.