Hard Red Winter Wheat (HRW) is planted in September and begins to grow until it is several inches tall in the Fall. Winter varieties are most commonly planted in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska and throughout the Prairie. Winter wheat can can be planted in parts of Minnesota. It goes dormant when the weather turns cold, below freezing in a process called vernalization. Winter wheat must go through this growing/dormancy process in order to produce grain.When the snow melts and it gets a little bit warmer the following Spring sometime in March it begins to grow again. In Minnesota, Winter wheat is harvested in July after it reaches maturity. This means that the head containing the kernels of wheat are fully formed and the plant dies. When the grain is about at 12% moisture, the grain is harvested by a combine and then stored and milled into flour. For bakers, Winter wheat is a common bread flour with a protein content between 10-12%. In 2018, we saw higher protein content, up to 16% and even higher.
Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRS) is a type of wheat that does not require vernalization to produce grain. Spring wheat is the most common type of wheat in Minnesota and the Dakotas and is planted in early-to mid- April in Minnesota. It can be planted as late as May in some places. Spring wheat grows rapidly in May and June, producing a head with kernels sometime in June. Spring wheat is harvested by a combine in early-to-mid August when the kernels have dried to about 12% moisture content. For bakers, Spring wheat can produce higher protein levels than Winter Wheat, between 10-18% depending on location and seasonal variations in the crop and many other factors.
Turkey Red Winter Wheat was introduced to North America by Mennonites in 1874. It was widely popularized in Kansas and the Great Plains and was grown in many places until the mid-20th Century. I grow Turkey Red Winter Wheat because I grew up as a Mennonite and consider it a part of my heritage that I would like to offer to others through a novel crop for this region. Turkey Red is a taller variety than modern-day wheat crops. These taller varieties were replaced by semi-dwarf varieties during the Green Revolution of the 1960s that grow far shorter, and put more of the plant’s energy into producing grain rather than straw. The primary benefit of a Heritage variety is that it may offer a different flavor the baker. Being taller than modern wheat it may, though not always compete more vigorously with weeds than modern varieties depending on weed pressure and many other factors.