The use of genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.'s, or GE's) is a hot and volatile topic in the world of sustainable farming. Research has emerged linking heavy pesticide use on genetically engineered crops to human health problems, as well as reduced nutritional value of the crops themselves.
Particularly worrisome is the limited diversity of available seeds and regional crop strains to farmers; the fate of a concentrated ownership of the patented GE seeds amongst a few large companies. Consequently, the genetic make-up of commonplace seeds is changing. For crops that make up the majority of our diets, such as wheat, the impact is especially pervasive.
Nordic Breads, however, is taking a stand -- and leading the revolt with rye. Aligning with the Greenmarket Regional Grain Initiative, which seeks to sustainably revitalize and revamp Northeast grown and milled grain, the local farm grows their rye organically (aka G.M.O.-free) right here in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
To access their legendary sourdough starter, though, a trip across the Atlantic is in order. Nordic Breads taps into their Finnish ancestry for the authentic sourdough leavener Juuri, a crucial and treasured ingredient whose preservation and subsequent reuse traces back through dozens of generations. In fact, the wholesome, dense rye bread can be dated all the way back to the Stone Age in Scandinavia -- hence Nordic Bread's ancient Finish folklore adage, "Ruis puts power in the wrists." Boasting 100 percent whole grain and four times the soluble fiber of wheat, the Finnish Ruis bread is rich in taste, health and Scandinavian tradition.
It takes just one bite to see the difference. The soft bread is grainy and complex, almost like an extremely hoppy beer; its boldness tempered by the sweetness of the natural yeast. A traditional Scandinavian preparation piles the bread with butter, cheddar cheese and cucumber, but its versatile nature allows for a lighter topping of smoked salmon and fresh dill, or even the all-American simplicity of a good PB and J.
Maybe recreate the classic pastrami and mustard on rye: extra pickles, but hold the G.M.O.'s, please!
Nordic Breads can be found at the Union Square, Stuyvesant Town, and New Amsterdam Greenmarkets, and various specialty stores in New York here.