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Padstow Pasta? Cornish-grown durum wheat could rival Italy's finest

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 24, 2013

By Peter Hall

Charlie Watson-Smyth on his farm near Padstow,  where durum wheat is being grown to produce  Padstow Pasta

Charlie Watson-Smyth on his farm near Padstow, where durum wheat is being grown to produce Padstow Pasta

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From Turkish Bursa figs to Cheddar cheese and Spanish Seville oranges, many classic foods have become identified with the regions in which they are produced.

And, now, perhaps we should add to that list Padstow pasta.

Padstow has much in common with Puglia, in southern Italy, which is widely regarded as being the home of the finest pasta, produced from the bearded durum wheat grown in the hot Mediterranean climate.

Padstow Pasta could be about to be added to the list, with the excellent summer growing conditions producing one of the best durum wheat crops in the UK for years at Charlie and Jane Watson-Smyth's farm outside Padstow, which they will use to produce their Padstow Pasta.

The UK only produces a tiny amount of durum wheat due to the variable climate and lack of a commercially sustainable high-volume market. But despite this, plant breeder Elsoms Seeds, in conjunction with Harlow Agricultural Merchants, have continued to trial varieties in the UK – and so were able to supply the variety Miradoux to enable the Watson-Smyths to replace their seed stocks and continue producing pasta after the disastrous harvest of 2012.

Plant breeder Elsoms has worked for generations with French plant-breeding company Florimond Desprez to breed and select varieties for the UK market. It is from that programme that Miradoux originates.

"The climate has been perfect for high-quality wheat such as durum this year," said Elsoms' Adrian Hayler. "Mr Watson-Smyth is delighted with the yield and quality that Miradoux has produced and we look forward to being one of the first to sample the end product when it becomes available in September.

"Over the last 30 years there have been a number of attempts to establish a sizeable UK durum wheat crop. Unfortunately over recent years the economics of milling UK durum wheat has meant no market of any scale viable for the major millers."

Mr Watson-Smyth explained: "The grain will be milled at the Cornish Mill & Bakehouse, with the flour then being processed to produce high-quality whole-wheat pasta.

"The durum wheat flour is also sold unprocessed with Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen, at Watergate Bay being one of a number of dedicated customers."

Elsoms Seeds have a history of helping preserve regional crops – in recent years working closely with Colmans and their growers to help preserve the English status of their iconic mustard.

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