We all know that canary seed is no longer just for the birds. But is it for the brewers?
It was a question on Lauren Wensley’s mind when she was discussing a new malting barley with a “friend of a friend” who works with Rebellion Brewing in Regina. Rebellion is known for trying out small, experimental beer batches. The brewery also makes a lentil cream ale, which patrons can buy by the keg.
Wensley is the pedigreed seed territory manager for Sask with Canterra Seeds. She dropped off some seed from CDC Cibo, Canterra’s new variety, for the brewers to try.
“It was just an experiment,” she says. “They did it one time. This time they used a malt barley base.”
The result was a light beer that Rebellion Brewing dubbed Canary Seed Blonde. When the batch was ready in the spring, Wensley was the first in line to try it.
“It was good,” she says. She describes it as a typical light beer, but with an interesting taste.
Wensley was hoping to take her seed growers some growlers, but the brewery doesn’t use preservatives. “I’m hoping one day they’ll make another batch and I can get it out to my seed growers.”
Although it’s a cereal, canary seed doesn’t contain gluten. “If canary seed were to fit into beer, it would be something like gluten-free,” says Wensley
However, Dave Holowaty, brewery manager at Rebellion Brewing, says the brewery doesn’t have plans to include more canary seed in its beverages, beyond perhaps one more test batch.
“We did try a test batch of Canary Seed Blonde and while interesting, found the beer itself to not be very exciting” Holowaty says. Any future batches would use a regular barley base rather than a gluten-free base, he adds.
Still, since Health Canada green-lighted canary seed for human consumption in 2016, there are other potential markets.
Dehulled canary seed averages 21 per cent protein, according to the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan. Compared to other cereals, it’s relatively low in fibre. However, it’s a better source of phosphorus, magnesium, folates, and manganese than other common cereals. It also tops quinoa and buckwheat for iron content.
“You can crush it up into flour and make bread, cookies, whatever baked goods,” says Wensley. Because of sesame seed allergies, there has been talk of replacing the seeds on buns with canaryseeds. Canary seed is also used as part of a weight loss regime in Latin America, she adds.
The summer edition of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan newsletter includes an update on human food uses. Right now, there’s not a huge demand for canary seed in human food markets, writes Kevin Hursh, executive director. Some canary seed is being used in health foods with the hull still attached. Food companies are experimenting with de-hulled canary seed. As far as the commission knows, InfraReady Products of Saskatoon is the only company doing commercial de-hulling.
The commission is working with Synthesis Agri-Food Network on marketing strategies. Food companies would like a different name to describe canary seed (Hursh compares it to how consumers know kabuli chickpeas as garbanzo beans). Linda Braun, a home economist, is creating recipes that the commission plans to share at the annual meeting in January.
New canary seed variety for 2018
The first yellow-groated canary seed is about to hit the Canadian market.
CDC Cibo is an itchless variety, developed for the human consumption market, says Bret Gaetz, Canterra Seeds territory manager for north-east Sask. Certified seed will be available in 2018.
Cibo has been fairly consistent in trials, Gaetz says. It yields 126 per cent over the check, CDC Maria.
But what about harvestability? Gaetz says they applied a fungicide to Cibo to protect crop health. “And we had no issues with it laying over whatsoever.”
Farmers new to growing canary seed should know that wild oat control can be an issue.
“Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot that’s registered,” says Gaetz. One of the best options for wild oat control is to apply a product such as Avadex (a Group 8) the fall before. There are several options for controlling broadleaves, Gaetz adds.
When it comes to fertility, for the most part farmers can treat canary seed similar to other wheat crops. But Gaetz cautions against getting “too aggressive on the nitrogen. It can grow fairly tall and rank, and straw strength is maybe not as good as some of our other cereals.”