A FORMER thatcher has used his loaf to create bread from traditional forms of grain grown in Oxfordshire.

Now bread made from grain developed by archaeological botanist John Letts, who lives in Grandpont, is being dished out to 170 members of a new co-operative called the Oxford Bread Group.

Mr Letts developed the grain in frustration at the modern types of wheat grown in the UK, which produce straw too short for use as roofing thatch. He believed using older varieties where you could get two products from the land was better for the environment.

He scoured gene banks and traditional farms across the world to track down tall varieties of wheat, like those grown in medieval times.

He said: “After so many years of struggling to research this and develop it, I think it’s catching on.”

The grain is being grown on farms at Faringdon and Wheatley, producing 1.3 tonnes of grain per acre plus the same weight in thatching straw.

He said: “I think the bread’s delicious and most people really like it.

“There’s definitely a growing market for a slightly more substantial kind of loaf – I like to think this is real bread as opposed to bread which has had all kinds of things injected into it.”

The grain is sent to the Stoneground Flour Company, on the Isle of Wight, for milling, before the flour is sent to the Cornfield Bakery, at Wheatley. There Geoff Coleman bakes bread and biscuits.

Mr Letts said: “I like the bread toasted for breakfast, with marmalade or homemade jam.

“I also love French toast with milk and egg and maple syrup, which is what my boys love in the morning.”

As well as direct deliveries to members of the co-operative, the bread is also available at the Cornfield Bakery, at East Oxford Farmers’ Market and various farm shops.

The flour can be bought from various Co-op shops, including those in Between Towns Road, Headington, Summertown, Botley and Walton Street.

Mr Letts said: “People are committed because they feel they’re helping the environment.”

For more details about the co-operative scheme, email order@oxfordlocalbread.org