Food With a rich background in fine dining and as the founder of an organic sourdough rye bakery in Stockholm, our head chef Martin Berg has been working closely with Warbro Kvarn, a pioneering Swedish producer of natural flours and heritage grains, for over a decade. Extending this relationship into his current work with ARKET café, he wants to prove that genuine and sustainable food is a possible – and necessary – option also on a wide scale.
Located on a small family farm an hour and a half outside of Stockholm, Sweden, Warbro Kvarn produces organic stone-milled flour and whole grains as well as specialty malts for craft breweries and whisky distilleries. Since almost two decades, founders Thomas and Kerstin Björklund have helped pioneer the growing interest in heritage grains and traditional wheat varieties in the Nordic region – and they’ve long been a favourite supplier of natural flours to artisanal bakeries and top restaurants in Sweden.
‘These ingredients simply taste so much more. You’ll be surprised. It’s like comparing a juicy, perfectly sun-ripe tomato with the pale ones sold in supermarkets in the winter. They’re also a living product that changes with the seasons and the location where they’re grown, requiring more skill and attention from the baker but of course also resulting in more interesting flavours ,’ says Martin Berg, who is researching how to infuse the ARKET café menu with heritage wheats from Warbro Kvarn.
When Warbro Kvarn was established in 2002 – named after a local mill house dating back to the 18th century – heritage varieties such as spelt, emmer, einkorn and ‘naked oats’ were unknown and almost forgotten obscurities. Yet before the introduction of chemical and monocultural farming in the 1950s, these (and many more) varieties were commonplace and there was generally a much richer diversity of crops in the fields.
’We grow and mill grains that were farmed here in Scandinavia over a hundred years ago but have been pushed out by modern breeds. Farmers get paid by the volume, so the commercial crops are primarily focused on efficiency and yield rather than nutrition or taste. Over the last century, the nutritional content in the grains has gradually been diluted. The wheats we grow here contain three times more minerals than modern varieties,’ says Thomas Björklund.
Thanks to a greater natural variation and deeper root systems, heritage grains are more resistant to challenging conditions and naturally suited to organic farming. Today, Warbro Kvarn works with around 20 growers in the Mälaren Valley region close to Stockholm, all practicing sustainable farming methods.
‘If you look out onto a field of traditional wheats, it looks like a sea of people. Some are darker, some are lighter; some are short and thick, and some are thin and tall. The variety gives them a natural resistance to diseases. With modern varieties, each straw is identical, like an army of clones. We made the decision to be 100 percent organic from the start. It’s challenging sometimes and you have to be much more attentive and careful in the fields. But it’s healthier and tastes better – end of story,’ Thomas Björklund says.
Previously owned by Thomas’ parents, the farm is currently home to a few dozen horses and cows who help preserve the cultural landscape of meadows and pastures, allowing rare herbs and flowers to flourish and a diversity of insects to abound. In 2012, the old animal barn was renovated into a modern mill house – equipped with traditional stone mills with the exact same construction that was used over a century ago.
‘Stone-ground flour is naturally wholegrain and always includes small parts of the grain’s germ and bran. It retains much more vitamins and minerals compared to industrially-ground flour. With sourdough fermentation, these nutrients are boosted even further and become easier for our bodies to absorb’, says ARKET’s Martin Berg.
’It would have been so much easier for us to work with a bigger and more mainstream supplier. But I’m convinced that this is the food of the future and feel really passionate about showing that it is in fact possible to connect with real people and make genuine and sustainable food available on a wider scale.’