Banatka Wheat

batanka 2 1000 by 750This variety of heritage winter wheat was bred by Eli Rogosa. It is a cross of two Eastern European landrace wheat varieties, Bankuti (known for it’s rich flavor) and Ukrainka ( a Hungarian variety that is productive and adaptable, with excellent baking quality ). This last summer was my first time growing Banatka. I could not have picked a better season to conduct a trial. It was an extremely wet spring and summer. Cereal grains can be very disease prone under such conditions. Of all the wheat varieties I grew, Banatka performed the best. Since then I have learned that Heritage wheat varieties from the Baltics have better disease resistance than modern wheat, when grown in rainy and humid climates. I am currently growing a much larger plot of Banatka, in the hope that I can offer larger  seed packets for next year.

Banatka should be fall planted sometime after the Hessian Fly date for your growing region. Here in Northern Indiana, that date is the 15th of September. I traditionally plant my wheat at the end of Sept., beginning of October. I hand broadcast over my beds and lightly rake the seed in. Banatka should be planted a little further apart han other wheat varieties. The suggested distance is approx. 8” apart for the best yield. Wider spacing allows for a more vigorous and deep root system. This will help prevent lodging in areas with frequent spring and summer rains.

Bedouin Bread Recipe using 100% Banatka


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Jacoby Borstvete

Jacoby Borstvete is a heritage landrace wheat that was introduced to Sweden from Germany, and is still preferred by many Swedish farmers today. It has a good protein content, baking qualities and flavor. All in all, it has proven to be a good and productive wheat. It did show some signs of rust infection late in the season, but came through to maturity with no problems. Given, our spring and early summer here in Northern Indiana has been so abnormally dry, I expected as much. In a normal, wet, Indiana season, this variety would have likely had more severe disease issues. Jacobi Borstvete may be a better candidate for more arid regions than the midwest.


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Macha Wheat Mix

Triticum aestivum subsp. macha

This is a mixture of three different landrace macha wheats from the Republic of Georgia. All three have similar heights (ranging from 2′ to 2 1/2′) and similar flowering and maturity dates. While macha is not free threshing, it is easier to dehull than emmer and einkorn wheat. The varieties of macha that I have trialled here on the farm over two seasons have done well with minimal lodging and disease(2019, a very wet year and 2020, a abnormally dry year and hot).

My interest in macha came from an article from The Heritage Grain Conservancy, entitled “The ancient wheats of Georgia and their traditional use in the southern part of
the country”. In that article, macha wheat is described in this way, ” Among its desirable traits are: adaptability to humid environments, rather high resistance to diseases and
pests, ability to produce large biomass; it is less demanding to soils, has high stem; its grain protein content makes 18%; it has good bread-baking quality and good yield potential under conditions of a humid environment, where other wheats become
susceptible to fungus diseases.”


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Tsiteli Doli Wheat

Triticum aestivum var. ferrugineum


Tsiteli Doli  is an endemic landrace from the Republic of Georgia. It is a red winter wheat and called Caucasus Rouge in France. It is well adapted to poor and heavy soils. It is drought tolerant and also resistant to disease. It can have some lodging issues when grown under conditions using irrigation. It also has excellent baking qualities.

This is a far more robust strain of Tsiteli Doli than the one I have offered in the past. My original strain came from the USDA. This strain was sent to me from a farmer in Southern California.


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Georgian Winter Bread Wheat

This free threshing, hard red winter wheat was sent to me from my farmer friend Kevin Payne in Southern California. The packet was simply labeled “Georgian Winter Bread Wheat”. I suspect that it may be a strain of Tsiteli Doli, although it was a little shorter and matured one week earlier than the Tsiteli Doli. It also exhibited a lot of diversity in grain heads, similar to the Tsiteli Doli, ranging from reddish heads, to blond and a small percentage of blackish heads. It had fairly good yields and showed no signs of disease or lodging.



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Changes Coming to Sherck Seeds

Rice Trials 2020

As I enter my 8th season of intensive crop trialing and seed increasing, I wanted to take the opportunity to share about some of the changes taking place for 2020/21. My initial intention for starting a “seed business” was to be able to offer seed for varieties of staple crops adapted to the Midwest. While this effort has continued, the overall scope of my seed trialing took on ever expanding reaches that went way beyond my original purpose. This was not a negative consequence but rather the positive outcome of having come into contact with so many excellent seed savers here in the US and abroad whom have shared tremendous amounts of precious seed with me. To this day I am still in awe of the enormity of rare and forgotten varieties of grains and legumes, let alone vegetables. When I grew my first seed plot in 2013 I had 3 beds of Duborskian Upland Rice, the only variety of upland rice that I had ever heard of. I really felt I had stumbled onto something unique for northern climates. Jump forward to 2020, to date I have successfully trialled and offered seed for 38 varieties, with 36 new varieties awaiting trialing this summer! And that is just a drop in the bucket for the total number of known and unknown upland rice varieties.

The problem with 7 seasons of continuous trials and seed increases is that is has kept me from pursuing a long list of projects. Some involve breeding, others related to growing methods. 7 seasons has given me knowledge of a good number of specific varieties that can now be plugged into experiments like same species “mixture plots”, multi-cropping and intercropping systems. I also have a desire to work more closely with my immediate regional community. In order to be able to pursue these ideas I need to reduce the amount of space and time I have devoted to maintaining the large selection of crops that have been available through my website. For the 2021 growing season and beyond, I will be offering the following for sale through this website.

Upland Rice The successes from the 2020 trials will be available for purchase for the 2021 growing season as well as a number of varieties that have done well in the past.

Wheat There will be a number of new winter wheat varieties available in September for fall planting. These will include a number of heritage wheats from the Republic of Georgia as well as a few other European selections, including free threshing emmer and Jacobi Borstvete. A number of the best of the previous winter wheats I have grown will likely be available in the future.

Jacobi Borstvete

All other varieties of crops will no longer be available for purchase through this website. The rarest of these varieties will still be grown on my farm in small maintenance plots. This will not provide enough seed for me to sell but in the future I hope to have seed for sharing with individuals for their trials and projects. I will also be working with some other growers like Kevin Payne in Taft California to help in maintaining these varieties. I am currently working to convert all of Sherck Seeds “seeds for sale” crop pages into an easily navigable series of posts for archival research.

I greatly appreciate all the support from customers and fellow growers I have received these last 8 seasons. I hope that Sherck Seeds (which will likely become Sherck Seeds Research) can still play a helpful role in the advancement of sustainable, diverse small scale agriculture.

John Sherck

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Upland Rice Planting Instructions

Rice seeds should be soaked in water 24 hours before planting. I start my plants indoors in April in plug flats, 50’s and transplant into beds after the last frost date. I recommend not leaving plants in flats for more than three weeks as the starts will yellow easily and weaken when root-bound. Here in Northern Indiana, I plant my rice plugs the last week of May. I plant into 4′ wide beds. This makes adding bird netting over the tops of the plants an easy chore using 5′ t-posts and twine. The plants are spaced 9″ apart in the beds. Upland rice requires about the same amount of water as corn, around 1″ per week during the growing season. The plants will begin to form seed heads in August. At maturity the rice husks will turn to a golden brown and the rice seed inside will be hard.  I harvest in late September, cutting the whole plant and bundling into groups of 4. These bundles are then hung in my drying shed for a few weeks until the plant is fully dry. At this point threshing is easy by hand (pulling the grains off) or using a threshing machine. I use a treadle (foot) powered thresher. Rice has an inedible husk that needs to be removed before eating.   The most primitive way to accomplish this is by pounding the grains with a stick or mallet on a wood surface (tree stump) in order to loosen the husks. There are small rice dehullers available but very difficult to locate. Brill Engineering offers online tutorials on how to build a small dehuller using easy to locate “off the shelf” parts.

  • Alternative planting method. In the spring of 2017 I experimented with direct seeding rice into beds in late May. I had success with early maturing varieties. I recently learned that rice can be direct seeded even earlier; possibly at the beginning of May or late April. I would suggest you conduct some small trials if you are interested in this method. Transplanting has proven to be very reliable for 5 years in a row. Direct seeding is a new concept for me and I can not guarantee the results for any given variety. I am growing in a zone 5b (moving towards a 6).
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Highlights of Fellow Seed Stewards

February is always a long winter month even though it is the shortest in days. With spring seemingly taking forever to arrive, there is always a lot of extra time for reflection about the previous season and previous years. It is also a great time for anticipation and planning for the coming season projects and hopes. As I prepare for steering Sherck Seeds in a new direction (I will have more about this in a future post this spring), I also want to take the opportunity to highlight the work of some of the fellow seed stewards I have met over these last 7 years. This will be the first of a number of planned posts where I introduce some of these folks and their work with seed saving, seed stewardship and procurement, as well as plant breeding, methodology of growing and networking.

I met Scott Malpass a number of years ago. Like many introductions I have had, our friendship started with a “seed trade”. I asked him to write up brief description of his work and future aspirations for Scottland Farm. I do know that his efforts involve not only himself but other interested parties including growers and artists, all pooling their efforts to facilitate useful and meaningful rare seed stewardship.

“Scottland Farm is managed by Scott Malpass, a plant explorer and tribal seed keeper in Harford County, Maryland. Scottland Farm is comprised of small connected gardens and gardeners throughout the Mid-Atlantic area. We do work with a lot of amazing people such as Cody Frayser, who helps maintain a small heirloom garden in Powhatan, Virginia. The main goal of Scottland Farm is to teach traditional farming practices and maintain heritage seeds. These heritage seeds and practices are important to cultivate for future generations. One of the more traditional farming practices at my farm is a three-sister garden method in which when squash, corn and beans grow, support and benefit each other. We have one of biggest squash and pumpkin collections known, encompassing over 200 varieties. Many of these varieties happen to be endangered or close to extinction. We have ambitious plans for next year such as formalizing the company.”

As I write this post, Scott is currently enrolled in college, taking classes that will aid in his future plans (I believe he is studying for finals as I write this post). As he moves forward, I wish him and his colleagues all the best. Keep an eye out for future developments from Scottland Farm. You can currently find information about Scott’s work on Facebook.

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Kura Oval Soybean

Kura Oval is one of the most unusual soybeans from my 2017 trials. The plants are very short, reaching only 2 foot in height and quite bushy. The stalk at the base of the plants was the largest I have ever seen in a soybean, measuring 1 inch in diameter. Also, the root system was equally the largest I have see. I had to use a garden fork to remove the plant from the soil. For sure, Kura Oval has no issues with lodging during periods of heavy rainfall and wind.

The pods had an unusual appearance and the bean seeds are somewhat flat. This is a late maturing variety (140 days from direct seeding). I have no historical data regarding this variety. My initial seed stock came from Joseph Simcox in 2016.

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Kylo Mame Soybean

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