Hunts grows UK’s only safe-for-coeliacs porridge oats

MOST celiac disease sufferers can now eat porridge, courtesy of a Huntingdonshire organic farmer.

Sufferers face potentially severe intestinal symptoms because of sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Although porridge is made from oats, most is exposed to contamination by gluten in the milling process.

But now Rebecca Rayner’s Glebe Farm at King’s Ripton is one of only three gluten-free oats in the world, the former Hunts Post Business Award winner says. The other two are in Sweden and the US.

“Oats have a protein that’s similar to wheat, but 19 out of 20 coeliacs can tolerate oats. Yet, until now, there’s been no demand. Because of the risk of contamination, people on special diets wouldn’t touch them: they have used rice and other sources for carbohydrates instead.

“Our variety is a ‘naked oat’ with the husk on, which is unusual round here. It’s quite a labour-intensive process, but we hope to provide flaked oats to manufacturers and retailers.

“Some will go into biscuits, some into muesli and some will be made into porridge.”

Glebe Farm’s gluten-free porridge oats – along with its range of wheat- and gluten-free flours, bread and cake mixes – are already on sale at Budgens in St Ives and Johnson’s farm shop in Old Hurst, and Waitrose in St Neots stocks Glebe Farm flours.

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Ms Rayner has also expanded her output range in her other passion – brewing.

Her own fondness for drinking beer, and her partner Marc Marshall’s passion for home brewing, led to Gladiator Spelt Beer’s introduction to a range of pubs and restaurants in the area last summer.

It has now become available in draught from the Addison Arms at Glatton, the King of the Belgians in Hartford, the Mad Cat at Pidley and the Anchor at Sutton Gault, where it is served from 35-pint polypins.

The name was chosen for the Roman introduction of spelt – a species of wheat – to Britain for brewing and bread-making. But it can be gentler on the digestive system than the wheat usually added to beer, she said. So it may be suitable for people with wheat intolerance.

“We grow the spelt here on the farm,” she said. “Gladiator is not a typical wheat beer: it has a nuttier flavour.

Now she has also started brewing Emperor lager – so-called because of the heads on Roman coins unearthed by Marc with his metal-detector – darker ‘craft’ lager of which the first 2,000-bottle run has just been completed.

So far, distribution is restricted to three outlets: Johnson’s Farm Shop in Old Hurst, her local Abbots Ripton Post Office and Cambridge Wine Merchants.

“I just wanted to do a lager,” she said. “It’s very nice, but Gladiator sells more because of the real ale demand.”